Leaders for the Cy, the worst pitching staffs, and battling in Florida

Leaders for the Cy, the worst pitching staffs, and battling in Florida
Leaders for the Cy, the worst pitching staffs, and battling in Florida

Tanner Houck and Ranger Suarez haven’t been getting enough publicity.

The two pitchers are quietly having incredible seasons — so incredible, in fact, that they’ve established themselves as frontrunners for Cy Young Awards.

It’s early to talk about the Cy, of course, since we’ve played only 10 weeks of the 2024 schedule. Yet attention must be paid to Houck of the Boston Red Sox and Suarez of the Philadelphia Phillies. They’ve posted the best overall base values (OBV) in their respective leagues.

A positive OBV indicates that a pitcher is allowing his opponents to reach fewer bases (through hits, walks, hit batsmen, stolen bases, and sacrifices) than the big-league average.

Houck, for example, surrendered 100 bases while inducing 237 outs over the 10-week period. The typical pitcher would have yielded 156 bases under the same circumstances. Hence Houck’s OBV of plus-56, the best in the American League. Suarez leads the National League with an OBV that’s almost as good, plus-52.

If you’re into conventional stats, Suarez topped all big-league pitchers in earned run average (1.70) and wins (nine) at the 10-week mark. Houck was close behind with a 1.85 ERA.

Both Cy Young races are still close. Tarik Skubal of the Detroit Tigers is right behind Houck on the AL side, and Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves is the runner-up in the NL. Here are the top 10s:

The Phillies had three of the five best National League pitchers in the ratings above, so it’s no surprise that Philadelphia also has the best overall staff in the majors.

The collective OBV for all Phils pitchers was plus-164 after 10 weeks. That puts them substantially ahead of the runners-up in the staff ratings, the Seattle Mariners at plus-134 and the New York Yankees at plus-131.

But wait a minute. That’s not how things are done here.

We’ve already looked at something good, so we have to balance it with something bad. It’s Baseball’s Best (and Worst), you know.

And the very worst pitching staff belongs to the Rockies with an OBV of minus-187. That means Colorado’s pitchers have surrendered 187 more bases than an average staff would have allowed under the same circumstances. Joining them in the negative triple digits are the Chicago White Sox at minus-150.

It logically follows that the combined win-loss record for the Rockies and White Sox stood at 36-87 at the 10-week mark. Here are the 10 worst pitching staffs in the majors:

  • 1. Colorado Rockies, OBV -187

  • 2. Chicago White Sox, OBV -150

  • 3. San Francisco Giants, OBV -92

  • 4. Toronto Blue Jays, OBV -86

  • 5. Miami Marlins, OBV -85

  • 6. Los Angeles Angels, OBV -67

  • 7. Arizona Diamondbacks, OBV -63

  • 8. Houston Astros, OBV -62

  • 9. Oakland Athletics, OBV -58

  • 10. New York Mets, OBV -53

The Miami Marlins (then the Florida Marlins) were born five seasons before their cross-state comrades, the Tampa Bay Rays (initially the Devil Rays).

And the Marlins were much more successful in the early years, winning a pair of World Series championships in their fifth (1997) and 11th (2003) seasons of existence. The Rays, who first took the field in 1998, have never won a title.

And yet, as you can see in the graph below, the Florida rivalry has been lopsided during the past 15 years. The Rays (in blue) have posted a better winning percentage than the Marlins (in red) in all but two seasons since 2010, with the exceptions of 2014 (when the two clubs tied at .475) and 2016 (when the Marlins actually posted 11 more wins than the Rays).

The trend is continuing this year. Tampa Bay was dead even at 31-31 after 10 weeks of action in 2024, while the Marlins lagged far behind at 21-41 (.339).

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Today’s newsletter has a strong pitching flavor to it, so let’s continue the trend with the quiz.

The following questions are about the big-league leaders in several statistical categories as of June 6, the date (as previously mentioned) when the 2024 season reached its 10-week milepost. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the answers.

1. It was noted above that Ranger Suarez had the best ERA in the majors (among qualified pitchers) after 10 weeks. Who was second?

  • A. Luis Gil

  • B. Tanner Houck

  • C. Shota Imanaga

  • D. Tarik Skubal

2. It was also stated that Suarez led the majors with nine wins. It would have been more accurate to say that he was tied for the lead in that category. Who else had nine victories after 10 weeks?

