Red Sox starter Rick Porcello is making losing history
By Rick McNair
Rick Porcello is heading towards history as the losses accumulate. Porcello may be the first Red Sox pitcher in 20 years to lead the league in losses.
The losses just keep on piling up for Rick Porcello as he leads the American League with 14 and counting.
Porcello’s Cy Young season was simply a baseball anomaly, as he has reverted back to what he always was in pitching. Porcello will eat up innings, take the ball for a regular turn, give up a bundle of hits and give you a slight chance of winning. A solid middle of the rotation pitcher.
The last Red Sox pitcher to lead the AL in losses was Tim Wakefield in 1997. Wake had a 12-15 record for a team that won just 78 games – you usually need a lousy team to lead in losses and the Red Sox had one. A pitcher also has to have some reasonably decent “stuff” to stay in the rotation to accumulate losses. Wakefield had that. So does Porcello.
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If you drift further back to 1965, the Red Sox managed to have two pitchers that tied for the AL lead in losses – Bill Monbouquette and Dave Morehead. That team lost 100 games, with Monbo and Morehead suffering the brunt of it. Jim Lonborg with 17 losses almost made it a trifecta.
Porcello also has the chance of really making a name in pitching infamy by collecting 20 losses. The last to accomplish this was one Mike Maroth of the 2003 Detroit Tigers. In 14 of Maroth’s 21 losses, the Tigers scored three or fewer runs. Maroth is no innocent bystander in that he allowed a league-leading 34 home runs and a league-leading 123 earned runs.
Boston has an illustrious list of 20-game losers, including Cy Young (21) and Red Ruffing (25 and 22). Both are in the Baseball Hall of Fame. For Ruffing, he was part of the ruin of the 1920’s and early 1930’s. From 1922 to 1932, Boston finished last nine times. How bad was it? One season only 182,150 fans came to Fenway Park.
From 1926-1930 the Red Sox had a pitcher who led the league in losses – a remarkable string of futility. Milt Gaston, Jack Russell, Slim Harriss, Ruffing and Paul Zahniser all led the league. Zahniser distinguished himself by being the only one not to lose 20 games (18). Go back to 1924 and the Red Sox also had a duo lead the league – Howard Ehmke and Alex Ferguson both lost 17. Ehmke also lost 20 games in 1925 but didn’t lead the league.
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Porcello is not even close to a double 20 – that is 20 wins and losses in a single season. In 1973, former Red Sox pitcher left-hander Wilbur Wood won and lost 20 games in a single season, posting a 24-20 record in 48 starts. Fellow knuckleballer Phil Niekro repeated that accomplishment in 1979 by going 21-20 for the Braves. The right-handed Niekro also led the National League in losses four consecutive years with two being 20 loss seasons.
Porcello can accomplish something former Red Sox ace Luis Tiant did for the Indians. In 1968, Tiant went 21-9 and followed that in 1969 with a 9-20 season. Can Porcello match that? A back-to-back reversal of 20. I wish Porcello well. History awaits!
The 1902 Red Sox (Americans) had Bill Dinneen lead the AL in losses (21), but Big Bill also won 21. This is also the only time franchise history where a pitcher led the league in losses and the team had a winning record. The 1902 squad finished 77-60.
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Porcello is on the cusp of immortality as he plugs along accumulating losses. Leading the league in losses, losing 20 games, losing 20 games for a team that potentially could be above .500 and finally going from 20 wins to 20 losses. Amazing!