Posts Tagged ‘Socks Seybold’

Shutting them Out

October 31, 2014
Christy Mathewson about 1905

Christy Mathewson about 1905

With all the hoopla over Madison Bumgarner’s World Series exploits, and that hoopla is well deserved, it’s time to put it into a bit of perspective. Somebody called it the greatest World Series pitching performance ever. Well, it isn’t. For one game nothing can top Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956. Not only was it a  perfect game but it came against four future Hall of Famers: PeeWee Reese, Duke Snider, Jackie Robinson, and Roy Campanella. Not bad, right? OK, so it’s not the greatest one game performance ever, it’s still gotta be the best ever for a single series, right? Well, no. Let me take you back to 1905.

The 1905 World Series, the second played, pitted the New York Giants (Bumgarner’s team removed one coast) and the Philadelphia Athletics (now playing across the bay from Bumgarner’s team). Connie Mack’s A’s were a pitching heavy team that was pretty typical for the era. The Giants, led by John McGraw, were likewise pitching heavy. And the heaviest pitcher on either side was Christy Mathewson. Mathewson was 24 and coming off a season that saw him with (read these numbers carefully) 31 wins, nine losses, a league leading 1.28 ERA, a league leading 206 strikeouts, and only 64 walks given up. His ERA+ was a career high 230 and his WHIP was a miniscule 0.933 (and it would get better a few years later). His Baseball Reference.com version of WAR was 9.1 (tying for his fourth best WAR).

Mathewson started game one against fellow Hall of Famer Eddie Plank. Plank pitched well, giving up three runs (all earned), walking two, and giving up 10 hits. Mathewson was better. He pitched  a complete game shutout giving up four hits and walking none (to go with six strikeouts). He gave up a single in the fourth, a double in the sixth, and doubles in both the eighth and ninth. Only one man, the first double, got to third.

Well, the A’s won game two, so McGraw decided to start Mathewson again in game three on two day’s rest. The short rest really got to him. He still didn’t give up a run in a complete game shutout, and again he only allowed four hits, but he did walk a batter finally (it went to Socks Seybold in the second inning). He did compensate by striking out eight. The walk was Mathewson’s first charged baserunner of the game (there’d been an error in the first), but he was erased on a force out at second. He allowed a single in the fifth. Then got into some trouble in the seventh when he allowed two singles. The first runner was erased on a double play and the second died at first when the next batter grounded to first unassisted. He hit a man in the eighth (see, I told you the two day’s rest was a problem) but got the next batter. With two outs in the ninth he allowed one more single, but struck out the next batter to end the game.

The Giants won game four and McGraw decided to end the Series as quickly as possible. With one day’s rest, he sent Mathewson back to the mound. It wasn’t unheard of to do it in the Deadball Era, but it wasn’t exactly common either. Mathewson responded with another great game. This time he again went nine innings without giving up a run. He did have one down stat though. He gave up five hits instead of four. And only struck out four while walking none. He gave up a leadoff single, but no runner advanced beyond first. There were two singles in the second, but a double play and caught stealing ended the inning. In the fifth he gave up a double with two outs and got out of it. In the sixth it was a harmless single that produced the final hit.

The Giants won the World Series in five games. Mathewson’s line reads as follows: three wins, no losses, an ERA of 0.00 over 27 innings (three complete games). He gave up 13 hits, walked one, and struck out 18. His WHIP was 0.519 and exactly one runner (in game one) got to third base. Interestingly enough, eight different Athletics managed a hit off Mathewson. Harry Davis and Topsy Hartsel each got three and Seybold picked up two plus the only walk.

The game was different in 1905. It wasn’t integrated, there were only day games, pitchers pitched more often, the home run was not a major offensive weapon, and there were less playoff rounds. Be all that as it may, it’s still the greatest World Series pitching performance ever over a complete Series.

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Mathewson’s Walks

May 26, 2011

It’s amazing how quickly we forget. Now I know it’s been a hundred years since Christy Mathewson pitched (well, 95) but it seems like he’s fallen off the edge of the world reputation-wise. I guess that’s true of most Deadball players not named Cobb, but it’s still a shame. If people know anything at all about him it’s that he won a whole bunch of games (373) a long time ago. But as impressive as that number is, I have another Mathewson number that is even greater, at least to me.

