December 9, 2013
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Thursday, June 21, 2012
100 years ago, a Hall of Famer made his big league debut, southpaw starting pitcher Eppa Rixey.
He’s frankly one of the stranger and more questionable Hall of Fame picks. He isn’t one of the worst mistakes in Cooperstown history. Those guys are short career’ed hitters with numbers inflated by the era they lived in – people like George Kelly or Chick Hafey.
Rixey was a good pitcher for a long enough time to accrue some legitimate overall value, but he was never really a great pitcher in any one moment.
He won 266 games in his career, a very impressive total. He also lost 251 games, also impressive, but not in a good way. His .515 winning percentage is the worst for any Hall of Fame starting pitcher.
That wasn’t entirely his fault, as his teammates didn’t support him very well. That was especially true after World War I. The Phillies began a stretch of 30 losing campaigns in 31 seasons in that span, and Rixey was there for the beginning. After serving in the armed forces in 1918, Rixey went 17-34 with his talent deprived team in 1919-20.
Then good fortune shined Rixey’s way and the Reds traded for him. He’d post three winning seasons for them in the 1920s, most notably a league-leading 25 wins in 1922. That was the only time he led the league in any really notable category. Rixey also led the league in starts, innings, hits allowed, and total batters faced in 1922. He was the quantity king that year.
With the Phillies he’d twice led the league in losses, but then again no one wants to do that. With the Reds he’d later once top the league in shutouts and a second time in both starts and hits allowed.
While he was durable, Rixey was ultimately more good than great. He could tally 20 wins multiple times because it was easier to get 20 wins then than now. He was the Jerry Koosman of his day, though.
Perhaps that isn’t fair, as Rixey was more durable than Koosman. When he retired, Rixey was sixth in games, eighth in games started, and 14th in all-time innings pitched. From 1900-59, only three pitchers started 550 games: Walter Johnson, Pete Alexander, Christy Mathewson, and Eppa Rixey. And Rixey had more starts than Mathewson.
So while Rixey was a quantity king, but he was more than just some quantity prince.
A better comp for Rixey might be Early Wynn. Both had similar career counting stats—IP, TBF, GS. Wynn had a clearly superior W-L record but Rixey tops him in ERA+.
Rixey is hardly one of the most glamorous Hall of Famers, but if you’re fairly comparable to Early Wynn, you’re also not one of the worst Hall of Famers. And he began his Hall of Fame career exactly 100 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurs X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold in case you want to skim.
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