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Phillies Pitchers: 1918-1948

Posted by Chris J. on November 6, 2007

From 1918-1948, the Phillies only had one winning season.  It was in 1932, where they just sneaked in at 78-76.  Not only did they fail to go .500 in the remaining 30 seasons in that 31 year stretch, but (and yes, I have checked this) they never even had a winning record from July 1 onward.  Yoikes.  So . . let's take a look at what sort of pitching staff you can construct from that bunch.

Here are the best ERA+s they ever had in that period.   Curt Davis was a heckuva pitcher; a late bloomer from the Pacific Coast who going by win shares he's the best starter in MLB history who began his career after the age of 30.  Dutch Leonard was a mighty fine knuckler.  But what does it say that the best pitchers on a team over a 31 year period are Curt David and Dutch Leonard?

Another way of looking at it, here are the winningest pitchers that they had.  Not a single 20-gamer in the bunch.  In that stretch, you actually had 222 different 20-win seasons.  Jeepers.

Or, if you look at cumulative totals with the Phillies in those years, it's clear Curt Davis was their best pitcher.  What's really striking is that only four men tossed 1,000 IP for them in those years.  That' impressive roster churning for a non-free agent league.

5 Responses to “Phillies Pitchers: 1918-1948”

  1. kingturtle Says:

    Egads! In 21 of those 31 seasons the Phillies won 40% of their games or less - including seven seasons in a row (1936 to 1942).

    During that span they went through 16 managerial changes. Here are their efforts in futility:

    0. Pat Moran: 55-68, .447
    1. Jack Coombs: 18-44, .290
    2. Gavvy Cravath: 91-137, .399
    3. Bill Donovan: 25-62, .287
    4. Kaiser Wilhelm: 83-137, .377
    5. Art Fletcher: 231-378, .379 (4 seasons)
    6. Stuffy McGinnis: 51-103, .331
    7. Burt Shotton: 370-549, .403 (6 seasons, one being their 1932 .506 4th place finish; Shotton later managed the Dodgers to their 1947 and 1949 pennants).
    8. Jimmie Wilson: 280-477, .370 (2 games short of 5 seasons, mostly as a player manager)
    9. Hans Lobert: 0-2, .000 (the last two games of Wilson's 5th season)
    10. Doc Prothro: 138-320, .301 (three 100 game loss seasons in a row)
    11. Hans Lobert (again): 42-109, .278
    12. Bucky Harris: 38-52, .422 (the first part of the 1943 season. Harris had previously (at age 27!) led as a player/manager the Senators to the 1924 World Series victory, following it up with a 1925 AL pennant; and he would later lead the 1947 Yankees to a World Series victory over Burt Shotton's Dodgers)
    13. Freddie Fitzsimmons: 105-181, .367
    14. Ben Chapman: 196-276, .415
    15. Dusty Cook: 6-6, .500
    16. Eddie Sawyer: 23-40, .365 (the end of a season) (Sawyer went 81-73 with the Phillies the next season for 3rd place, and 91-63 the season after that for the pennant. Go Whiz Kids!).

    It would be another 20-some years for Danny Ozark to take the helm.

  2. kingturtle Says:

    Chris, the data you've put together is fascinating. Are there any books on this era of Phillies ball? Or does one need to be written? -KT

  3. Chris J. Says:

    King Turtle,

    The only one I know of is "Occassional Glory," a history of the entire Phillie Phrancise.

    You do remind me, though, I've always intended to do a column about this 31 year hell period for The Hardball Times . . . .

    Fun fact: if you take the Phillies' best April, best May, best June, best July, best Aug, & best Sept/Oct from that period together . . . you'd have a 91-63 team. Or a 93-61 team. I forget exactly. That's still not good enough to win most pennants in those years.

  4. Andy Says:

    It's really amazing to me how poor the Phillies franchise has been. I'm someone who has followed them closely for 20 years or so, and they have made more than the average number of mistakes in drafting, trades, and free-agent signings. I've also felt they've made some key mistakes with personnel, including ever having Ed Wade as GM (sorry Astros fans) and having guys like Nick Leyva as manager.

    The Devil Rays remind me of the Phillies in many ways. It seems they just make so many mistakes, time after time, with decisions from the top to the bottom of the organization.

    The importance of good organizational decisions is really apparent in the NFL, where all teams spend the same on players due to the salary cap. The places where teams CAN spend extra money are on scouting, coaches, facilities, etc. The Patriots spend a lot more than the NFL average on all these other things, which is probably the biggest reason why they are so successful. (Insert "videogate" joke here, I guess...but I don't think videotape explains what Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker are doing this year.)

  5. jackfish Says:

    The Phillies pitching staff was so torrid between 1918-48 that they had the highest ERA in the National League in 26 seasons over that 31 year span. In fact, five times between 1923-30 their EAR was more than a full run higher than the team with the next highest ERA. They also had the highest ERA in 17 consecutive seasons between 1918-34. And the main reason that streak ended as early as it did was the Boston Braves were in such disarray in 1935 that they managed to win only 38 games in 1935, an all time low for the 20th century. If not for that horrendous Boston team the Phillies streak would have lasted nearly another decade.