Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I Looked at Walter Johnson's Stats for a While Today

Sometimes it's therapeutic to go to, spend an hour and a half reading an early-1900s player's statistics and fawn over them like they're the Jenny McCarthy Playboy Video Centerfold.

Today we look at the Big Train, Walter Johnson.

Raw statistics

5,914 1/3 IP, 2.17 ERA, 1.06 WHIP

Why the win statistic was stupid even in 1909: In his first three seasons with the Senators, historically one of the worst franchises in baseball history, Johnson went 32-48, but in 663 innings he had a 0.94 WHIP.

The 3-year plan: From 1912-1914, Johnson allowed 172 earned runs in 1,086 innings. That's pretty much Jaret Wright's career, but with 378 less earned runs.

Did I mention the 1913 season?: Johnson's 1913 season was so ridiculous it should have its own post, complete with screaming fans waiting outside an airport. His 0.78 WHIP (232 hits and 38 walks in 346 innings pitched) is third all-time for a single season. If you like wins, and what guy named John Kruk doesn't, Walter won 36 in '13.

I can go nine innings, skip: You know how much applause a pitcher gets nowadays for a complete game or how durable a 200-inning season is considered? Big Train completed 531 games in his 21-year career. His lowest single-season total was seven, in his final season in 1927 when he pitched in 107 2/3 innings. Johnson threw more than 256 innings in 17 seasons and more than 320 innings in nine consecutive seasons (1910-1918).

Strasburg 103 years ago: Big Train broke in at age 19 and threw 110 1/3 innings in 1907. He completed 11 of his 12 starts that year and had a 1.08 WHIP, earning him the posthumous Offbase Rookie of the Year award. (We'll cover our second recipient, Hideki Matsui in 2003, in our next edition of Whining).

Award givers were dumb in the 30s, too: Johnson was a part of the first Hall of Fame class, along with losers like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner. Johnson was on 83% of the ballots, which means he wasn't on 17% of the ballots. Johnny Kling was on 3.5% of the ballots, they couldn't have pushed that 3 1/2 over to Johnson?

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