By In 100 Greatest

No. 43: Warren Spahn

First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.

— Gerald V. Hern poem on the 1948 Braves

* * *

Let’s start with a completely unrelated story involving the great hitter Billy Williams. When I was maybe 21 or 22 years old ,I was covering a Charlotte Knights Class AA baseball game, and by pure chance I found myself in the press box sitting next to Billy Williams. The Knights were a Cubs farm system then and I guess Williams was a roving hitting instructor.

To this day, I’m not sure how or why I did it: I probably should have been too embarrassed to ask that basic a question. I But I asked Williams if he could explain to me the difference between a slider and a curve. He happily did. He explained for the next hour or so. It was unbelievable, one of my favorite ever baseball experiences. He took a sheet of paper, showed me the different breaks, explained why he had some success against Gibson’s slider (he hit 10 home runs off Gibby) and why he couldn’t do a thing against Bert Blyleven’s curve (one hit in 15 at-bats). It was like getting physics lessons from Einstein.

I bring this up because there has been this simple baseball concept that I have simply not been able to wrap my head around: I did not understand the difference between Wins Above Replacement and Wins Above Average. I mean, OK, I understood the basics of it but I never quite got it … you know what I mean? I understand that Wins Above Replacement represents an attempt to determine how much more (or less) valuable a player is when compared with a replacement-level player. Wins Above Averages compares instead to an average player. I understand that part.

What I could not quite grasp is why the two statistics will vary so much when ranking players.

For instance, No. 44 on my list is Pedro Martinez. No. 43 on my list, you now know, is Warren Spahn.

By Wins Above Replacement, you can see Spahn’s advantage:

Spahn: 92.6 WAR
Martinez: 86.0 WAR

However, Wins Above Average tells a very, very different story.

Martinez: 61.4 WAA
Spahn: 41.1 WAA

Whoa. That’s a HUGE difference. By WAR, Spahn is the 37th most valuable player — pitcher or hitter — in baseball history. But by WAA he drops all the way down to 66. And with Pedro, it’s the reverse — he’s 43rd on the list by WAR, 29th on the list by WAA.

This concept might come very easily to you, but it just boggled my mind. And so, I asked Bill James and Tom Tango to help me understand, which is a lot like asking Billy Williams about the difference between a curve and a slider. They both gave this general answer.

Let’s say you have two players, one somewhat better than the others. Let’s say we are displaying their value by win percentage.

Player 1 is a .650 player and Player 2 is a .550 player.

If you compare them to a replacement level player — let’s say replacement level is .300 — then you can see the difference.

Player 1: 350 points above replacement
Player 2: 250 points above replacement

So Player 1 is more valuable … but it’s a relatively small gap. Player 1 is 40% more valuable than Player 2.

Now, let’s compare them both to an average player, which is obviously .500.

Player 1: 150 points above replacement
Player 2: 50 points above replacement

Well, you see how that changed everything. Even though the 100-point gap between the two players is the same, now Player 1 is THREE TIMES more valuable than Player 2. The starting point is the key here.

So what does this mean? Well, Wins Above Replacement tends to reward long, consistent productive careers like Spahn’s. He threw more than 5,000 innings — almost double the innings Pedro Martinez threw. He won 20 games 13 times, led the league in complete games nine times, led the league in shutouts and innings pitched four times.

The most innings Pedro Martinez ever threw in a season was 241.

Spahn — and this might the most amazing baseball statistic you hear today — threw more than 241 innings in SEVENTEEN seasons.

Spahnie was just relentlessly good, year after year after year, and if you compare that to replacement level he will simply compile more value than Martinez. He was always better than replacement. If you use Bill James’ Win Shares — which just figures a players value and doesn’t compare it to anything — you see a much wider gap. Spahn has 403 career win shares. Martinez has 224.

OK, but the higher the baseline you use to compare, the more it will favor players who had very, very high peaks (and, often, short careers). Martinez for seven years was very clearly better than Spahn at any point in his career (better, I think, than anyone ever). He was so much better than average those years he piled up huge value. And, when compared with average, that value overwhelms Spahn’s advantage in innings pitched.

Here was a great way for me to look at it: If you subtract Pedro’s career statistics from Spahn’s career, you still have a pitcher who went 144-145 with a 3.27 ERA and 2,416 innings pitched. That is basically the career of Jeff Suppan or Bob Knepper or Woodie Fryman. What is that worth?

