Friday, February 15, 2019

All-Time One-Year Wonder: Left-Handed Starting Pitcher

I'm going to do something a little different with the One-Year Wonder posts. I have decided to go position-by-position and see if I can determine who the best player at each position would be who only spent one year with the Red Sox. This requires a lot of time and research. I am not naming every single player who spent just one season with the Red Sox at each position, but just the better-known players. At the end of the post, I will pick the single best player for each position.

LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
HARRY HARPER - 1920
Harper spent ten years pitching in the Majors, the first seven of which were with the Washington Senators alongside the great Walter Johnson.  Harper notched double digits in wins three times with a career high of 14 in 1916 when he also pitched to a 2.45 ERA and struck out a career high 149.  After he led the league in losses with 21 (winning just six games) in 1919, Harper was traded to the Red Sox along with Eddie Foster and Mike Menosky for Braggo Roth and Red Shannon.  Foster was past his prime but Harper and Menosky were still in their mid 20's at the time of the trade and Menosky would have a few useful seasons in him.  Harper though failed to turn around his fortunes for Boston in 1920 and finished the season 5-14 with a 3.04 ERA.  He struck out 71 and walked 66 in 162.2 innings.  After the season, he became part of the pipeline of talent going from Boston to New York when he was sent along with Wally Schang, Mike McNally and future Hall of Famer Waite Hoyt in exchange for Del Pratt, Muddy Ruel, Hank Thormahlen and Sammy Vick.  If not for Hoyt, this would have been one of the better trades for Boston as both Ruel and Pratt were still good players.  Schang still had some good years left, but McNally and Harper never did much.  Harper in particular pitched in eight games for New York.  He was basically done.  

FRED HEIMACH - 1926
Another fairly obscure, but long-tenured southpaw to pitch for Boston in the Roaring '20's, Heimach was a versatile pitcher who was used as a starter and a reliever throughout his career.  He spent his first six seasons with the Philadelphia A's.  He won a career high 14 games for Philadelphia in 1924, but lost 12 games and had a less-than-impressive 4.73 ERA.  In 1926, after starting the season 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in 13 games, mostly as a reliever, Heimach was sent to the Red Sox along with Baby Doll Jacobson and Slim Harriss for Boston ace Howard Ehmke.  Starved for starting rotation help, Heimach spent most of his time in Boston in the rotation, pitching in 20 games with 13 of them being starts.  He was just 2-9 though with an ugly 5.65 ERA and a thoroughly awful 17 strikeouts versus 42 walks in 102 innings.  Jacobson was the top player Boston received in that deal, by far.  After the season, Heimach was traded to the minors for Fred Hofmann and Pee Wee Wanninger.  Heimach later found himself pitching for the Yankees for a couple of seasons and then with the Dodgers for four years.

LLOYD BROWN - 1933
While pitching for the Washington Senators, Brown won 15 or more games three seasons in a row from 1930 through 1932.  He came up with Brooklyn in 1925 but was banished to the minors for a couple of seasons before re-emerging with Washington in 1928.  He regularly notched over 200 innings during his string of success.  After the 1932 season, Brown was sent along with Carl Reynolds and $20,000.00 to the St. Louis Browns for a package headlined by former Senator great and future Hall of Famer Goose Goslin.  Brown made it into just eight games with his new team and had an ugly 1-6 record with a 7.15 ERA before he was on the move again for more financial help for the ailing Browns franchise.  This time, the Red Sox, newly flush with cash thanks to the deep pockets of new owner Tom Yawkey, purchased both Brown and future Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell.  The deal was more about Ferrell than Brown though Brown made it into 33 games with Boston and had a 8-11 record and a 4.02 ERA.  Coupled with his time in St. Louis, Brown once again surpassed the 200 innings mark in 1933.  After the season, Brown was traded to the Indians for Bill Cissell and pitched a few more seasons in Cleveland before hanging it up.

JOHNNY SCHMITZ - 1956
During a 13-year Major League career, Schmitz was a two-time All Star for the Cubs in 1946 and 1948, sandwiched around a season in which he led the league in losses (18).  Schmitz pitched with the Cubs for eight years before bouncing around for the rest of his career.  He pitched for the Senators, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Reds and Orioles.  Schmitz was part of a group of players traded from Washington to Boston after the 1955 season.  Schmitz ended up being the least important of the four players Boston received behind Mickey Vernon, Tom Umphlett and Bob Porterfield.  The Red Sox gave up Dick Brodowski and Karl Olson in the deal.  Schmitz made it into just two games, pitching four scoreless innings with Boston before being sold to the Orioles.  He did not do much more for Baltimore before hanging it up after the season.

