Sunday, December 10, 2017

Jack Morris and Other Decade Wins Leaders


What pitcher totaled the most wins in the major leagues during the decade of the 1980s? The answer is Jack Morris with 162 victories during that 10-year span.

But, of course you already knew that, right? After all, that factoid has been brought up time and again, most especially ever since Jack Morris became a Hall of Fame candidate back in 2000. That’s because every other pitcher who notched the most wins over a decade and who is eligible for Hall of Fame consideration already has a bronze plaque hanging in the Cooperstown shrine. With today’s Hall of Fame election announcement, Morris is no longer the exception to this rule.


Jack Morris

Here is the list of pitchers with most major league wins in each decade. I’ve brought the list up to date, through the current, incomplete decade of the 2010s.

1870s: Al Spalding (233 wins)
1880s: Tim Keefe (291 wins)
1890s: Kid Nichols (297 wins)
1900s: Christy Mathewson (236 wins)
1910s: Walter Johnson (265 wins)
1920s: Burleigh Grimes (190 wins)
1930s: Lefty Grove (199 wins)
1940s: Hal Newhouser (170 wins)
1950s: Warren Spahn (202 wins)
1960s: Juan Marichal (191 wins)
1970s: Jim Palmer (186 wins)
1980s: Jack Morris (162 wins)
1990s: Greg Maddux (176 wins)
2000s: Andy Pettitte (148 wins)
2010s: Max Scherzer (132 wins)

Note that Al Spalding’s 233 wins during the 1870s covers a nine-year, rather than 10-year, span, because big league baseball began in 1871, the first season of the National Association. Also note that Andy Pettitte, the wins leader over the decade of the 2000s, is not yet eligible to be considered for election to the Hall of Fame, and Max Scherzer is still an active pitcher.

I am not going to argue about the statistical significance of the win. Its merits and shortcomings have been debated for decades. It is, no doubt, a flawed statistic, but that is not the point of this blog post.

Furthermore, there is an inherent unfairness in considering only those spans of 10 straight seasons that happen to start with years ending with the number “0.” Why is it worth celebrating a pitcher who earned the most big league victories from 1970 through 1979 (Jim Palmer), but it is not worth taking a look at a pitcher who posted the most wins from 1971 through 1980 (Steve Carlton)?

To take a broader view of “Decade Wins Leaders” (DWLs), I decided to compile a list of the winningest major league pitchers over every 10-year span in major league history, not just those spans that happen to neatly coincide with an easily named decade like “the 1910s” or the “1920s.”

Of course, one might also argue that a 10-year span is a rather arbitrary length of time. Why not look at pitchers with the most wins over seven straight seasons? Or a span of a dozen years? Sounds good to me, though I’ll leave that exercise for other researchers to tackle.

As you might imagine, many pitchers led in total victories over more than just one 10-year span. For example, not only was Al Spalding the DWL from 1871 through 1880, but he also was the DWL over the very next 10-year span: 1872 through 1881. Rather than naming the DWL for every 10-year span, I’ve kept the list to a reasonable length by just including the starting and ending spans for each pitcher’s run. I have also included the number of consecutive 10-year spans, which helps reveal the string of dominance by each pitcher on the list.


Span(s)as DWLs
No. of spans
Pitcher
1871-80 through 1872-81
2
Al Spalding
1873-82 through 1875-84
3
Tommy Bond
1876-85
1
Will White
1877-86
1
Jim McCormick
1878-87 through 1879-90
2
Pud Galvin
1880-89 through 1882-91
3
Tim Keefe
1883-92 through 1887-96
5
John Clarkson
1888-97 through 1891-1900
4
Kid Nichols
1892-1901 through 1898-1907
7
Cy Young
1899-1908
1
Joe McGinnity
1900-09 through 1906-15
7
Christy Mathewson
1907-16 through 1913-22
7
Walter Johnson
1914-23 through 1915-24
2
Grover C. Alexander
1916-25 through 1917-26
2
Stan Coveleski
1918-27 through 1922-31
5
Burleigh Grimes
1923-32 through 1930-39
8
Lefty Grove
1931-40 through 1933-42
3
Carl Hubbell
1934-43
1
Paul Derringer
1935-44 through 1938-47
4
Bucky Walters
1939-48 through 1944-53
6
Hal Newhouser
1945-54 through 1946-55
2
Warren Spahn
1947-56
1
Bob Lemon
1948-57 through 1956-65
9
Warren Spahn
1957-66 through 1959-68
3
Don Drysdale
1960-69 through 1962-71
3
Juan Marichal
1963-72 through 1964-73
2
Bob Gibson
1965-74 through 1966-75
2
Gaylord Perry
1967-76
1
Fergie Jenkins
1968-77
1
Tom Seaver
1969-78 through 1970-79
2
Jim Palmer
1971-80 through 1976-85
6
Steve Carlton
1977-86
1
Ron Guidry
1978-87 through 1983-92
6
Jack Morris
1984-93 through 1986-95
3
Roger Clemens
1987-96 through 1996-2005
10
Greg Maddux
1997-2006
1
Randy Johnson
1998-2007 through 1999-2008
2
Greg Maddux
2000-09
1
Andy Pettitte
2001-10
1
CC Sabathia
2002-11 through 2003-12
2
Roy Halladay
2004-13 through 2005-14
2
CC Sabathia
2006-15 through 2008-17
3
Justin Verlander

Now that Jack Morris has been elected to the Hall of Fame, when we look at the list of DWLs over every 10-year span in major league history, Tommy Bond, Will White, Jim McCormick, Paul Derringer, Bucky Walters, Ron Guidry, and Roger Clemens are the only eligible Hall of Fame candidates who are not enshrined in Cooperstown.


Tommy Bond


Will White


Jim McCormick


Paul Derringer


Bucky Walters


Ron Guidry


Roger Clemens

A few final notes:

  • Andy Pettitte was a DWL just once, but it happened to be 2000-2009, so he appears on the first list presented at the top of this blog posting.
  • For ten years running, Greg Maddux could boast of being the winningest pitcher over the previous 10 seasons, a remarkable feat that remains unmatched in major league history. Maddux’s streak would have been 13 straight years, but it was interrupted by Randy Johnson’s DWL for the years from 1997 through 2006.
  • Will White, the DWL for the 10-year span from 1876 through 1885, is not in the Hall of Fame, but his older brother, James “Deacon” White, is.

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