Does A 20-Loss Season Mean A Pitcher Is Bad? Actually, No

Does A 20-Loss Season Mean A Pitcher Is Bad? Actually, No
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

When former Major League Baseball pitcher and manager Roger Craig died Sunday at age 93, it was a reminder of a paradoxical tenet in baseball.

Often, it takes a really good pitcher to have a really bad record. That might seem like an odd consideration for newcomers to Michigan betting sites, but it’s true.

Craig is justifiably recalled for some impressive successes in baseball as both a player and a dugout leader. He was on three World Series winning teams as a hurler for the Brooklyn and then Los Angeles Dodgers, and for the St. Louis Cardinals. He also managed the San Francisco Giants to a World Series appearance in 1989.

However, Craig’s name also comes up under less flattering celebrity as a guy who lost more than 20 games in two consecutive seasons toiling for the expansion New York Mets in 1962 and ’63. Previously, the last time that happened was about three decades earlier to Paul Derringer mostly pitching for Cincinnati.

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Roger Craig’s Path Back To Triumph

Craig was a 32-year-old veteran with two championships under his belt when he wound up on the first-year Mets’ colorful but star-crossed roster as their ace. In that inaugural Mets campaign, manager Casey Stengel handed Craig the ball for 33 starts and nine relief appearances, and the veteran gritted his teeth to a 10-24 record, 13 complete games, and three saves.

The next season, Craig’s ERA was 3.78, decent by the standards of any era, but his 31 starts, which included 14 complete games, amounted to a 5-22 record. Thankfully, for Craig, he was traded to St. Louis for the 1964 season where he won a World Series game in relief against the New York Yankees and another world championship.

The 20-game pitching loser has become almost non-existent in modern baseball. That’s partly because of carefully managed rotations, pitch counts and starters getting quick hooks — all trends that Michigan sports betting apps users should know well.

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Most Recent On List Pitched For Tigers

The last 20-game loser was lefthander Mike Maroth, a victim of being on the 2003 Detroit Tigers, a team that won just 43 games. Maroth, an Orlando native, went to the mound 33 times that year and finished 9-21, winning his last two starts.

Over the next four seasons, Maroth went a combined 35-31. Arm problems ended his career. In 2023, Maroth was the pitching coach for his alma mater, the University of Central Florida.

Last season, Washington Nationals’ pitcher Patrick Corbin almost joined a club no one wants to belong to.

The Nationals were terrible (55-107) and Corbin, making 31 starts, went 6-19. In 13 of Corbin’s losses, the Nats scored two or fewer runs. The previous season, he also made 31 starts and went 9-16. So far, this year, the fates have been a bit kinder. After 13 starts, Corbin is 4-6.

This year, the best candidate to join the list is Jordan Lyles of the woeful Kansas City Royals. Entering Friday’s games, the right-hander is 0-10 in 13 starts for a team that’s 18-44. No wonder that, even in a division where every team is under .500, Kansas City is a whopping +30000 at BetMGM Michigan Sportsbook to win the AL Central.

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You Have To Be Good To Keep Getting Starts

Again, it stands to reason that a pitcher doesn’t get the ball often enough to lose anywhere near 20 games unless he’s showing grit out on the mound.

Since 1980, Maroth has been the Majors’ only 20-game loser. But before ’80, it was fairly common to have some pitcher lose 20 games. And it was also not uncommon to happen to a future Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, as the list of 20-game losers at Baseball-Reference reveals.

In 1979, Hall of Fame knuckleball pitcher Phil Niekro lost 20 games and won 20 games (going 21-20). That was the second time he lost 20 games. In 1977, he was 16-20.

The two best pitchers in Philadelphia Phillies history, righthander Robin Roberts and lefty Steve Carlton, each lost 20 games. Roberts was 10-22 in 1957 and Carlton was 13-20 in 1973. Both are in Cooperstown.

Randy Jones, the NL Cy Young Award winner in 1976 with San Diego, was 8-22 just two years before he was the best pitcher in the National League.

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Two Tiger Legends On Dubious List

Mickey Lolich anchored the Tigers staff through the 1960s and ‘70s and won 20 or more games twice, but he was 16-21 in 1974 (this year’s Tigers, thanks to being in an awful division, are 3.5 games out of first place at 26-34 and have +2000 odds at Caesars Sportsbook Michigan to rally and win the AL Central).

Denny McClain, who was eventually beset by controversy and legal problems, was the last man to win more than 30 games (31-6 with Detroit in 1968) but also went 10-22 with the Washington Senators in 1971.

The list of outstanding modern-era pitchers who had the blemish of a 20-loss season is surprisingly long. Among them are Luis Tiant, Jerry Koosman, Steve Rogers, Wilbur Wood, Larry Jackson, Dick Ellsworth, Mel Stottlemyre, Pedro Ramos and Bob Rush. Each was also named an All-Star sometime during his career.

Even the man who pitched the most famous perfect game of all-time and made World Series history with the New York Yankees in 1956, Don Larsen, was 3-21 for the Baltimore Orioles in 1954.

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Turk Farrell: 20-Loss All-Star

However, the most undeserving 20-game loser in the modern era might be Dick “Turk” Farrell, a young fireballing relief pitcher who was converted to a starting role midway through his career.

Farrell broke into the Majors as a bullpen specialist for the Phillies and for part of a season with the Dodgers. However, in the expansion draft before the 1962 season, he was chosen by the Houston Colt 45s who made him part of the starting rotation even though he had started just one game in the big leagues.

Farrell performed admirably in ’62 for first-year Houston. He started 29 games and completed 11 of them with two shutouts. He relieved in another 14 games and earned four saves. He struck out 203 batters, behind only Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson in the NL.

In the end, though, Farrell’s won-loss record was a bleak 10-20 in 1962.

However, Turk Farrell was also named to the National League All-Star team that season and twice more after that.

Because in baseball, sometimes it takes a very good pitcher to have a very bad record.

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Author

Bill Ordine, senior journalist and columnist for BetMichigan.com, was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.

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