DEAN STONE - 1957
During a terrific rookie season with the Washington Senators, Stone was 12-10 with a 3.22 ERA and made an All Star appearance in 1954.  He looked like a young star.  Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.  Stone never returned to the All Star game.  He had a couple more mediocre seasons with Washington before being traded early in 1957 season to Boston along with Bob Chakales for Milt Bolling, Faye Throneberry and Russ Kemmerer.  Stone finished out the season with the Red Sox, going 1-3 with a 5.08 ERA.  He struck out 32 and walked 35 in 51.1 innings.  Unfortunately his time in Boston was cut short due to injuries.  He missed the entire 1958 season.  Boston traded him to the Cardinals for Nelson Chittum during the 1959 season.  Technically he was on the team for more than just one season, but he only appeared in games during the 1957 season.  He managed to have a decent stint as a reliever before his career was officially over after 1963.  

BILLY HOEFT - 1959
Hoeft was yet another former All Star who spent just a short amount of time pitching for the Boston Red Sox.  He came up with the Detroit Tigers in the early 1950's, gradually improving until he made the All Star team in 1955 by going 16-7 with a 2.99 ERA, 133 strikeouts versus 75 walks in 220 innings and leading the league with seven shutouts.  He garnered some down-ballot MVP consideration that season.  The next season he was a 20 game winner for the only time in his career, but suffered an ERA decline.  Unfortunately, he was never again the same pitcher.  After a couple of mediocre seasons, he was traded to the Red Sox early in the 1959 season for Ted Lepcio and Dave Sisler.  He spent just over a month in Boston, going 0-3 with a 5.60 ERA striking out and walking eight in just over 17 innings.  He was traded for the next pitcher in this post in June.  Hoeft stuck around for several more seasons, mostly pitching in relief for the Orioles, Giants, Braves and Cubs.  

JACK HARSHMAN
In a one-for-one southpaw-for-southpaw deal, the Red Sox acquired Harshman in the deal for Billy Hoeft from the Orioles.  Harshman looked like a rising star earlier in the decade with the White Sox himself.  In his first three full seasons with Chicago, he was 40-26 with a 3.13 ERA and 393 strikeouts in 583 innings.  He had a rough season in 1957 and moved on to Baltimore with whom he was 12-15, but with a nice 2.89 ERA.  In 1959, he started the season in Baltimore before being traded to the Red Sox for Hoeft.  He pitched in eight games for Boston and was 2-3 with a 6.57 ERA.  He struck out 14 and walked ten in 24.2 innings.  The Red Sox exposed him to waivers a month later and Cleveland picked him up, where he improved dramatically.  He spent the next season in Cleveland and then was out of the Majors for good.

ED CONNOLLY - 1964
Connolly definitely did not have a long career, pitching in just 42 games in the Majors over two seasons, but a second-generation Red Sox gets some notice.  His father, also Ed Connolly, spent four seasons as a backup catcher for Boston from 1929 through 1932.  Connolly Jr. was only in Boston for 1964.  He put in a fair amount of work that season, throwing 80.2 innings in 27 games, but finishing with a bad 4-11 record and a 4.91 ERA.  Connolly struck out 73 but walked 64.  He spent the next couple of seasons in the minors before re-emerging with Cleveland in 1967.  His numbers did not improve and he never made it back to the Majors.

BILLY ROHR - 1967
In his Major League debut, Rohr recorded 26 outs before giving up a hit.  On a two-strike count, future teammate Elston Howard, then of the Yankees, laced a single breaking up Rohr's no-hit bid.  He recorded the final out without incident, finishing up one of the most electrifying debuts in Red Sox history.  Unfortunately, that was the best moment in what would be a short Major League career.  Rohr went 2-3 with a 5.10 ERA in his rookie season with the Red Sox.  He struck out 16 and walked 22 in 42.1 innings.  Just prior to the 1968 season, his contract was sold to the Indians for whom he was 1-0 with a 6.87 ERA.  He bounced around the minors for a couple of seasons after that, but that was it for his Major League career.  He exploded onto the scene and flamed out just as quickly.

FRANK TANANA - 1981
A flame-throwing southpaw in the same Angels rotation as Nolan Ryan in the mid-1970's, Tanana struck out over 200 batters three seasons in a row, peaking with a league-leading 269 in 1975.  He was a three-time All Star who also led the league in ERA in 1977 (2.54) and won 15 or more games four times.  He finished in the top five for the Cy Young Award twice.  Tanana unfortunately started having arm trouble in 1978 as a result of heavy early use.  By the time the Red Sox acquired him prior to the 1981 season, he was a shadow of his former self.  It hurt even more due to the fact that he was the primary return in the trade that sent Red Sox fan favorite Fred Lynn to the West Coast.  In his only season in Boston, Tanana finished 4-10 with a 4.01 ERA.  He struck out just 78 batters while walking 43 in 141.1 innings.  After the season, he signed as a free agent with the Rangers, led the league in losses with 18 in 1982, but slowly resurrected his career with Texas and Detroit as a junk-tossing, crafty southpaw.  He finished his 21 year career with a 240-236 record, a 3.66 ERA, and 2,773 strikeouts.  

