Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shaun Marcum's Winless Brethren

When the Mets signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal prior to the 2013 season, they thought they were getting a bargain.  After all, Marcum was one of the few pitchers in baseball with over 100 career starts who had a winning percentage over .600.  (At 57-36, Marcum had a .613 winning percentage in 149 starts.)

But Marcum has done everything but win for the Mets.  He's lost as a starting pitcher.  He's lost in relief.  He's lost after pitching seven shutout innings in a game that lasted longer than two games (the 20-inning loss to the Miami Marlins on June 8).  Through his first 11 appearances (9 starts) as a Met, Shaun Marcum is 0-9.  At least the Mets won his two no-decisions, so he has that to hang his hat on.  But that's not enough to keep him off an exclusive list.

Shaun Marcum is now the third pitcher in franchise history to begin a season with nine consecutive defeats.  Prior to this season, the only two hurlers to start a season with a goose egg in the win column and a nine under the "L" were Bob L. Miller in 1962 and Anthony Young in 1993.

Bob L. Miller started the Mets' inaugural campaign by losing his first 12 decisions.  After appearing in 32 games for the Mets in 1962 with nary a victory to show for his efforts (20 starts, 12 appearances in relief), Miller finally earned his first victory of the season in the Mets' last win of the year, beating the Cubs in a complete-game effort on September 29.  Miller defeated Cubs' starter Dick Ellsworth, handing Ellsworth his 20th loss on the season.  In doing so, Ellsworth became only the sixth Cubs pitcher to lose 20 games in the modern era of baseball (since 1900).

Miller left the Mets after the 1962 season and pitched for five first-place teams and three pennant-winners.  He won World Series rings as a member of the 1965 Dodgers and 1971 Pirates before coming back to pitch for the Mets in 1973 (his sixth first-place team and fourth pennant-winner) and 1974, where he fared slightly better than he did in 1962.  This time, Miller won two games in his second go-round in New York.

Anthony Young started the 1993 campaign with an 0-13 mark.  This came on the heels of a 2-14 record in 1992 in which he lost his final 14 decisions.  (Yes, that means Anthony Young began the 1992 season with a 2-0 record.)  Young was actually pretty decent during his 27-game losing streak.  He saved 16 games in between the two dozen-plus losses and had an extended period of dominance during a two-month stretch out of the bullpen.  From July 7 to August 28, 1992, Young made 20 appearances in relief for the Mets, allowing no runs in 23⅔ innings.  He also saved nine games, holding opposing hitters to a .154 batting average and no extra-base hits.  Basically, on the worst team money could buy, Young was a good buy.  He just couldn't buy a win.

On July 24, 1993, Young lost his 27th consecutive decision.  The loss dropped his record on the year to 0-13, making the hard-luck pitcher to first hurler in team history to begin a season with an 0-13 mark.  Four days after knocking Bob L. Miller out of the record books, Young was in line to lose his 28th straight after allowing an unearned run in the ninth inning to give the expansion Florida Marlins a 4-3 lead.  But run-scoring hits by Ryan Thompson and Eddie Murray not only took Young off the hook for the loss, it gave him his first win in 15 months.  It would also be his final win in a Mets uniform, as Young was traded to the Cubs prior to the start of the 1994 campaign.  He did, however, lose three more games as a Met before his trade to Chicago.

With losses in his first nine decisions, Shaun Marcum has turned the Miller and Young duo into a trio.  Surely, Marcum will notch a victory at some point this season.  But if he doesn't, he'll be the only Met to have a winless season with as many as nine losses.  In fact, there have been very few pitchers in Mets history with as many as four losses in a season that featured no victories.  And only two hurlers in club annals have ever completed a winless season with as many as five losses.  Those unlucky souls are:

  • John Franco (1998):  0-8
  • Oliver Perez (2010):  0-5
  • Sherman Jones (1962):  0-4
  • Phil Hennigan (1973):  0-4
  • Rick Aguilera (1988):  0-4
  • Jason Jacome (1995):  0-4
  • Donne Wall (2001):  0-4
  • Jose Lima (2006):  0-4
  • Jenrry Mejia (2010): 0-4
  • Pat Misch (2010):  0-4
  • Collin McHugh (2012):  0-4

As denoted in the list above, no Met pitcher has ever finished a season with no wins and more than eight losses.  Should Shaun Marcum not receive credit for a victory in 2013, he would become the losingest winless pitcher in franchise history.  But even if he wins one game, he stands to join a very exclusive list - albeit not one to be proud of.

Since the franchise came into existence over half a century ago, only three pitchers have ever lost nine games or more in a season in which they emerged victorious just once.  If you've been paying attention to the rest of this piece, two of the three names should look quite familiar.

  • Anthony Young (1993):  1-16
  • Bob L. Miller (1962):  1-12
  • Tom Parsons (1965):  1-10

(In case you were wondering, Tom Parsons lost his first four decisions for the Mets in 1965 before earning his sole victory of the season in a complete game shutout over the Cubs on July 5.  He never pitched again in the major leagues after the 1965 campaign even though he was only 25 at the time of his final appearance.  He toiled in the minor leagues in the Astros and Red Sox organizations for four years before leaving baseball for good following the 1969 season, the same year the Mets won a World Series championship without him.)

"D'oh!  I'm getting compared to Anthony Young!" (Photo by Paul J. Bereswill)

Shaun Marcum was signed by the Mets prior to the 2013 season in a move that was expected to bring a veteran arm into an otherwise young starting rotation.  But Marcum has been beaten to the victory column by every one of those young rotation members.  Even Zack Wheeler, who has made all of one start in the major leagues, earned a victory before Marcum.

Anthony Young.  Bob L. Miller.  Tom Parsons.  Shaun Marcum.  It's not a list of players Marcum expected to be associated with this late in the season.  And if Marcum doesn't earn a win at some point this season, John Franco might be popping the champagne cork at the end of the year.  It's too bad the champagne won't be for something to be proud of.

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