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“Stable” Rotations Who Didn’t Win Often

Posted by Steve Lombardi on August 29, 2010

How many teams have had 3+ SP in a season make at least 27 starts and win less than 10 games each?

Here's the answer: For single seasons, from 1901 to 2010, requiring pitchers with W<=9 and GS>=27, sorted by teams with the greatest number of players matching criteria

Rk Year Lg Tm #Matching  
1 2009 NL Arizona Diamondbacks 3 Doug Davis / Jon Garland / Max Scherzer
2 2008 NL Pittsburgh Pirates 3 Zach Duke / Paul Maholm / Ian Snell
3 2006 NL Colorado Rockies 3 Aaron Cook / Jason Jennings / Byung-Hyun Kim
4 2005 AL Kansas City Royals 3 Zack Greinke / Runelvys Hernandez / Jose Lima
5 2005 AL Minnesota Twins 3 Kyle Lohse / Brad Radke / Carlos Silva
6 2005 NL Pittsburgh Pirates 3 Josh Fogg / Mark Redman / Kip Wells
7 2003 AL Detroit Tigers 3 Jeremy Bonderman / Nate Cornejo / Mike Maroth
8 2002 AL Tampa Bay Devil Rays 3 Joe Kennedy / Tanyon Sturtze / Paul Wilson
9 1997 AL Kansas City Royals 3 Kevin Appier / Jose Rosado / Glendon Rusch
10 1996 NL San Francisco Giants 3 Osvaldo Fernandez / William VanLandingham / Allen Watson
11 1993 NL Florida Marlins 3 Jack Armstrong / Ryan Bowen / Charlie Hough
12 1992 AL California Angels 3 Jim Abbott / Chuck Finley / Julio Valera
13 1990 AL New York Yankees 3 Chuck Cary / Dave LaPoint / Tim Leary
14 1988 NL Atlanta Braves 3 Tom Glavine / Rick Mahler / Pete Smith
15 1987 NL Houston Astros 3 Danny Darwin / Bob Knepper / Nolan Ryan
16 1986 NL Chicago Cubs 3 Dennis Eckersley / Scott Sanderson / Rick Sutcliffe
17 1985 NL San Francisco Giants 3 Atlee Hammaker / Mike Krukow / Dave LaPoint
18 1984 NL San Francisco Giants 3 Mark Davis / Bill Laskey / Jeff Robinson
19 1974 NL San Diego Padres 3 Dave Freisleben / Bill Greif / Randy Jones
20 1969 NL San Diego Padres 3 Clay Kirby / Joe Niekro / Al Santorini
21 1948 AL Washington Senators 3 Sid Hudson / Walt Masterson / Early Wynn
22 1905 NL Brooklyn Superbas 3 Mal Eason / Harry McIntire / Elmer Stricklett
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/29/2010.

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What if we lowered the bar to at least 20 starts and wanted to see teams with 4+ such pitchers (with wins less than ten)? The answer here is:

Rk Year Lg Tm #Matching  
1 2001 AL Tampa Bay Devil Rays 5 Joe Kennedy / Albie Lopez / Bryan Rekar / Ryan Rupe / Paul Wilson
2 1985 NL San Francisco Giants 5 Vida Blue / Jim Gott / Atlee Hammaker / Mike Krukow / Dave LaPoint
3 1962 AL Washington Senators 5 Pete Burnside / Tom Cheney / Bennie Daniels / Claude Osteen / Don Rudolph
4 2010 NL Arizona Diamondbacks 4 Dan Haren / Edwin Jackson / Ian Kennedy / Rodrigo Lopez
5 2010 AL Baltimore Orioles 4 Brad Bergesen / Jeremy Guthrie / Brian Matusz / Kevin Millwood
6 2009 AL Cleveland Indians 4 Fausto Carmona / Cliff Lee / Carl Pavano / Jeremy Sowers
7 2009 AL Kansas City Royals 4 Brian Bannister / Kyle Davies / Luke Hochevar / Gil Meche
8 2008 NL Pittsburgh Pirates 4 Zach Duke / Tom Gorzelanny / Paul Maholm / Ian Snell
9 2008 AL Seattle Mariners 4 Miguel Batista / Felix Hernandez / Carlos Silva / Jarrod Washburn
10 2005 AL Kansas City Royals 4 D. J. Carrasco / Zack Greinke / Runelvys Hernandez / Jose Lima
11 2005 AL Minnesota Twins 4 Kyle Lohse / Joe Mays / Brad Radke / Carlos Silva
12 2005 NL Pittsburgh Pirates 4 Josh Fogg / Oliver Perez / Mark Redman / Kip Wells
13 2004 AL Kansas City Royals 4 Brian Anderson / Jimmy Gobble / Zack Greinke / Darrell May
14 2004 AL Seattle Mariners 4 Ryan Franklin / Gil Meche / Jamie Moyer / Joel Pineiro
15 2002 NL Colorado Rockies 4 Shawn Chacon / Mike Hampton / Denny Neagle / John Thomson
16 1999 AL Anaheim Angels 4 Tim Belcher / Ken Hill / Omar Olivares / Steve Sparks
17 1999 NL Florida Marlins 4 Ryan Dempster / Alex Fernandez / Livan Hernandez / Dennis Springer
18 1999 AL Tampa Bay Devil Rays 4 Wilson Alvarez / Rolando Arrojo / Ryan Rupe / Bobby Witt
19 1997 AL Kansas City Royals 4 Kevin Appier / Jim Pittsley / Jose Rosado / Glendon Rusch
20 1996 AL Oakland Athletics 4 Doug Johns / Ariel Prieto / John Wasdin / Don Wengert
21 1996 NL San Francisco Giants 4 Osvaldo Fernandez / Mark Leiter / William VanLandingham / Allen Watson
22 1994 NL Los Angeles Dodgers 4 Pedro Astacio / Tom Candiotti / Kevin Gross / Orel Hershiser
23 1992 AL California Angels 4 Jim Abbott / Bert Blyleven / Chuck Finley / Julio Valera
24 1990 AL Minnesota Twins 4 Allan Anderson / Mark Guthrie / Roy Smith / David West
25 1990 AL New York Yankees 4 Chuck Cary / Andy Hawkins / Dave LaPoint / Tim Leary
26 1988 NL Atlanta Braves 4 Tom Glavine / Rick Mahler / Pete Smith / Zane Smith
27 1988 AL Baltimore Orioles 4 Jeff Ballard / Jose Bautista / Mike Boddicker / Jay Tibbs
28 1988 AL Seattle Mariners 4 Scott Bankhead / Mike Campbell / Mike Moore / Bill Swift
29 1986 NL Chicago Cubs 4 Dennis Eckersley / Scott Sanderson / Rick Sutcliffe / Steve Trout
30 1986 AL New York Yankees 4 Doug Drabek / Ron Guidry / Joe Niekro / Bob Tewksbury
31 1985 AL Milwaukee Brewers 4 Ray Burris / Danny Darwin / Moose Haas / Pete Vuckovich
32 1982 NL Cincinnati Reds 4 Bruce Berenyi / Frank Pastore / Tom Seaver / Bob Shirley
33 1982 NL New York Mets 4 Pete Falcone / Randy Jones / Charlie Puleo / Mike Scott
34 1980 NL New York Mets 4 Ray Burris / Pete Falcone / Craig Swan / Pat Zachry
35 1978 NL Chicago Cubs 4 Ray Burris / Mike Krukow / Dennis Lamp / Dave Roberts
36 1978 AL Toronto Blue Jays 4 Jerry Garvin / Jesse Jefferson / Dave Lemanczyk / Tom Underwood
37 1977 NL San Diego Padres 4 Dave Freisleben / Tom Griffin / Randy Jones / Bob Owchinko
38 1974 NL San Diego Padres 4 Dave Freisleben / Bill Greif / Randy Jones / Dan Spillner
39 1972 AL Texas Rangers 4 Dick Bosman / Pete Broberg / Bill Gogolewski / Mike Paul
40 1969 NL San Diego Padres 4 Dick Kelley / Clay Kirby / Joe Niekro / Al Santorini
41 1963 NL New York Mets 4 Roger Craig / Jay Hook / Tracy Stallard / Carl Willey
42 1963 AL Washington Senators 4 Tom Cheney / Bennie Daniels / Claude Osteen / Don Rudolph
43 1950 AL Philadelphia Athletics 4 Lou Brissie / Alex Kellner / Bobby Shantz / Hank Wyse
44 1948 AL Washington Senators 4 Mickey Haefner / Sid Hudson / Walt Masterson / Early Wynn
45 1942 NL Philadelphia Phillies 4 Lefty Hoerst / Si Johnson / Rube Melton / Johnny Podgajny
46 1941 NL Philadelphia Phillies 4 Cy Blanton / Tommy Hughes / Si Johnson / Johnny Podgajny
47 1935 NL Boston Braves 4 Ed Brandt / Ben Cantwell / Danny MacFayden / Bob Smith
48 1919 AL Philadelphia Athletics 4 Jing Johnson / Walt Kinney / Rollie Naylor / Scott Perry
49 1905 NL Brooklyn Superbas 4 Mal Eason / Oscar Jones / Harry McIntire / Elmer Stricklett
50 1901 AL Milwaukee Brewers 4 Ned Garvin / Pink Hawley / Bert Husting / Tully Sparks
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/29/2010.