Well, against replacement, that’s worth quite a lot. Fryman’s WAR, for instance, is 18.6 wins above replacement. A very nice career.

But compare Fryman to average … well, he wasn’t quite an average pitcher. His WAA is minus-2.6.

So WAR credits Spahn for all those average or near average innings he pitched. And WAA does not. That’s the difference. Among the 200 or so best players in baseball history, here are the biggest gaps between WAR and WAA. You can see exactly what I’m talking about:

Guys who are better against replacement:
— Don Sutton: Ranks 90th in WAR; Ranks 257th in WAA.
— Tommy John: Ranks 134th in WAR; Ranks 281st in WAA
— Dave Winfield: Ranks 123rd in WAR; Ranks 252nd in WAA
— Pete Rose: Ranks 56th in WAR; Ranks 175th in WAA

Guys who are better against average:
— Joe DiMaggio: Ranks 36th in WAA; Ranks 58th in WAR
— Larry Walker: Ranks 46th in WAA; Ranks 73rd in WAR
— Scott Rolen: Ranks 56th in WAA; Ranks 84th in WAR
— Lou Boudreau: Ranks 62nd in WAA; Ranks 127th in WAR
— Chase Utley: Ranks 63rd in WAA; Ranks 155th in WAR

And so on. Guys who put up long, consistent careers — like Eddie Murray, Rafael Palmeiro, Billy Williams, Gary Sheffield and Nolan Ryan — do much better against replacement than against average.

And guys who have spectacular but relatively short careers — like Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg, Johan Santana, Hal Newhouser and Jackie Robinson — do much better against average than against replacement.

All of which is to say: There are many different ways to measure the same data. When I was putting together this list, I had Pedro Martinez and Warren Spahn coupled in my mind. One is the ultimate example of a brilliant shooting star career. One is the ultimate example of the sun rising every day. Which career would you rather have? I’m sure Pedro wishes it could have lasted longer. I’m sure Spahn would have loved to throw Martinez’s fastball and change-up. We play the cards we are dealt.

* * *

Warren Spahn, like so many of the players on this list, learned the game from his father. Warren Spahn Sr. named his son Warren but, he would say, not after himself. He named his son Warren after the president, Warren G. Harding. Warren Sr. sold wallpaper and, as the line goes, not that much of it. There was a Depression going on. The family lived in Buffalo and struggled. Warren Sr. wanted his namesake to become a ballplayer. The son was left-handed, so the father realized that there weren’t too many open positions. No shortstop. No third base. No catcher. Warren Jr. liked to hit and he liked first base, which was fine. But Warren Sr. was a practical man and he taught his son how to pitch just in case.*

*Spahn was a very good hitter for a pitcher. He hit .35 career home runs, tying him for fourth all time behind Wes Ferrell, Bob Lemon and Red Ruffing.

It was fun listening to Warren Spahn talk about how his father made him throw the ball right — easy motion and complete follow through — and how this was the defining lesson of his baseball life. That arm would become one of the Great Wonders of Baseball. Spahn was something of a phenom when he first started — he dominated the III League (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa) as a 20-year-old. That was the year he was hit in the face with a bad throw by a teammate and got the famous bulbous nose that defined his face. Spahn dominated the Eastern League at 21 and got a call up to the big leagues that year. He started a coupe of games and got roughed up. And then he went to war.

Spahn’s war record is one of the most decorated in baseball history. He fought in the Battle of Bulge and was wounded in the fight over the Bridge at Remagen. He earned a promotion from staff sergeant to second lieutenant. He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He would talk about how the war changed him, how it made him more grateful for every minute he had on the field. “After what I went through overseas,” he would be quoted in “The Greatest Game Ever Pitched” “I never thought of anything I had to do in baseball as hard work.”

And this to USA Today in 1990: “I felt like, ‘Wow, what a great way to make a living. If I goof up, there’s going to be a relief pitcher come in there. Nobody’s going to shoot me.”

When Spahn returned in 1946, he was essentially the same pitcher he would be for the next 20 or so years. Well, that’s not exactly right — he would add the famous pitch everyone called a screwball about a decade later and that guided him through the second half of his career. But what I mean is that from a young age Spahn understood something about pitching that few have ever understood. “Hitting is timing,” he said. “Pitching is upsetting timing.” When he was young, he would upset timing with his high-rising fastball — people tend to think of Spahn as a crafty lefty but he led the league in strikeouts every year from 1949-1952.

