Okay, last week we did the hitters, now it’s time for the pitchers. These are the best players who are the only players from their places of birth. I do want to note that relief pitchers are hard to identify and I may have missed some. Feel free to quibble, as always.
Ace: Cy Young, 170.3 WAR from Gilmore, Ohio. Ah yes, Cy Young. I think I’ve heard of him before, haven’t I? Has a little award named after him. Lost 316 games, though. That’s a lot of losses for an ace. But really, not much new to say about Cy Young.
No. 2 starter: Walter Johnson, 152.3 WAR from Humboldt, Kan. Interestingly, Johnson went to high school in Fullerton, Calif., so if I did this by high school (something I considered), he wouldn’t be here. As it is, we’re starting with the two winningest pitchers ever at the top of the rotation. Things are shaping up well.
No. 3 starter: Pete Alexander, 117.0 WAR from Elba, Neb. If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is an old pitching staff. As such, these guys have been written about over and over and over again. I do think it is interesting that not many major leaguers come out of nowhere today. Surely there are some great players hiding in little out-of-the-way towns. Perhaps this is an inefficiency. Maybe teams should be deploying armies of scouts to small towns in search of the next Pete Alexander. I don’t know, maybe not, but this team overall really has skewed very old.
No. 4 starter: Lefty Grove, 109.9 WAR from Lonaconing, Md. Hey, at least we finally made it into the 1940s. I actually have something to say about Grove, too. I’d never realized that he didn’t get his first major league start until he was 25. That’s late in the game for such a good pitcher. Grove also logged a bunch of innings in the bullpen. Looking at his numbers, it’s much easier to understand how the game got from him to its current state than it is to understand how we went from Cy Young to him. There were a lot of changes in the early years.
No. 5 starter: Bert Blyleven, 96.5 WAR from Zeist, Netherlands. Bet you didn’t see this one coming, did you? Not many big leaguers were born in Europe, and very, very few indeed were born there after the turn of the century (early baseball had a fair few European immigrants involved). Even better, Blyleven actually pitched when I was alive. I had his baseball cards when I was a kid! How fancy.
Closer: Billy Wagner, 27.7 WAR from Marion, Va. Just as the starting staff was old, the relief corps will, naturally, be fairly recent. We all remember Wagner just fine. He had an excellent career and really left his mark on some of the last good Astros clubs. He can save games for us (you know, if our starters ever need to be pulled).
Relief pitcher: Mike Marshall, 17.4 WAR from Adrian, Mich. Marshall, I suppose, can be our long man given that he once threw 208 innings in relief. That’s just insane by today’s standards. He pitched effectively until he was 36. I don’t think they make many of them like that.
Relief pitcher: Jeff Montgomery, 20.6 WAR from Wellston, Ohio. Another pitcher most of us can remember. Montgomery was, of course, the closer in Kansas City for a number of years, several of which were fairly respectable. After his age-31 season, Montgomery fell off pretty steeply, but he still put together a decent career.
Relief pitcher: Keith Foulke, 20.7 WAR from Ellsworth AFB, S.D. Yup. Not too many major leaguers born on military bases. That gets Foulke onto this list, though he was better than I remember him being. He was actually at his best the year before he became a closer, when he threw over 100 innings and put up a 2.22 ERA. This was in 1999 when a 2.22 ERA meant even more than it does now.
So that completes our little exercise, I hope you’ve enjoyed it and I hope you make the comments as interesting as they were last week.