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Keep an eye on the 2010 Pirates - they have an excellent chance to crack this list. And, the 2010 O's and the D-backs should hope for some good fortune to get off it before the end of the season.

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 29th, 2010 at 12:57 pm and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

27 Responses to ““Stable” Rotations Who Didn’t Win Often”

  1. DoubleDiamond Says:

    Ha! In the second table, I half-expected to see a Phillies team with a guy named Blanton among the four! But not as far back as 1941!

    Some of this is misleading. Cliff Lee was not with the Indians the whole 2009 season, and Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson will not be with the Diamondbacks all of 2010. Had they remained with their original teams instead of being traded in mid-season, they may have passed 10 wins eventually. Of course, there are others on either list who missed part of the season due to injuries, time in the minors, or being released.

    In the first table, the Giants did it two years in a row, with three different pitchers each year.

  2. I think these lists would be more interesting/informative with a better stat than Wins, since we are all well-versed with the myriad of problems with pitcher wins. Some of these teams were simply bad teams, not necessarily as a function of the quality of their staff. It'd be interesting to see teams who trotted out staffs largely comprised of ineffective or outright bad pitchers.

  3. I think that's kind of the point though... I mean, almost all of the teams on these lists were bad or mediocre teams. It doesn't have much to do with pitcher performance...

  4. If the point is that having a stable rotation does not guarantee team success, I'm not sure this post really demonstrates that.

  5. dodgerdave Says:

    Why don't the 1993 Dodgers count as a stable rotation? They had four starters with 200+ innings (Hershiser, Martinez, Candiotti, Gross) and a fifth starter with 186.1 IP (Astacio). Four of the starters also had an ERA under 4.00. Not to mention a solid bullpen with Pedro Martinez, Roger McDowell, and Jim Gott. But they only managed an 81-81 season due to a bad offense outside of Mike Piazza and Brett Butler.

  6. Hey, sometimes big feet just means big feet. I was just trying to run a list of teams who had a somewhat defined starting rotation where the guys in the rotation hardly earned a "W," that's all. Never did I mean to surreptitiously paint this as being some sabermetric clue to the cosmos. That was never my intention. Again, please except my apologies for any confusion that I may have caused with the list. ;-)

  7. Dodgerdave-

    They were stable, but all but one of their starters had 10+ Wins.

  8. Steve-

    No problemo. Really, I was trying to figure out what this post "meant" and I'm not really sure that it "means" anything. Obviously, there is plenty of room on the interweb and time in the day to muse over things that are less than super meaningful.