He threw so many innings. In a time when everyone tries to figure out how to keep young pitchers from getting hurt, Spahn’s workload looks even more remarkable. He led the league innings pitched four times, was second six more times, was third four other times. It’s tempting to try and take lessons from his career. He was in the army from age 22 through 24 and did not pitch much during that time (he did pitch a little bit for army teams). Is that the secret? His father was relentless in making sure that Spahn threw the ball properly with a full follow through. Is that the secret? Spahn always said he was very careful to never strain his shoulder or elbow by trying to throw too hard. Is that the secret?

Or … is there no secret? Maybe Spahn — and Nolan Ryan and Bert Blyleven and Tom Seaver and others — was simply a freak of nature. Spahn threw 289 innings in 1947 to lead the league He threw 300 innings two years years. He threw 310 innings two years after that. He pitched and pitched and pitched and, when the fastball started to come up a little short, he developed a new pitch, the one everyone called a screwball. And then he led the league in complete games seven years in a row.

Did Spahn thrown a true screwball? That’s actually an interesting question. Spahn himself seemed conflicted about that. He did say he was influenced by Carl Hubbell’s famous screwball and tried to pattern a pitch after that. On the other hand, in later years he would say his pitch wasn’t exactly a screwball — which the violent twist to the left — it was really more like a Tom Glavine’s famous circle change.

Whatever you call it, the pitch broke away from right-handed hitters, and it was exactly the pitch he needed to keep winning 20 games year after year after year. He had an amazing assortment of pitches — a a curve, a slider, a fastball, the screwball, even a knuckleball for a while there. Few have ever mixed pitches better than Spahn did. His son, Greg, in “The Greatest Game Ever Pitched” would remember his father warming up by throwing five fastballs, then five screwballs, then five curves, then five change-ups, pausing in between each round to talk with somebody. He might have been talking to figure out which pitch was working best.

Then, he also might have been talking to talk — Spahnie was one of the wonderful characters in baseball history. Everybody loved him. There are a handful of quirky stories about him. He wore the No. 13 in the minors because, he told the clubhouse manager, that was his lucky number. Well, he did win 20 games thirteen times. He used to say a sore arm was like a toothache; it bugs you until you forget about it. And so on.

In all, Spahn was this modest guy who never missed a start, never trumpeted his accomplishments, never stopped loving the game. One of my favorite quotes about him comes from Stan Musial, who was sort of the hitting version of Spahn. “I don’t think Spahn will ever get into the Hall of Fame,” Musial said. “He’ll never stop pitching.”

Spahn pitched until he was 44 in the big leagues then pitched just a little bit more in the minors. His 363 victories are the most in the live ball era — even Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens and Steve Carlton couldn’t quite catch him. But that poem at the top is probably his legacy. In 1948, the Boston Braves were going for the first pennant in 35 years. On September 6, they built a small lead.

Here’s are the pitchers for the rest of the way:

Spahn (14 innings); Sain (shutout); Sain (yeah, again), Spahn, somebody, somebody, Sain, Spahn, Sain, Spahn, somebody, Sain, somebody, Spahn, Sain, somebody, Spahn, Sain, somebody, Spahn, Sain, somebody.

Yeah, that year was a lot like the poem. Sain was actually the more dominant pitcher in 1948; he finished second in the MVP voting in Stan Musial’s epic season. But Sain would never have another year like it, while Spahn would be be great for the next 15 years. When asked why, Johnny Sain never hesitated. “Spahn,” he said, “was the smartest pitcher I ever saw.”

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53 Responses to No. 43: Warren Spahn

  1. Cuban X Senators says:

    Never seen it writ in any other way than “Three-I League”.

  2. Tim Burnell says:

    I wonder where all the great baseball popular poetry has gone. I mean, Joe’s work is, often, poetic, but, it’s not ever a poem. I am not one of those guys who says “the game was better back in yon dayes of olde,” (ie. when said guy was 11), but, I DO think the popular poetry was better way back in the days gone by.

    • Grzegorz Brzeszczyszczykiewicz says:

      In the public consciousness, it has gone to the same place as the heavyweight title fight, the Kentucky Derby, dressing up to go out in public, and the American middle class.

  3. Ian says:

    Nice article.

    Is Blyleven on this list somewhere? Did I miss him?

  4. Michael Green says:

    The highest praise possible is from Johnny Sain, who may be the greatest pitching coach in major league history.

