Monday, August 29, 2011

Luke Hochevar Throughout History

Luke Hochevar is having a very Luke Hochevar season. He entered the season with a career 78 ERA+ and is currently sitting at 80 for the year. Every time he strings together a few good starts people start wondering if he's figured it out. Then he returns to his inconsistent ways leaving the same people frustrated beyond belief. I suspect that if he ever does truly figure things out it'll happen in the bullpen.

Right now, he is what he is, which isn't very good. Playing around with's play index I found 19 other 27 year old pitchers since 1901 that had a Hochevar-like ERA+, meaning they were in the 78-82 range. Some of these guys have nothing in common with Hochevar other than their age 27 season while others are all too similar. I set the minimum innings at 170 since that's where Hochevar's at right now. If I would've lowered it to 100 there would have been 40 additional names (including Runelvys Hernandez who had an 80 ERA+ in 2005), but that was a little more work than I wanted to do, so we'll go with the 19 that walked a 170+ innings in Hochevar's shoes.

1901 - Win Mercer
WSH 9 13 179.2 81
Career 132 164 2484.2 107
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Win is a great nickname for a pitcher and it's something Mercer did a lot of early in his career. In his first four seasons he won 76 games and had a 121 ERA+, despite also having a 1.601 WHIP and 0.77 SO/BB ratio. But heading into age 27 season he was coming off three years where he won just 32 games as his ERA+ plummeted to 84. 1901 was more of the same, though he did have a .402 OBP in 167 PA's, so he wasn't totally worthless. The next year was a return to glory of sorts as he posted a 124 ERA+ in 281.2 innings for the Detroit Tigers. It would be the final year of his career because in January of 1903 he took his own life. The exact reason is still a mystery though The Sporting News at the time blamed his unfortunate course of action on women. Perhaps he took the phrase "women, can't live with them, can't live without them" far to literally.

1908 - George Mullin


DET 17 13 290.2 78
Career 228 196 3686.2 102
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I'm guessing because he wasn't managed by Trey Hillman or Ned Yost he was probably not known as Mully. Too bad. Mullin was actually a teammate of Mercer's his rookie year in 1902 when he was 21. Before his age 27 season he had a career 107 ERA+ with three 20 win seasons on his resume (this resume also included three 20 loss seasons, it was a different time). I have a book called Crazy '08 that's been sitting on my bookshelf for a year, it's about the 1908 season, I've never read it. Mullin pitched a shutout in the World Series that year so it stands to reason that he's mentioned in the book, which means it's possible that there's a Mully reference in there somewhere. In 1909 he won 29 games and then won 21 the year after.

1910 - Ed Karger
BOS 11 7 183.1 80
Career 48 67 1091.2 94
Karger was coming of back to back sub-80 ERA+ seasons so 1910 was a bit of comeback (he had a a 123 ERA+ at age 24). No doubt sports writers in Boston analyzed every start convinced that he was closing to figuring it out. He did manage a 98 ERA+ the next season but was released by Boston and he finished his career in the American Association.

1914 - Henry Keupper
SLM 8 20 213 79
Career 8 20 213 79

Keupper's career lasted all of one season and that was with the Federal League's St. Louis Terriers. I doubt there was any sort of a stigma attached to a 20 loss season back then so I'll guess his career lasted one season because of World War I. Keupper, that's a German name, right? Hmm.

1915 - Tom Seaton
BTT & NEW 13 17 264.1 78
6 Seasons 92 65 1340.0 103
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Like Mully and Win, Seaton had multiple 20+ win seasons to his credit before his age 27 season. He won 27 games for the Phillies in 1913 before jumping to the Federal League's Brooklyn Tip-Tops and winning 25 his first year for them. He spent 1916 and 1917 back in the National League with the Cubs posting ERA+'s of 89 and 115. Under's most similar by ages his age 27 comp is Kevin Appier.

1921 - Roy Wilkinson
CHW 4 20 198.1 82
Career 12 31 380.2 85
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This was his second and last full season. He pitched 14.1 innings in 1922 for the White Sox before heading to the American Association for the remainder of his career. He won 18 games for the Kansas City Blues in 1923.

1934 - Si Johnson
CIN 7 22 215.2 78
Career 101 165 2281.1 92
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I can only surmise that he had great stuff since he managed to pitch 17 seasons and over 2000 innings. You know how some pitchers lasted a long time because they could hit? Well Johnson hit .123/.147/.131 so we're back to he had great stuff and it was just matter of time before his results matched his talent. That didn't happen the next year as he posted a 63 ERA+. To his credit he did have three seasons with an ERA+ of 118 or higher but they were spread out over his career - 1932, 1937 and 1946.

1941 - Ken Chase
WSH 6 18 205.2 79
Career 53 84 1165.0 96
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The previous year he won 15 games and had a 129 ERA+. At age 27 he walked 115 while striking out just 98, this was normal as he struggled with control issues his entire big league career. He walked 100+ batters five times in his career and had 0.84 SO/BB ratio. Only once in his career did strike out more hitters than he walked (1939). He pitched just two more seasons before presumably walking off into the sunset.

