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Quiz: Leading MLB in Wins for 3 straight years [answered]

Posted by John Autin on July 27, 2011

CC Sabathia currently leads the majors with 15 wins. He also shared the MLB wins lead in 2009-10.

Since the pitching rubber was set at 60' 6" in 1893, only 4 pitchers have led the majors in wins (alone or tied) for at least 3 straight years. Can you name those 4 pitchers, and which one led for the most years in a row?

(By the way, I found that trying to identify these pitchers by eyeballing the Yearly League Leaders list was surprisingly tedious, because of all the years in which several pitchers tied for the lead; but don't let me discourage you.)

40 Responses to “Quiz: Leading MLB in Wins for 3 straight years [answered]”

  1. Phil Says:

    Cy Young, Pete Alexander, Warren Spahn, and Kid Nichols

  2. John Autin Says:

    @1, Phil -- You have 2 correct answers.

  3. John Autin Says:

    ALSO -- For anyone who viewed the original question, I've amended it to ask you to specify which one of the four led for the most years in a row.

  4. Metroulas Says:

    Walter Johnson

  5. Tim Says:

    Pete Alexander, Kid Nichols, Hal Newhouser and Robin Roberts. Alexander was the longest.

  6. ethan laden Says:

    spahn, feller, walter johnson, hal newhouser

    spahn had four straight

  7. oneblankspace Says:

    Must include someone from the 1890s, otherwise the cutoff would've been 1900.

  8. Tim Says:

    Cy Young, Robin Roberts, Kid Nichols, and Pete Alexander.

    Roberts did it 4 years in a row.

  9. Tim Says:

    actually Cy Young is out and Bill Hutchinson is in.

  10. Dvd Avins Says:

    My first guess (before reading responses) was Young, W Johnson, Clemens, and R Johnson. Nichols and Grove seemed fairly likely, but not as good guesses as the ones I picked.

    Now, seeing #2 (and through #7 but not beyond) I'll guess Nichols, Young, W Johnson, and Clemens.

  11. John Autin Says:

    One of the replies had all 4 pitchers correct, but muffed the "longest" bonus.

    Another had 3 of the 4 pitchers correct, plus the "longest" bonus.

    Both commenters were identified by the same name, but I'm not sure they were the same person.

  12. John Autin Says:

    I'll list the INCORRECT names so far (through #12, listed in alphabetical order):

    Roger Clemens
    Bob Feller
    Lefty Grove
    Bill Hutchinson (the cutoff is 1893)
    Randy Johnson
    Walter Johnson
    Warren Spahn
    Cy Young

    None of those pitchers led the majors in wins 3 straight years from 1893 on.

  13. Tim Says:

    I was the one in 8 and 9, so that means the answer is:

    Pete Alexander
    Kid Nichols
    Hal Newhouser
    and Robin Roberts who did it 4 times

  14. CT-Tiger Says:

    Dave Stewart

  15. John Autin Says:

    DING-DING-DING! Lucky number 13 takes the prize:
    -- Kid Nichols, 1896-98 (30+ wins each time!)
    -- Pete Alexander, 1915-17 (ditto)
    -- Hal Newhouser, 1944-46
    -- Robin Roberts, 1952-55

    BTW, Alexander and Newhouser are the only ones to lead outright for 3 straight years.

  16. Tony Pavon Says:

    Kid Nichols 1896, 97, 98
    Pete Alexander 1915, 15, 17
    Hal Newhouser 1944, 45, 45
    Robin Roberts 1952, 53, 54, 55

  17. Jim Frerker Says:

    Cy Young did it in 1901-1902-1903

  18. kingturtle Says:

    i've been interested in this very topic for a long time. 7 or 8 years ago, I created this Wikipedia article:

    most interesting are Kiner's 6 straight seasons of leading the Majors in homers, Cobb's 5 straight seasons leading the majors in BA, and Waddell's 5 straight seasons leading the Majors in Ks. Oh and that dude who's led the Majors for three straight years in shut outs.

    i had done the initial research by hand...not using any programs. other editors have helped refine the page. if you see any mistakes or oversights, please feel free to fix them.

  19. John Autin Says:

    @17, Jim -- Cy Young did not lead the majors in 1903. He led the AL with 28 wins, but Joe McGinnity led the NL with 31.

  20. John Autin Says:

    Meanwhile, Ervin Santana has a no-hitter through 7 innings in Cleveland. The first batter he faced reached on an E-6, eventually scored on a wild pitch -- nobody else has reached base.

    Santana allowed no safe runners into the 6th inning in his last start, though one reached on an E-4.

  21. tim Says:

    You're right about it being tedious, but I looked it up and I think the answer is Greg Maddux, five years in a row. (I'd have done much better in school if I could have just looked up the answers)

  22. John Autin Says:

    @21, Tim -- Nope, Maddux only led MLB in wins ONCE, in 1995.

  23. John Autin Says:

    Tim, see answers @13 / @15.

  24. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    I know this is a little off topic from John's original post, but since the answers have been given I thought I'd bring up something interesting.
    2007 CC wins the Cy Young. Gets traded mid-season in 2008, and puts up one hell of a show in his last 17 starts for Milwaukee. * I'll get to some of them in a second.
    Then in 2008, Cliff Lee wins the Cy Young. gets traded mid-season 2009, and puts up some impressive #'s in the NL.
    So, how many teams have had back-to back Cy Winners?
    Drysdale & Koufax for LAD in '62-63
    Lyle & Guidry for NYY in '77 −78
    Flanagan & Stone for BAL in '79-80
    Fingers & Vucovich for MIL in '81-82
    Carlton & Denny for PHI in '82-83
    Maddux & Smoltz for ATL in '95-96
    Hentgen & Clemens for TOR in '96-97
    Sabatia & Lee for CLE in '07-'08

    A little more than I would of guessed, but look at the ALs run from '77 till '82. Just three teams in six years.