CHRIS NABHOLZ - 1994
At one time, Nabholz was one of the top pitching prospects in the game.  In his rookie season with the Expos, Nabholz was 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 70 innings pitched.  He continued to put up decent numbers for the next couple of seasons in Montreal, but was never able to make the next step.  His best season was 1992 when he was 11-12 with a 3.32 ERA and 130 strikeouts versus 74 walks in 195 innings.  After a down season in 1993, Nabholz was traded to the Indians.  The Red Sox acquired him in early July of 1994 to help solidify the rotation, along with Steve Farr, in exchange for closer Jeff Russell.  Nabholz made eight starts before the season ended early due to the players' strike and was 3-4 with a 6.64 ERA.  He struck out 23, but walked 29 in 42 innings.  After the season, he left Boston to join the Cubs as a free agent who tried (and failed) to make a reliever out of him.  That was it for his career.

ZANE SMITH - 1995
Smith was a crafty, efficient southpaw who spent time with the Braves, Expos and Pirates from 1984 through 1994.  He won double digits three times, including a high of 16 wins in 1991 with the NL East-winning Pirates.  He was a dependable pitcher who could start or relieve.  He had an incredible stint as a reliever for the Expos in 1989 when he turned in a 1.50 ERA over 31 games.  The Red Sox acquired him as a free agent, but he had a rough season.  He started 21 out of 24 games and was 8-8 with a 5.61 ERA.  He struck out 47 and walked 23 in 110.2 innings.  It was the worst season of his career.  He returned to Pittsburgh for one more season in 1996, but retired after the season.  His 100-115 record is deceptive as Smith spent a lot of time with very bad teams.   

JAMIE MOYER - 1996
No one could have predicted that when the 33-year-old Moyer was traded by the Red Sox during the 1996 season that he would go on to pitch another 15 seasons.  Moyer came up in 1986 with the Cubs and three seasons there as a decent, but hard-luck pitcher who had a nice 3.48 ERA in 1988, but lost 15 games for the second season in a row.  He went on to pitch for the Rangers and Cardinals but was relegated to the minors in 1992.  He returned to the Majors in 1993 and had a couple of nice seasons with the Orioles before the Red Sox signed him as a free agent for the 1996 season.  Moyer was in the midst of a pretty good season with the Red Sox and was 7-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 23 games.  He started ten of them and had 90 innings pitched, striking out 50 and walking 27.  The Red Sox though started very poorly and were mostly out of the race and saw a chance to acquire a decent young player for the eventual free agent.  Moyer was shipped to Seattle in exchange for Darren Bragg, who was a good defensive outfielder but was limited offensively.  Moyer though completely resurrected his career and went on to win 145 games with the Mariners.  He also pitched for the Phillies, Orioles, Blue Jays and Rockies before finally retiring after the 2012 season.  Bragg was out of the Majors after the 2004 season despite being seven years younger.  Moyer's final numbers include a record of 269-209 with a 4.25 ERA and 2,441 strikeouts.

KENT MERCKER - 1999
Known mostly for his two no-hitters as a member of the Braves (one of which was a combined no-hitter with Alejandro Peña and Mark Wohlers), Mercker actually had two stints with the Red Sox organization, though he never actually pitched with Boston in the second stint.  Mercker was primarily used as a relief pitcher early in his career before becoming a starter in 1994.  It was after all, difficult to crack the Braves rotation in the early 1990's.  After 1995, Mercker began to bounce around a little bit.  After starting out the 1999 season with the Cardinals, Mercker was traded to Boston late in the season.  He made it into just five games, starting all of them, but was 2-0 with a 3.51 ERA and 17 strikeouts and 13 walks in 25.2 innings.  He made three starts in the postseason, taking a loss in a game in the ALCS against the Yankees.  After a stop with the Angels in 2000, Mercker returned to the Red Sox in 2001, but failed to make it into a game.  He went on to pitch a few more seasons with the Rockies, Reds, Braves and Cubs.  