The number is 848. That’s the total number of men Mathewson walked in a 17 year career. That works out to 49.8 per season. If you leave out his rookie and final years (the only seasons he doesn’t pitch 100 innings), it’s 54. In his rookie season Mathewson walked 20 and struck out 15, the only season he’d walk more men than he struck out (Hey, anybody can have a bad rookie campaign). Between 1907 and 1914 inclusive he pitched 2597 innings and walked a total of 307, or 38.4 a season. In each season he led the NL in fewest walks per games, except in 1910 when he came in second to George Suggs  (Cincinnati) 1.62 to 1.70. In 1913 he walked .62 men per game. Bert Humphries of Chicago was second all the way back at 1.19. Greg Maddux, known for never walking a batter, has numbers similar, but not better.

One hundred years ago in 1911 Mathewson threw 307 innings and walked 38 men. That’s great, but it’s not even his best. In 1912 he pitched 310 innings, walking 34. His 1913 line reads 306 innings and 21 (count ’em, 21) walks, while 1914 shows 312 innings and 23 walks (guess those extra six innings must have gotten to him). In 102 World Series innings he gave up 10 walks (half of them in the 1912 Series). In the 1905 Series when he had three complete game shutouts, Mathewson walked one batter (Socks Seybold in game three).

These are great numbers to me because they go right to the heart of what a pitcher does. He keeps the other team off base. There’s frequently nothing you can do about a “seeing-eye single”, but a walk is the pitcher’s fault (unless it is intentional, and intentional walks aren’t well documented in Mathewson’s era). Mathewson, by walking almost no one, is doing one of the things most necessary to keep his team from losing a game, he’s minimizing the number of men on base by not making bad pitches.

I’m aware that knowing this isn’t going to suddenly return Christy Mathewson to the limelight. It’s been too many years for all but the most diehard fan to care, but it’s still worth noting. Heck of a pitcher, wasn’t he?

Long Day at the Office

February 21, 2010

On the 1st of September 1906, Boston saw one of the longest, if not best pitched games ever played. The Philadelphia Athletics, just off a losing trip to the World Series were in town to play the Americans (now the Red Sox). It was a Saturday afternoon.

The Americans sent second year pitcher Joe Harris to the mound. The A’s countered with rookie Jack Coombs, who was 5-7 going into the game. It was scoreless into the third inning when Coombs singled, stole second base, went to third on an infield out, then came home on an infield single. The Americans countered in the sixth when shortstop Freddy Parent tripled and came home on a single by center fielder Chick Stahl. Now with the preliminaries out of the way, the two pitchers settled down. They pitched scoreless ball through the seventh, the eighth, the ninth, the tenth. In fact they pitched scoreless ball through 23 innings. It wasn’t great pitching. Coombs gave up 15 hits and walked six. Harris gave up 12 hits and only walked two. But it was effective pitching. No body scored for 17 innings.

It came to an end in the 24th. Coombs led off the inning by striking out, then right fielder Topsy Hartsel singled and stole second base. Center fielder Briscoe Lord couldn’t advance him, but catcher Ossie Schreckengost, playing first that day, singled him home for the go-ahead run. Consecutive triples by left fielder Socks Seybold and second baseman Danny Murphy made the score 4-1. Then Coombs set down the Americans in order to post the win.

Coombs finished the season 10-11 and went on to a distinguished career with the A’s. In 1910 and 1911 he led the American League in wins (31 and 28) and posted 21 wins in 1912. In World Series play with the A’s he was 3-0 in 1910 and 1-0 in 1911 as the A’s won both series. He caught typhoid fever in 1913 and was out most of 1913 and 1914. The A’s sent him to Brooklyn in 1915 where he pitched well, winning the Robins’ (the were not yet the Dodgers) only game in the 1916 World Series. He hung on with Brooklyn through 1918, managed the 1919 Philadelphia Phillies to an 18-44 record and last place before being fired. In 1920 pitched five inning for Detroit before retiring. After leaving the Major Leagues he coached at Duke University from 1929-1952. They named the field for him. He died in 1957.

Harris’ career wasn’t nearly as successful. He ended the 1906 season 2-21, leading the league in losses. He stayed at Boston only through 1907 compiling a career 3-30 record  with a 3.35 ERA in 317 innings. He died in 1966.

For the game there are a couple of interesting box score lines. Seybold was 1 for 10, but the one was critical. Americans third baseman Red Morgan went 0-7. The game is fascinating, but inconsequential in the standings. The A’s finished fourth 12 games back and the Americans were dead last 45.5 games out of first.