  5. Mark says:

    I’ve always asked myself if there’s something wrong with the way we evaluate the players and asign them a numeric value.
    My father always talks about how “great” were Spahn, Gibson, Koufax, Seaver and Marichal. Then, when talking about Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, etc., the adjetive changes to “very good”. I think that, he in a way, give the first list of pitchers an extra value because they routinely pitched 9 or even more innings, and I see it reasonable, but in his eyes 80’s to today pitchers have nothing to do with the previous ones.

  6. DM says:

    The ironic thing about 1948 was that it was one of Spahn’s worst seasons. He was 15-12, 3.71 ERA, certainly out of character for him. Of the 5 guys that accounted for 90% of the starts for the team that year (Spain, Spahn, Voiselle, Bickford, and Barrett), Spahn had the highest ERA. But, “Spain, Voiselle, and pray like hell” doesn’t have the same ring to it, I suppose.

    • DM says:

      Oops….typos there…..I meant “Sain” not “Spain”. Damn autocorrect!

    • Another ironic thing about that 1948 season is that…although that was the year that inspired Gerald Hern’s famous poem…the Braves actually had a slightly LOWER winning percentage when the Spahn/Sain duo started the game than when the game was started by the rest of the staff.

  7. Blake says:

    Nice piece, as always.

    Wow, Larry Walker was that good??!

  8. Cathead says:

    WAR and WAA are like Common Core fuzzy math. People really can’t explain them, but they’re going to get jammed down our throats anyway.

    • Spencer says:


      You sound pretty resentful (shoved down our throats)

      They’re wonderful statistics and Joe does a fantastic job of explaining them and the individual pros of each one.

    • Berfenium says:

      They’re quite useful, honestly, but if you don’t find them useful or interesting then just ignore them. That’s the lovely thing about baseball fandom, you can pick and choose how you wish to study and enjoy the game.

  9. wendell says:

    Yes spawn never missed a start unless it was against Brooklyn in the mid 50’s. Then as one reader said he had back pain. Joe did an article on this about a year ago if you want to reference it.

  10. Ross says:

    Randy Johnson came to my mind during the comparison between Pedro and Spahn and so I decided to compare the three. Since Pedro’s 7 year peak is what Joe used, I’ll stick to that. As always, bWAR and WAA aren’t the end-all, be-all but I used them here.

    Best 7 years:
    Pedro: 45.5 WAA 59 WAR
    Spahn: 29.6 WAA 49.7 WAR
    Randy: 49.9 WAA 63.3 WAR

    All other than 7th best year:
    Pedro: 15.9 WAA 26.9 WAR
    Spahn: 11.5 WAA 43.2 WAR
    Randy: 18.6 WAA 40.8 WAR

    So I’d argue that Pedro and Randy had pretty comparable peaks, and both superior to Spahn (especially if you use WAA for peak). And Spahn and Randy both had pretty comparable longevity, both superior to Pedro (though Randy was a bit better during fewer innings, hence the better WAA but less on the WAA than Spahn).

    Randy had the best of both their worlds, which is why we haven’t seen his name come up yet on the list.

    • Pat says:

      I don’t think you understand “peak” the way Joe or the other commenters do. It’s not seven best years, no matter where they come—they have to be seven consecutive years. By my reckoning, the best Unit can do is 54.2 WAR, 41.1 WAA—still below Pedro.

      • Ross says:

        Yeah, I can see it that way too. I was just meaning how good they were when they were at their best. I think other metrics also favor Pedro over Randy (someone else mentioned the edge Pedro has in ERA+ for example).

  11. Chip S. says:

    Even though the 100-point gap between the two players is the same, now Player 1 is THREE TIMES more valuable than Player 2.

    If this is meant to point out the fallacy of proportional comparisons, then fine. But if you’re serious, this is completely wrong. Nobody would ever say that a 1 WAA player was infinitely better than a 0 WAA player.

    Also, I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that players with longer careers will rank higher by WAR than by WAA. It depends on career arcs. If you cherry-pick great players with short careers, then of course they’ll rank higher by WAA, but that’s true of any player with a sharp peak vs. a gentle peak. Players with the same basic “shape” of their careers ought to compare similarly in terms of both measures, except for the possibility that there’s more variation over time in “average” performance than in “replacement” performance.