JEFF FASSERO - 2000
With the Expos and Mariners, Fassero had been a reliable number two starter.  He notched double digit win totals five times, including in 1993 when he split time as a reliever and a starter, and in 1997 led the AL in games started.  Once becoming a starter, Fassero regularly threw over 200 innings and had a sub-4.00 ERA.  After a rough 1999 season split between the Mariners and Rangers, the Red Sox took a flyer on him hoping for a bounceback season.  Instead, Fassero was mostly mediocre, when he was healthy.  He made just 23 starts and added an additional 15 games out of the bullpen and finished with an 8-8 record and a 4.78 ERA.  He struck out 97 and walked 50 in 130 innings.  After the 2000 season, Fassero hung around the Majors for a few more years with the Cubs, Cardinals, Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants, but he never regained the ability that made him an effective starting pitcher in the mid 1990's.

DARREN OLIVER - 2002
Oliver, who made it onto the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot somehow, spent a large chunk of his career with the Texas Rangers, making three stints with them.  He had been reasonably effective as a starting pitcher in the mid-90's, winning ten or more games four times.  He had a rough 2001 season with Texas though as he was 11-11 with a 6.02 ERA.  The Rangers and Red Sox exchanged bad contracts swapping Oliver for Carl Everett.  While Everett fit in well with Texas, Oliver had some issues in Boston.  He made it into just 14 games, starting nine of them and was 4-5 with a 4.66 ERA.  He struck out 32 and walked 27 in 58 innings.  He did have some success against the Yankees, but he was released by the Red Sox in July.  After the season, Oliver moved on to the Rockies, Marlins, Astros, Mets, Angels, Rangers and Blue Jays, resurrecting his career as a lefty option out of the bullpen.  

ERIK BEDARD - 2011
At the 2011 trading deadline, the Red Sox were in first place but needed some rotation help.  They acquired one of the best arms available by sending multiple prospects to the Mariners for Bedard.  Bedard came up with the Orioles and turned into a very good starting pitcher, striking out 221 batters in a 2007 season in which he went 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA.  Unfortunately, injuries limited his effectiveness the next few seasons.  When 2011 came around, Bedard was 4-7, but with a 3.45 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 91.1 innings.  But Bedard was not able to keep going at that rate upon joining the Red Sox rotation.  He started eight games, and was 1-2 with a 4.03 ERA.  He did strike out 38 in 38 innings, while walking 18.  The Red Sox fell out of first and eventually missed the postseason and the rotation was a big reason why.  Bedard pitched the next three seasons with one season each in Pittsburgh, Houston and Tampa Bay.  

WADE MILEY - 2015
The only pitcher here who is actually still active, so you never know, Miley could end up back in Boston some day.  Miley came up with the Diamondbacks and was an All Star and finished second in the Rookie of the Year race to Bryce Harper in 2012.  He struggled to match that season for the next couple of years.  Before the 2015 season, Miley was traded to the Red Sox for former prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa.  Miley was part of a rotation filled with inning-eating, non-flashy starters for the 2015 season.  He delivered about what was expected of him, leading the team in wins (11-11) and innings pitched (193.2).  He struck out 147 and walked 64.  His ERA was 4.46.  After the season, Boston traded Miley to Seattle for Carson Smith and Roenis Elias.  In 2018, he had a very good season with Milwaukee and will be with Houston in 2019.  

THE BEST ONE-YEAR LEFT-HANDED STARTING PITCHER
Yeesh.  Pickings were very slim this time.  Very few southpaw starters put together successful seasons.  Kent Mercker probably had the best numbers, but he pitched in just five games, and I would prefer someone who made it an entire season.  That is also part of the reason why Jamie Moyer did not get it, though the other reason was due to being a reliever for a hefty chunk of his sole season in Boston.  So we were down to Harry Harper and Wade Miley, with Jeff Fassero being dropped.  They had identical WAR values in their one season and neither had very good records due to playing for losing teams, though Miley's was quite a bit better.  Harper had a significantly better ERA, and led his team in that category.  Miley led his team in wins and innings pitched and was second in strikeouts, out-doing Harper in that category by 80.  So it is pretty close and almost a toss-up.  I'm going to give it to Miley though because of the significantly better strikeout-to-walk ratio, WHIP, and record, and because I actually got to watch Miley.  So there it is.  Not an overly exciting choice, but it is what it is.  

2 comments:

  1. Great post. Love when you do these. I vote Billy Rohr.

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  2. Thank you as always. I almost cut Rohr because he did not have much of a Major League career. I kept him solely on the basis of his debut. Connolly was also almost cut, but he stayed because he was a second-generation Red Sox. The only cut I ended up making was Bruce Chen because he pitched in just five games and three of them were in relief.

    Unfortunately I only have a few more of these left. I might be able to stretch out the relief pitchers to three posts (righty non-closers, lefty non-closers, closers), but off the top of my head that would make the closer post really short. So I don't know yet. I am already thinking about my right-hand starters post and have an early favorite for the winner. Any guesses?

    ReplyDelete