1944 - Al Gerheauser
PHI 8 16 182.2 78
Career 25 50 643.0 88
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Gerheauser had a short lived and mostly uneventful career. As a rookie in 1943 he was 7th in the National League in strikeouts with 92 (!) but had just a 93 ERA+ on his way to a 19 loss season. He pitched just 245 more innings after the '44 season with less than impressive results (91 ERA+). Gerheauser is one of two former MLB players buried in Webb City, MO (Harrison Peppers is the other).

1945 - Eddie Lopat
CHW 10 13 199.1 80
Career 166 112 2439.1 116
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This was without a doubt the worst season of Lopat's career. He had a decent rookie year in '44 (104 ERA+) before sinking to Hochevar like levels in '45, but from 1946-1953 he won 126 games with a 127 ERA+. He won 21 games in 1951 and led the league in WHIP twice ('51, '53) and ERA+ once ('53, 154). He was a member of the Yankee's dynasty that won the World Series every year from 1949-1953.

1963 - Joey Jay


CIN 7 18 170.0 78
Career 99 91 1546.1 99
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Jay won 21 games in each of his previous two seasons but struggled  all season long in 1963. He rebounded in 1964 when he put 107 ERA+, but that may have been the product of his 1.8 BB/9, a number he couldn't sustain going forward and was out of baseball two years later.

1964 - Lee Stange 


MIN & CLE  7 14 171.1 82
Career 62 61 1216.0 103
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Stange had a 140 ERA+ the year before in what would end up being the finest season of his career. After starting off too slow for their tastes in '64 the Twins traded him to the Indians for Mudcat Grant. While Grant soared after the trade (11 wins, 128 ERA+) Stange didn't, as he put up a 87 ERA+ for the Tribe. Stange spent the remainder of his career bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen to varying degress of success. He posted a 127 ERA+ in 1967 but was under 90 in two of his final three seasons.

1967 - Dave Giusti
HOU 11 15 4.18 221.2 78
Career 100 93 3.60 1716.2 95
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Now here's a pitcher who may be a great Hochevar comp when all is said and done. In Giusti's three full seasons as a starter he put up  ERA+'s of 81, 78 and 93, but after being moved to the bullpen he became a star. He led the league in saves 1971 and finished top 10 in Cy Young voting three times. There are those of us who feel Hochevar would benefit similarly if he were to be moved to the pen. Giusti was a member of the 1971 World Champion pirates.

1969 - Steve Blass

PIT 16 10 4.32 210.0 78
Career 103 76 3.63 1597.1 95
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When pitchers gather around the campfire and try to scare each other the tale of Steve Blass is inevitably told. Outside of his age 27 season, which was just a down year, Blass was an above average pitcher four times between 1968-1972. He won 19 games with a 135 ERA+ in '72 and then apparently forgot how to pitch. In 1973 Blass walked 84 batters in 88.2 innings (8.5 BB/9) and had a 9.85 ERA (36 ERA+) and 2.177 WHIP. He also hit 12 batters which led the league. He pitched 5 innings in '74 and was done. Blass didn't have an arm injury suggesting his problems were mental rather than physical. Sound familiar?

1970 - Lew Krausse
MIL 13 18 216.0 79
Career 68 91 1283.2 86
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Krausse came up with Kansas City Athletics and had a 114 ERA+ at age 23. His next three seasons were of a Hochevar variety (75, 90, 78) and he was shipped to Milwaukee where he didn't fare much better at 27. He rebounded the next season with a 118 ERA+ but then must have ran into injury problems because he only pitched 129 innings for the rest of his career.

1972 - Mike Kekich
NYY 10 13 175.1 80
Career 39 51 860.2 73
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Kekich is one of the few players on this list to be utterly unremarkable his whole career. Unlike Giusti there was no rebirth in the bullpen. Some guys just never figure it out.

1977 - Bruce Kison
PIT 9 10 193.0 81
Career 115 88 1809.2 103
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Kison is the third member of the 1971 WS champs to have a Hochevar-like age 27 season. remarkably consistent, he had a career 107 ERA+ before his age 27 season and a 106 afterwards. His best season was 1982 when he had a 128 ERA+ for the AL West champion California Angels.

1982 - Charlie Puleo
NYM 9 9 171.0 82
Career 29 39 633.0 90
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1982 was Puleo's rookie season and would be is high in innings pitched. His claim to fame came on December 16, 1982 when he was traded for past his prime Tom Seaver. Puleo found a little success bouncing between the bullpen and rotation for the late 1980's Braves, but as you can see from his career ERA+, he never really amounted to much.

1986 - Richard Dotson
CHW 10 17 197.0 80
Career 111 113 1857.1 98
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In 1983 Dotson won 22 games with a 130 ERA+ for the AL West champion White Sox. That was pretty much the highlight of his career. Though he rebounded with a 111 ERA+ in 1987 Dotson was close to done being an effective pitcher, from 1988-1990 he posted a 78 ERA+. Had he retired after the '89 season he would have finished with a winning record for his career (111-109), but he made 7 starts for the 1990 Royals going 0-4 with an 8.48 ERA (46 ERA+), and thus ending his career on the sourest of notes.

1 comment:

  1. I am so thankful for this update. By then, I was able to know more of Luke Hochevar.