    • Xao says:

      Chip, that’s the wrong comparison, as you’re switching from a multiplicative comparison to an additive comparison. A more accurate version would be “Nobody would ever say that a 1 WAA player was an infinite number times better than a 0 WAA player”, which nobody would ever say because it’s horribly awkward. Nonetheless, within the context of a single numeric valuation, Joe’s usage is correct.

      • Chip S. says:

        Xao, that’s not correct. Here’s an example that may not seem contrived or awkward to you:

        Yesterday’s high was 68F, and today’s was 77F–about a 13% increase in temp. But it was also 25C today, compared to 20C yesterday–a 25% increase. Obviously, it would be nonsensical to say that the temperature difference was more significant when measured on the C scale than on the F scale.

        You can always change the percentage difference between two points on a scale by adding or subtracting a fixed amount from both points. It changes nothing about their true relationship to each other.

        But this is a small point. The larger (and correct) point is that players’ relative rankings (forgetting about specific numerical differences) can differ according to WAR and WAA because of differences in the shapes of their career trajectories, which Joe emphasized.

        • neither makes any sense at all, actually. Temperatures can only be accurately compared using Kelvin. 25C and 20C are actually 298K and 293K respectively. The difference between them is only 1.7%. If we want to know the difference between the two as a subjective experience, however, we have to abandon temperature as measured objectively and instead measure its effect on the body. In other words, on the outcome to us personally. Neither WAR nor WAA accurate gets that. I don’t know any stat that does. Maybe there is one, or someone ought to create it. Maybe some like “runs created” or for a pitcher “runs allowed”, using some crazy ass formula.

  12. NevadaMark says:

    I wonder why Spahn only started one game in the 1948 Series.

    • Ross says:

      Where do you see that he only started 1 game? I see on wikipedia that he started games 2 and 5.

      • DM says:

        Actually, NevadaMark is correct.

        Spahn started game 2 and gave up 3 runs in 4 1/3 innings. He took the loss.

        In game 5, Nels Potter started but only lased 3 1/3 innings, giving up 5 runs. However, Spahn did come in and pitched superbly over the final 5 2/3 innings, giving up only 1 hit, 1 walk, and he struck out 7. He got the win.

        He also came back and pitched 2 innings in relief of Bill Voiselle in game 6, giving up a run. Voiselle took the loss

        For the series, he had 3 appearances, 1 start, 2 relief appearances, 12 IP, 1-1 W-L record, 3.00 ERA, 12 K’s.

        The starters went in this order:

        1 – Sain
        2 – Spahn
        3 – Bickford
        4 – Sain
        5 – Potter
        6 – Voiselle

      • NevadaMark says:

        Then Wikipedia is incorrect. He started game 2 and that was it. He did pitch in relief in games 5 and 6.

        • NevadaMark says:

          Thanks Ross and DM. But I still wonder WHY he only started one game?

          • Ross says:

            I was curious myself so I did some digging around but wasn’t able to find anything, but here is some pure speculation.
            They had intended for him to start game 6 after starting game 2. But after a 3-run homer put them down 5-4 in the bottom of the 4th of game 5, down 3 games to 1, were desperate and brought in Spahn. It worked for that game, but didn’t work out for the series.

  13. I would definitely have the rankings of Pedro and Spahn reversed. Spahn never pitched to the heights that Pedro pitched. Some fans talk about greatness of the past and the very good of the more recent present. Spahn was great, but never at the peak greatness of Pedro. in my eyes longevity is far lower on the list of considerations. Randy Johnson is an interesting comparison. High peak and longevity, but neither Spahn nor Johnson ever touched 200 ERA+ and trail Pedro’s K/BB ratio, WHIP. At their absolute best, neither touch Pedro.

    • Karyn says:

      I think it just comes down to personal preference, and how much you value peak vs longevity. One of those things that reasonable people can disagree on.

      You and Joe both seem reasonable.

      • Patrick Bohn says:

        Johnson vs. Pedro isn’t a “Peak vs. Longevity” discussion. Randy Johnson is deservedly higher on this list because he had a fantastic peak AND longevity.

        Pedro may have had the highest peak ever, but Johnson led the league in WAR for pitchers five times in a six-year span. He won four consecutive Cy Youngs from 1999-2002, striking out 1417 batters in 1030 innings and posting a 187 ERA+ with a 38.8 WAR. That’s not a Pedro peak, but it’s also flat out insane.

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  15. BobDD says:

    From when I first started following MLB, one of the things I remember most about Spahnie was that he was one of my favorites to hear interviewed along with Joe Garagiola and Roy Campanella.