  9. Here's an idea
    27+ starts plus an ERA+ 80 or under

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/shareit/uTx9G

    Only 22 times have there been at least 2 pitchers on a team's staff that pitched this often but were this bad. 4 teams have had 3: 2009 Brewers, 2005 Royals, 1984 Giants, and 1975 Astros. The Giants and Astros had FOUR 85 ERA+ or under.

  10. Richard-

    Goo! Great search. Can you do something similar with WAR? I'd be curious to see those results, but don't have a subscription.

  11. here's the same thing with a WAR of 0 or less
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/shareit/XCAkz

    Something surprising I noticed on each list:
    The 1977 Phillies are on there.

    Possibly the greatest (regular season) Phillies team in history with 101 wins and they had two very terrible pitchers, and now that I look, Carlton was amazing and the rest of the rotation is so-so at best. Good thing they led the league in runs scored.

  12. Steve, an interesting trivia stat. Thanks for running it. What would be interesting, somehow, is to exclude teams in the early years of their franchise's existence ('69 Padres, '78 Jays, '99 Rays etc), when they are expected to lose, as opposed to "mature" franchises where they just sucked it up and kept trotting the same starters out there day after day. As an aside, how many of those seasons included a hot young prospect i.e. a Zack Greinke, just getting major league experience? Any thoughts as to why so many of the seasons turned out to be in the post-free agency/high salary era? How many of the losing pitchers on these teams appeared to have "good stuff"? What the heck was up with the '90 Yankees on Steinbrenner's watch?

  13. I think this list highlights what a bad and arbitrary stat "Wins" are because there are some very good/great pitching seasons on that list: Nolan Ryan's 1987 when he had a 142 era+ and lead the league in ERA. Or Dennis Lamp's 122 era+ in '78 or Jim Abott's 144 era+ 5.5 WAR season in '92 or Bankhead's 136 era+ in '88 or Bob Tewksberry 124 era+ for the '86 Yankees.

    And it somehow gives the impression that there were no pitchers with 20+starts to win 10+ games on those rotations. Dennis Rasmussen won 18 for the '86 Yankees, Mario Soto won 14 for the '82 Reds, Rick Reuschel won 14 games and had a 5.4 WAR for the '78 Cubs, Mike Scott won 16 games for the '87 Astros, and Mark Langston won 15 games for the '88 Mariners.

    The '94 Dodgers shouldn't be on that list because of the strike.

    I think this list puts together 3 things for certain teams:

    1-Teams that are bad hitting or bad fielding or both.

    2-Teams where 4-7 pitchers get the opportunity to start 20+ games.

    3-Teams that play in pitcher's parks who tend to overrate their pitching staff because of their relative low era's and as a result they let their starters pitch more games than they should.

    The '90 Yankees are really the odd team in this lot because they were a good hitting team and a decent fielding team. Tewksbury really only had 20 game starts but he really should have won at least 10 games that year. It seems like the bullpen blew a few game for him that year.

  14. Richard,

    Good list, I never thought about it before but the '77 Phillies are really an odd team. They're probably the worst starting rotation for any team that won 100+ games in a season. Katt and Learch were horrible for that team. Those Phillies had everything except a good starting rotation: Hitting, Fielding and a great bullpen and a great Ace in Carlton. They might have beat the Dodgers in the LCS and the Yankees in the WS with one good starter besides Carlton.

    The '79 Royals were a good team as well. If they had someone to replace Gura and Gale, they might won the division.

  15. What's even more strange is that Learch and Katt made 55 Starts for the Phillies and did not even pitch in the LCS against the Dodgers that year. That has to be the only time two pitchers had that many starts and didn't even pitch an inning in the playoffs.

  16. Very informative posts, John Q and Richard. So what's the ultimate vedict on the '77 Phillies? They did it with smoke and mirrors? John, I think you're on to something about weak bullpens contributing majorly to the <10-win seasons on the list above. But how to prove it? Were blown saves an official stat for most of those seasons?

