Can You Spare a Win?

Today’s “This Date” article had a bio for former Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jim Hughey, who had a career record of 29-80. That record gave him a career winning % of .266 with over 100 career decisions. So that got me thinking of which pitchers during their Pirates career had the worst winning percentages. Of course, plenty of pitchers in team history finished with a .000 winning % so for this article I went by the amount of decisions they had with the team to figure out who was the worst over certain periods of time.

Starting with the pitcher who had the most losses without a win, we have two tied with seven losses each. The most recent was Roger Bowman who went 0-4 in 1953 and 0-3 in 1955. He ended his career with a 2-11 record. Then we go to the 19th century where we find Ed “The Only” Nolan who took an 0-7 collar in the beginning of the 1883 season before being released. He pitched a couple close games and Pittsburgh didn’t score many runs for him until his last start when they put up a ten spot. Unfortunately he allowed 23 runs that day and was soon released. His nickname origin and bio can be read here

Moving on to the worst % with at least ten decisions we have another tie, and not surprisingly we have two guys who pitched for the worst team in franchise history, the 1890 Pittsburgh Alleghenys, who went 23-113. Crazy Schmit and Bill Phillips each went 1-9 that season. Schmit had a 7-36 career record, Phillips went on to post a 69-67 record in six years with the Reds. Schmit was teammates with Hughey in 1899 when they combined for a 6-47 record.

Taking it up to 20 decisions we find Kirtley Baker, who went 3-19 during one season. If you guessed that he played for the 1890 team you would be right. He went 6-18  in parts of four seasons after leaving Pittsburgh.

How about 30 decisions? Well we come to Jack Neagle, a pitcher for the 1883-1884 Pittsburgh Alleghenys when the team was still in the American Association. That first season he took over for Nolan shortly after he was cut. Neagle also is the leader with 40 and 50 decisions with his 14-38 record and .269 winning percentage. He went 3-12 his first year and 11-26 his second. When he wasn’t pitching poorly for the Alleghenys, he was putting up a 2-12 record for three other teams that didn’t stick with him for long. That 1883 season saw Pittsburgh allow 20 runs in a game three times, the one by Nolan mentioned above and two by Neagle.

That leads us to the guy who is the lowest for both the 75 decision plateau and the 100 mark which I planned to separate until I figured out who it is and I’m sure all of you have heard of him. Zach Duke went 8-2 his first season in 2005, yet by the time he left Pittsburgh after 2010 he had a 45-70 record and a .391 winning %.

For 125 and 150 decisions we again have just one person taking both spots. Ron Kline went 66-91 with the Pirates. He started his career 0-7 before missing two years to military service. When he came back he reeled off five straight losing seasons before being traded to the Cardinals. Kline came back in a December 1967 trade and went 12-5 for the Pirates in 1968. After going 1-3 in 1969 he was traded away again.

Every mark after that 150 spot goes to Bob Friend because no one had more decisions in a Pirates uniform and with a 191-218 record, his .467% is the worst for 175 decisions and up. Only three pitchers won more games in a Pirates uniform but he also lost 59 more games than his next nearest competitor. Friend played 15 years in Pittsburgh and had five winning seasons including an 18-12 record for the 1960 World Series winning Pirates.

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About John Dreker

John was born in Kearny, NJ, hometown of the 2B for the Pirates 1909 World Championship team, Dots Miller. In fact they have some of the same relatives in common, so it was only natural for him to become a lifelong Pirates fan. Before joining Pirates Prospects in July 2010, John had written numerous articles on the history of baseball while also releasing his own book and co-authoring another on the history of the game. He writes a weekly article on Pirates history for the site, has already interviewed many of the current minor leaguers with many more on the way and follows the foreign minor league teams very closely for the site. John also provides in person game reports of the West Virginia Power and Altoona Curve.

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