  16. Herb Smith says:

    Billy Williams is one of my all-time favorite players, and also one of baseball’s nicest guys. I thought he might have an outside chance of making this list, but I understood (although I’m shocked that his teammate Fergie Jenkins didn’t).

    Great story, Joe.

    • DM says:

      Hi Herb,

      I was a big fan of both Williams and Jenkins growing up, too. I’m guessing that they were both strongly considered by Joe. Actually, I liked all the Cubs of that era…..Jenkins, Williams, Santo, and Banks, certainly, as well as some of the players below them, like Beckert, Kessinger, Hickman, Monday, Hundley, Hands, Holtzman, Pappas, Regan……I really liked those teams.

      I recall that Williams was Bill James’ #100 player in his historical abstract, Jenkins didn’t make the cut on James’ list either, but James did have him as the #23 ranked MLB pitcher (technically #25, since he didn’t list Paige and Smokey Joe Williams among the ranked pitchers, but did have Paige at #17 and Smokey Joe at #52 on his overall list). As a side note, James only had 18 pitchers among his top 100, and it looks like Joe will end up with significantly more (26), assuming the WOC is correct.

      I have Jenkins as a viable top 100 pick, maybe just outside. For me, he’s maybe a top 25-30 pitcher, which I think puts him just outside the top 100 for me…..but it’s close. I think I’d personally select him over Schilling, but it’s close. I think Schilling at his very best may have been better than Jenkins, but I think Jenkins had more good seasons and better overall career, although the post-season ledger may tip the scales back to Schilling, as he was certainly one the greatest post-season pitchers we’ve seen, and Jenkins, unfortunately, never got to the postseason even once. So, I’d be happy with either.

      When I was young, Jenkins was absolutely associated with the concept of a 20-game winner, with 6 consecutive 20-win seasons, and 7 out of 8. I’m not sure if this is 100% accurate because I didn’t double-check,, but Wikipedia lists the following as the only players to have more consecutive 20-win seasons (since 1900)

      W. Johnson-10
      McGinnity-7 (8 if you include 1899)
      Lefty Grove 7.

      I’m not sure how many besides Jenkins also had 6, but that’s pretty good company, especially considering that the only pitchers with more than Jenkins’ 6 consecutive seasons all pitched before the conclusion of World War II.

      Another interesting tidbit on Jenkins…..check out his career home/road splits:

      Home ERA – 3.34
      Road ERA – 3.33

      Home WHIP – 1.142
      Road WHIP – 1.141

      Pretty darn neutral…..However, he had the following W-L records:
      Home – 162-97
      Road – 122-129

      I thought maybe it had something to do with Wrigley Field, but he had a similar winning percentage at Arlington as well. Not sure what to make of it…..Maybe a Brilliant Reader has some thoughts…..

      You mentioned Billy Williams……I also have him as just a little bit outside the top 100. I have him as my #12 left fielder, which I would translate to maybe top 120 or so. Certainly a viable candidate.

      • DM says:

        I almost forgot the “fun fact” about Billy Williams. He was runner-up in the MVP voting twice, in 1970 and in 1972. Both years, he lost out to Johnny Bench.

        • NevadaMark says:

          Mr. Williams would have had the Triple Crown in 72 with 3 more homers. He finished second to Bench by 3 in both homers and RBIs. His MVP would have been assured.

        • And in that great 1970 season (.322 42 129, and led the league with 205 hits and 137 runs scored) he wasn’t even named to the NL All-Star team.

  17. Mojo says:

    If memory serves, Spahn and Marichal once squared off where both pitchers threw a 16 inning complete game.

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  19. Moeball says:

    1.I once heard Stan Musial refer to Spahn as the kind of pitcher who gives you a “comfortable” 0-fer-4. Stan would swear he hit the ball well that day but then realize that the long fly he hit only turned into a fly out at the warning track and the stinging line drive went straight at the second baseman. He said Spahn had such good control that he could spot a pitch just a touch away from the sweet spot on the bat so that you could hit the ball pretty well but just not quite well enough.

    2.There was an old story that when Spahn first came up – oh, about circa 1942, I think – there was a game where manager Casey Stengel ordered Spahn to buzz a hitter and Warren refused, prompting Casey to tell his young hurler that he wouldn’t last long in the big leagues with an attitude like that! I met Warren once – I think it was in the late 1980s – and I asked him about this story. He said he couldn’t remember that ever happening, although I’ve seen the story in print on several occasions.