3. Who was the only pitcher to have multiple complete games?

  • A. Max Fried

  • B. Seth Lugo

  • C. Aaron Nola

  • D. Carlos Rodon

4. Who was the strikeout king after 10 weeks?

5. And one question on the negative side. Who led the majors in losses?

There was a time when the gold standard for pitchers was 20 wins, and plenty of starters made the grade.

Consider 1974, precisely 50 years ago. Future Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter and Fergie Jenkins led the majors that year with 25 victories apiece. And nine other pitchers won 20 or more.

Fast forward to the present day.

Only three pitchers reached the 20-win plateau during the past three seasons: Julio Urias in 2021, Kyle Wright in 2022, and Spencer Strider in 2023. Wright had 21 wins in his golden year. The other two stayed at 20.

So let’s drop the bar a bit, looking for the active pitchers who have finished the most seasons with double digits in wins (10 or more) and triple digits in strikeouts (100 or more).

Justin Verlander has combined the two feats in 15 different seasons, the first as a 23-year-old rookie with the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and the last (or most recent) in 2023 as a 40-year-old veteran with the New York Mets and Houston Astros. Max Scherzer, currently rehabbing from back surgery, is second in the 10-100 club with 13 seasons.

The following is a list of the active pitchers with the most years of at least 10 wins and 100 strikeouts, as tabulated by Baseball Reference. Their first and last qualifying seasons are shown in parentheses:

  • 1. Justin Verlander, 15 seasons (first: 2006, last: 2023)

  • 2. Max Scherzer, 13 seasons (first: 2010, last: 2023)

  • 3. Clayton Kershaw, 12 seasons (first: 2010, last: 2023)

  • 4. Gerrit Cole, 9 seasons (first: 2013, last: 2023)

  • 4. Lance Lynn, 9 seasons (first: 2012, last: 2023)

  • 6. Kyle Gibson, 8 seasons (first: 2014, last: 2023)

  • 7. Chris Sale, 7 seasons (first: 2012, last: 2018)

  • 8. Jose Berrios, 6 seasons (first: 2017, last: 2023)

  • 8. Zack Wheeler, 6 seasons (first: 2014, last: 2023)

  • 8. Charlie Morton, 6 seasons (first: 2011, last: 2023)

  • 8. Johnny Cueto, 6 seasons (first: 2009, last: 2016)

The 1984 Detroit Tigers faced an important four-game test from June 4 to 7. They went head to head with the Toronto Blue Jays, their closest pursuer in the American League East.

It was the year’s first meeting between the only two big-league clubs whose winning percentages were above .600 at the time.

The Tigers broke on top with a 6-3 victory in the opening game, thanks to Dave Bergman’s three-run walk-off homer in the ninth. But the Jays blasted their way to a pair of wins, 8-4 and 6-3, on the next two nights, hitting six home runs in the process. Ace Jack Morris then secured a split for Detroit, pitching a complete game to win the finale, 5-3.

The ’84 Tigers — classified as the greatest team of baseball’s Modern Era (1961 to now) — closed the week of June 4-10 by taking three of four games from the Baltimore Orioles. Detroit’s record on the morning of June 11 was 43-14, seven games ahead of Toronto in the AL East.

The New York Mets did something unusual on this week 62 years ago. They won a game.

The Mets ended a 17-game losing streak on June 8, 1962, by beating the Chicago Cubs, 4-3. Second baseman Charlie Neal’s sacrifice fly drove home the winning run in the ninth inning.

The Mets were so inspired that they proceeded to take two of their next three games from the Cubs. New York’s record for the entire week (June 4-10) was 3-4, including a pair of early losses to the Philadelphia Phillies and a series-wrapping defeat at the hands of the Cubs.

The 1962 Mets would eventually lose more games than any other Modern Era club. Their record at daybreak on June 11 was the worst in the National League — 15 wins against 38 losses.

1-A. (Gil had a 1.82 ERA for the New York Yankees. Houck was third in the majors at 1.85.)

2-B. (Lugo posted a 9-1 record for the Kansas City Royals in his first 13 starts of the year.)

3-A. (Fried threw two complete games. Eight pitchers had one apiece. And that’s it.)

4-C. (Glasnow was the only pitcher to reach triple digits by the 10-week mark. He led the majors with 104 strikeouts.)

5-D. (Stripling had an unhappy 1-9 record after 11 starts for the Oakland Athletics.)

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