  17. Neil, I believe everything else was so good on the 77 Phils that it made up for those two starters. Then also Christenson and Lonborg weren't bad, just average, which is more than enough in the regular season for what was the best offense in the league that year (by a fair margin, too. They scored 847, next two were 802 and 769)
    Combine that with the fact that not only was the bullpen great, but some pitched a LOT too. Garber pitched 103 innings and Ron Reed 124 with 3 starts.
    So my theory is during non-Carlton starts, they bashed the other team offensively, then shut them down once their bullpen came in the game.

  18. Neil,

    The '77 Phillies were a very odd and unique team.

    The '77 Phillies were a great defensive team. They had Schmidt, Maddox, Bowa, McBride, Sizemore all having great years with the glove. And Bob Boone was no slouch behind the plate. Great defensive teams can sometimes cover up mediocre/poor pitching staffs because they can lower the pitchers' ERA.

    This team like most Phillies teams of that time period, rode the backs of it's two big stars, Schmidt and Carlton. Schmidt had a 9.6 WAR and Carlton had a 5.8 WAR.

    The Phillies could hit as well with Luzunski having a great year with bat although he gave some of that productivity back with his abysmal play in left field. They also got tremendous hitting from a large group of part time players: Bake Mcbride, Jay Johnson, Ritchie Hebner, Tim McCarver and Davey Johnson.

    They had a very good bullpen with Garber, Reed and McGraw.

    Larry Christen's 19 wins in '77 is a good example of how arbitrary/pointless a stat wins can be. It's definitely one of the worst 19 win seasons by a pitcher in the last 50 years. Christenson was basically a replacement level pitcher with a .5 WAR. There were 36 starting pitchers that qualified for the rate stats that year, lets see where Christenson ranks.

    ERA: 24/36
    ERA+: 25/36
    K: 24th, There were actually two relievers, Gossage & Sutter, that had more K's than Christenson.
    K/9: 26/36
    K/BB: 21/36
    BB/9: 20/36
    HR/9: 25/36
    Whip: 25/36
    H/9: 26/36
    SHO: 32nd
    CG: 28th

    It's extremely hard to find a pitcher with 19 wins who only finished in the top 20 in one of these categories and it was a 20th place finish to top it off. I think Christenson also led pitchers with errors committed by a pitcher with 8.

    Christenson pitched the pivotal game 3 against the Dodgers in the '77 NLCS after the #5 starter Lonborg got shelled in game 2.

    Christenson didn't do any better in his game 3 start. Game 3 is often remember as "Black Friday" in Philly as the Phillies had a 2 run lead in the 9th with two outs and blew the game. But what's often left out of the story is that Christenson only pitched 3.1 innings and gave up 7 hits with 3 earned runs for a 8.10 ERA. Christenson's poor pitching and early departure no doubt taxed the bullpen in game 3.

  19. What I take from your detailed analyses of the Phillies that year is that a bad season (or portion of a season) can be masked by superior performance by the rest of a team. How often have you heard a manager or player say while the player is in the middle of a prolonged slump "As long as the team is winning.....everything's OK"? That slumping position player or pitcher might get a few days on the bench if the team were in a losing streak.

    My point is that Christensen's relatively poor season appears not to have been visible to management or fans at the time because of the other stars on the team, the defensive strength, and the misleading nature of W-L record.

  20. Neil,

    You make a valid point in that starting pitching can be masked by good hitting teams that result in a good W/L record for the pitcher. Good fielding teams can also increase the W/L record and lower a pitcher's ERA.

    You're right in that the knee jerk reaction to Christenson's season is that he had a great year because he won 19 games but in reality it was a pretty lousy year that was masked by the great hitting and defense of the Phillies.

    The Phillies had two great hitters in Schmidt 151ops+ and Luzinski 156ops+. Plus they got great hitting from part time players like McBride-149ops+, McCarver-145ops+, and D. Johnson-149ops+. Add that up with the great fielding I mentioned above and they were a great team. The big hole was their starting pitching because 2/5 of their rotation (Christenson & Lonborg) were lousy and well below average and another 2/5 of their rotation was horrible (Katt & Learch)

    Usually weak starting pitching gets exploited in the playoffs.

