In the new millennium, there have been 20 individual seasons where a starting pitcher has pitched 220 innings while carrying a strikeout-per-nine (K/9) rate of 8.00 or less and a strikeout-to-walk ratio (K:BB) of 4.00 or higher.
Greg Maddux appearing on the list twice (2000 & 2001) is really no surprise, regardless that he was 34 and 35 those seasons. That’s just a very Greg Maddux thing to do. Having seen a few of Cliff Lee’s starts in person when the Seattle Mariners rented him for half of 2010, I’m not shocked at all he did it twice (2008-09). Hell, in 103.2 IP for the M’s he walked exactly one batter per Infinity Stone. For some reason I thought Chris Carpenter struck out hitters at a higher rate, but nope, there he is on this list with back-to-back qualifying seasons in 2005-06.
And then there’s Roy Halladay just crushing everyone with FOUR such qualifying seasons; first in 2003 and then a three-year run from 2008-2010 that pretty much gave him the keys to the plaque gallery in Cooperstown. Wrap your head around this: in those four seasons, Halladay had NINE complete games in each of those seasons. He also averaged three shutouts a year and went 80-38, while surrendering an average of 234.5 hits a season (but with all the innings he threw, he still was still giving up less than a hit an inning).
Halladay is technically the only one on the list to be on the Philadelphia Phillies for one of these seasons, although Cliff Lee’s second half in 2009 was in the City of Brotherly Love. And thus, the transition to our trivia. There are four hurlers on this list who played for the New York Yankees for any size chunk of their careers. Here’s the catch! NONE of them did it while in pinstripes.
David Wells did it in 2000 with the Toronto Blue Jays at a time when Halladay was still dealing with early career struggles. Wells’ 2000 has the worst ERA (4.11) of all 20 qualifying seasons, by the way. CC Sabathia tied with Halladay as the youngest to do it for an American League team. Dude was 26 when he was murdering AL hitters while with the Cleveland franchise; he caught a lot of bodies in 2007. The other half of this quartet is the answer to today’s trivia!
First up, we have a righty who recently made it into the Hall of Fame with 76.7% of the vote in his sixth year of eligibility. He ranks 23rd in pitcher bWAR all-time (29th in JAWS), has never won a Cy Young, yet had six top-5 finishes, was a five-time All-Star, and collected seven Gold Gloves. He just missed winning a ring with the Yankees by a season…twice; initially when he was acquired by New York and then the year after he retired. He was teammates with the last shreds of B.J. Surhoff the year he had the worst Win-Loss record amongst seasons on this list at 11-15.
Now for the lefty in this pair. He debuted on what would have been Duke Ellington’s 96th birthday. He came out of the bullpen to relieve Mélido Pérez, who handed him a cushy 5-1 lead over the Kansas City Royals to play with, but he didn’t play for very long. He got the first two outs, but then Gary Gaetti singled, was driven in on Greg Gagne’s double to left, and then Phil Hiatt drove in Gagne on a single up the middle, and he got the quick hook. Jay Jaffe’s JAWS metric sees him as below average for a Hall of Fame pitcher through and through, but his trophy case begs to differ – if that’s how you wanna measure things up. An ALCS MVP and three-time All-Star, most of the square footage in that case holds five World Series rings. Then again, most of the following table illustrates a pitcher who accumulated 60.7 bWAR mostly through league-average opponent numbers over a long career.
Not knocking longevity, I’m just not sold that he’s a Hall of Famer. I mean it’s not cut and dry, the dude did pitch a one-run complete game against the Houston Astros before droppin’ the mic on his playing days.
Name this pitching duo and bonus points for knowing how many Cy Young Awards the members of our list holds. Answers after poll.