    I'm not sure about this one, but in '89, I remember the Mets acquired Frank (Sweet music) Viola, the reigning AL Cy Young winner from the Twins. And on August 28th of that year, he squared off against Orel (Bull Dog) Hershiser, the then reigning Cy Young winner for the NL. I remember watching the game as a teenager, thinking, 'this must be the first time to reigning CYs have faced-off'. What was strangest is the announcers never made mention of it. Even if it had happened before, I'm sure it was rare enough to merit a mention, but none. I believe a semi-soused Ralph Kiner was one of the announcers.

    But before inter-league and not counting the WS, does anybody know if the Viola/Hershiser game is the instance of CYvsCY ala MAD COMICS SpyvsSpy?
    I'm not sure how to check, so if anybody knows, please let me know, it would be cool to know that I watched a historic game.

    Also the year CC was traded, '08, he led the both leagues in shutouts. Has anyone ever led the both leagues in the same year in a major category?
    I guess it depends if you count shutouts as a 'major' category. I'd imagine it would be near impossible to lead in any of the average or percentage categories due to the qualifications.
    The next year, Cliff Lee finished 3rd and 4th in CGs in both leagues. Close, but no cigar.

  25. Whiz Says:

    Maddux didn't even lead the NL 3 years in a row, although he did lead the NL 3 out of 4 years. However, he is the only pitcher to win at least 15 games 17 years in a row, and tied with Cy Young for winning at least 13 games 19 years in a row.

  26. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I was hoping Pedro Martinez had faced Roger Clemens in '98, which would have been not only the two defending CYA winners, but that season's CYA and the following season's. Instead, he faced Pat Hentgen twice, who had won in '96.

  27. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    CC in' 08 had 7 CGs in 17 starts. The last time a pitcher had at least 7 CG in 20 or fewer GS, was Orel Hershiser in '84.
    CC also had 120 SO in both leagues, not sure if that is a record or if there is a way to check, but it sounds like it may be.
    Randy Johnson came close in 1998, 213/116 split for Seattle and Houston.
    Other notables - guys with 200 SOs while playing for both leagues, Mark Langston and David Cone.

  28. Jim Frerker Says:

    Thanks John for the clarification. I was going to email you that I misread the trivia question and retract it. I was thinking leading league not majors

  29. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    @ 25 Whiz,

    What's so imposible to believe about Maddux's 19 straight years of 13 wins; only 20 pitchers have had more than 13 career GSs.

  30. John Autin Says:

    I guess everyone knows by now that E.Santana got his no-hitter today?

  31. Thomas Court Says:

    Can someone explain what exactly does a pitcher have to do to qualify for a "game finished?"

    Cy Young has 511 wins, 749 complete games, but only 84 games finished. I am guessing that coming into the game in relief is a requirement - but should it be?

  32. kingturtle Says:

    a game finished is a game you finish but did not start.

  33. David Bilodeau Says:

    Hal Newhouser

  34. Johnny Twisto Says:

    David Bilodeau

  35. John Autin Says:

    Mustachioed Repetition

    (BTW, "Mustachioed" was a NYTimes variety puzzle answer recently.)

  36. nightfly Says:

    "Mustachioed Repetition" sounds like a captcha phrase.

  37. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    Can I sue the Grey Lady infringement? They continue to misquote me!!!

  38. Matthew Cornwell Says:

    Tom Glavine 1991-1993

  39. Matthew Cornwell Says:

    Oops - saw "MLB" and the answer was already posted. Nevermind.

  40. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    CC is putting up a pretty impressive career. I pegged him at about 65% for the hall in the halladay discussion last year. Now I think he's getting closer to 80-85%. One thing I noticed. He's in his 11th year, and already has 47 WAR. When you think about a pitcher who might have his career shortened by some major injury, the natural comparison is Sandy Koufax. Koufax pitched for 12 years, and while his best years were more dominant than anything CC has done, his total WAR is around what CC looks like hitting after 12 years.

    I did a PI for pitchers with 45+ WAR over their first 12 seasons, and 27 out of 47 are in the hall, with another 4 not eligible but should be locks based on performance (mussina, clemens, pedro and maddux).

    going by 11 seasons, it's 10 out of 21 in the hall, with the 11 out including those same 4 locks, and another 2 guys besides CC who are still pitching and have a shot at the hall (Oswalt and Santana).

    The guys who are eligible now and out include perennial baseball reference should have gone/got more serious consideration guys: David Cone, Rick Reuschel and Bret Saberhagen (all three in the hall of merit), and one guy I had no idea was that good, probably because his career fell off a cliff right after this: Steve Rogers.

    So, 13 of 14 similar pitchers ended up at least in hall of merit territory, and 10 of 14 in the actual hall. good odds. Also suggests Santana is a pretty good bet if he can return at something like his previous form. Oswalt seems already to be on the downswing, so he's likely to end up outside, and possibly be the new steve rogers.

    CC needs another three years like he's been pitching and he should be in, IMO even if he falls off a cliff after that. one or two should be enough with a more normal denoument.