    3.The comparisons of Pedro and Spahn are interesting, I think. Joe pointed out that Spahn was basically Pedro’s career plus several more decent seasons beyond that. I thought I would look at Clemens vs. Pedro and it came out like this – Clemens is basically Pedro’s career plus another more than 2000 innings with a record of 135-84 and an ERA of 3.39…during years where the league ERA was over a run higher than that. In fact, it’s an additional 33 WAA for Clemens over Pedro, which is outstanding. Pedro probably does have the best 7-year peak of anybody, but a career is much more than 7 seasons, and how you do in all those other years does matter.

  20. […] When I was putting together this list, I had Pedro Martinez and Warren Spahn coupled in my mind. One is the ultimate example of a brilliant shooting star career. One is the ultimate example of the … Which career would you rather […]

  21. GCA10 says:

    Nice post. Glad you mentioned Spahn’s hitting. His .194 career average doesn’t really do justice to his ability to do some damage with his bat, too. A couple of my favorite stats:

    1. From 1948 through 1964, he hit at least one home run each season. That’s a 17-year string. There are a whole lot of hitters in the Hall of Fame who could not do that.

    2. He drove in 189 runs in his career.

    3. He had a lifetime WAR — and WAA — as a batter of 7.5.

    4. He hit a triple at age 37. By comparison, Minnie Minoso, who led the league in triples three times and still suited up in his 50s, had basically lost the leg speed/stamina to leg out a three-base hit after age 35. (Minoso got his last two at age 37.)

  22. Bill James has noted that the Braves would not pitch Spahn against the Brooklyn Dodgers because of their right-handed power. I remember reading this but I had no IDEA how extreme it was. In 1952, Spahn was 0-5 against them in four starts (though he was only hit hard in one of those games), after which:

    in 1953, he went 0-3 in three starts, being knocked out in three innings or less twice;
    In 1954, he faced them only once, in relief (earning a save).
    In 1955, he did not pitch against them even once.
    In 1956, he pitched against them once, starting and being pulled in the second inning after giving up only two runs.
    In 1957, he again faced them only once, in relief (again earning a save)
    In 1958, he started against the now LA Dodgers twice, going 1-1 but pitching well in both games.
    In 1959, he started three times early in the season — he lost all three games. Thereafter they used him in relief three times, he went 1-1.
    In 1960, he again did not start, appearing twice in relief.
    Finally, in 1961, he made five starts, going 3-2.

    So here we have the pitcher who is justifiably a legend of durability who ALWAYS made his starts, in an eight-team league where a pitcher could expect to face any given team at least 4 and possibly even 8 times a year. And over a period of eight years, he makes only nine starts against the team that was, for most of that time, his team’s major rival.

    1953-56, OK, the Dodgers had Robinson and Campanella and Hodges and Furillo. It still seems a ridiculous extreme to limit him to four starts in four years. But Robinson was gone in 1957 and Campanella was a shadow of his former self. In 1958 Campanella was gone and Furillo was on his way out the door. In 1959 only Hodges was a regular and in 1960 not even that. And STILL the Braves wouldn’t throw their most durable pitcher against them.

    Very, very strange. I mean, this means somebody else in the rotation had to be taking his turns, which meant the rotation would be going out of whack at least once a month. How terrified were his managers to do that rather than pitch the guy who was clearly their ace???

  23. Roxie says:

    In the coetaiclpmd world we live in, it’s good to find simple solutions.

  24. Don’t know about your so-called evidence, b/c there are no known traditions of matriarchal rule in Yemen during the early 1st millennium BC, the earliest inscriptions of the rulers of DÊ¿mt in northern Ethiopia & Eritrea mention queens of very high status, equal to their kings. Scientists and anthropologists all over the world have proven all races came from Africa. Just b/c this fact threatens your frail ego in some way will not stamp away the truth and archaeological evidence.

  25. As I recall, at the end of the 50′s, a hamburger was 50 cents and cheeseburgers were a dime more. Beer was 35 per glass, so the average post studying trip was a couple of beers and a hamburger. It seems to me that $1.20 was about all I could afford per week!

  26. Why dont we see this side of you on the show? I must admit I have always thought you very boring and a little weird. Reading your blog has given me a wonderful insight into your world and mind. Of course your emergence this season helped to. Keep kicking ass and being yourself. Now you are my favorite housewife!

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