    You can make a parallel to the 2010 Yankees and Phil Hughes. Hughes is having a pretty mediocre season, 97 era+ and a 1.7 WAR, but he's gone 15-6 so everyone acts like it's a great year. Hughes 15 wins come in large part to his Major league leading 7 runs/per game average. By far he's gotten the best run support in baseball.

    The Yankees really only have One good starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettite is still injured so his status is uncertain. The Yankees could easily be knocked out of the first round this year with C.C., Hughes, Burnett, and Vazquez pitching the first round.

  21. Careful that you don't rouse slumbering Yankee fans with your post(lol). My technical grasp of stats is clearly below yours. Well done!

    What I like about your contribution, John, is its predictive nature. You've taken the '77 Phillies and extrapolated to the current season for the Yankees. So to knowledgable Yankee followers out there, will Phil Hughes start a post-season game this year? Does Girardi read our messages in here?

    As I understand it, one of the goals of sabermetrics is to predict future performance based on past numbers. Anybody can analyze statistics after the fact but who can predict next year accurately?

  22. Johnny Twisto Says:

    No one can predict next year accurately. The most advanced projection systems are slightly more accurate than the most basic. So maybe those small gains are a point in favor of the analysis being done, but they almost don't seem worth it. Especially when their accuracy is measured over the aggregate player population, but how often do they correctly identify an individual breakout (a la Jose Bautista -- maybe they should have checked with Joe Morgan about his preseason "confidence" levels)?

  23. Point taken, Johnny. What I meant was, I guess, predict this post-season or more generally "the future". Does history ever repeat itself in baseball, statistically speaking? Or is every season a unique set of special circumstances for a team from which no general baseball "truths" can be learned?

  24. Neil,

    It's tough to predict things like that. There's always the human element and Hughes can go out there and pitch a 2 hitter in the playoffs, who knows, he has a good k/9 ratio. I think he's 13/47 in the A.L. in k/9. Let's just say though, I wouldn't be surprised if Hughes gets shelled in the playoffs and the Yankees get knocked out in the first round.

    The success or failure of teams is very odd sometimes in hindsight. The 1980 Phillies that won the WS was probably the weakest overall Phillie team that made the playoffs during the Phillies 1976-1983 Playoff Run. Basically that team revolved around two players having all time great seasons: Schmidt with a 171ops+ 9.1WAR, and Carlton with a 162era+ and a 9.6 WAR. Then throw in McGraw's 4.1WAR with a 260era+ and there you go.

    Those three guys basically carried the Phillies in the playoffs and then you get something like Manny Trillo hitting .381 in the LCS and Bob Boone having a .500 on base percentage and they win the whole thing. In retrospect, I think the '76-77 Phillie teams were the strongest of the bunch.

    I was thinking about it yesterday the '77 Phillies kind of remind me of the '53 Dodgers. In the Dodgers case they weren't quite as good with the glove but they were an all-time great offensive team. But on the flip side like the '77 Phils, they only had one good starting pitcher, Carl Eskerne.

  25. re: #24
    Agreed about the difficulty of predictions. What I tried so say (poorly) in #21 was it takes guts to commit oneself to a testable future outcome based on number-crunching of the past. Look at how many pundits have made fools of themselves with their pre-season baseball predictions, with or without numerical analysis, over the years.

    No one is going to hold you to your predictions about Hughes and the Yankees in this year's post-season, but if there is not some foresight possible from sabermetric analysis then are't we all just full of hot air?

    To cut to the chase, it is gratifying to able explain teams's sucesses after the fact, but how much more powerful to able to anticipate the next good team or individual superstar. Case in point, Johnny's post post #22 in general and with respect to Baustita specifically.

  26. Yuck! Why did you have to remind me about that 2008 Mariners team? Miguel Batista, Felix Hernandez, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn. They are just about in that same situation this year.

  27. @26
    Yeah, but Jeff, to a be a true fan you gotta go through the bad times.....