Garrett Crochet and Erick Fedde Are Finding Wins in Unlikely Places

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not as stridently anti-tanking as some people — in my youth, I was a Sixers blogger during The Process, so I can say from experience that rooting for a historically bad team has its moments — but there is one thing that bugs me about the Orioles and Astros and so on from the 2010s. They’ve broken the curve for bad teams.

Back in my day, it took some doing to lose 100 games. Teams that bad were special. Now, we don’t blink at having multiple 100-loss teams in the same season, and 110-loss teams or worse are pretty common. It takes an increasingly rare brand of ineptitude to catch our attention nowadays.

Enter the 2024 Chicago White Sox.

They had me scared for a minute, with that four-game winning streak last month, but regularly scheduled programming has resumed. The Southsiders haven’t won since May 15, a span of 14 games, bringing their season-long winning percentage down to .238. That is a 38-win pace over 162 games. The modern standard for haplessness in major league baseball belongs, as you all know, to the 40-120 New York Mets of 1962.

This isn’t your garden variety basement-dweller. This is something special, and we’re all (well, all of us except White Sox fans, I suppose) blessed to be able to witness it.

There are two things I like about this team. The first is that they came by this record honestly. This isn’t part of some multi-year tanking project run by a GM who, in another life, would be working as a management consultant, earning six figures by telling supermarkets to fire all their cashiers and collude with their competitors to jack up the price of sugar. No, the White Sox are run by an old-school owner and his trusted cadre of Baseball Men, and this is simply the best they can do.

Second, the White Sox are this bad despite getting very good seasons from Garrett Crochet and Erick Fedde. I’d compare Chicago’s top two healthy starters favorably to those of at least one team currently occupying a playoff position. That takes some doing.

So, because it’s a summer Friday and Crochet is starting tonight, I wanted to play around with a stat we here at FanGraphs only sometimes take seriously: the pitcher win. It’s not really useful for evaluation, but it is good for trivia. And here’s a bit of trivia for you: Crochet has five of Chicago’s 15 wins so far this season. That’s a big percentage. But historically, how big is it?

Well, it turns out the history of baseball — as represented by Stathead’s search capabilities — has a rich variety of contexts to choose from. In 1922, Jim Jeffries won 21 games for an Indianapolis ABCs team that won 50 games all year. Of course, this was a Negro League team that only played an 85-game schedule. Matt Kilroy recorded 29 out of the Baltimore Orioles’ 48 wins as a 20-year-old rookie… in the American Association in 1886. Kilroy threw 583 innings that year, which is somewhat more than we can expect from Crochet and Fedde.

So I restricted my search to the American and National Leagues, since the dawn of the live ball era in 1920. In that time, 314 pitchers have won at least 10 games for a team with a winning percentage of .400 or lower. (A .400 winning percentage is just a hair under a 65-win pace in a 162-game season.) Three pitchers have won 20 or more games for such a team, and what a trio it is. The first name you’ve been waiting for since the premise of this column became clear: Steve Carlton, who won 27 games for the 59-win Philadelphia Phillies in 1972. This is one of the greatest pitching seasons of all time.

Second: Bobo Newsom, who went 20-16 for the horrendous St. Louis Browns (but I repeat myself) in 1938. The fact that Newsom eked out a winning record is surprising enough, but that he did so while toting around a 5.08 ERA for a 55-win team beggars belief. What an achievement for the greatest of the four players in big league history (including one Negro Leaguer) who went by Bobo.

Third: Another St. Louis Brown, Ned Garver, who went 20-12 for a 52-win team in 1951. No other Browns pitcher won more than six games that year. If Garver’s name sounds familiar, it’s probably because of an incident several years ago when he was the recipient of an impromptu telephone call during an episode of Effectively Wild.

The BBWAA electorate was suitably impressed that anyone could win 20 games for a team that bad, and Garver ended up second in that year’s AL MVP race. The 24 voters split their first-place votes among eight players, including four Yankees. Garver, Yogi Berra, and Allie Reynolds received six first-place votes apiece. A race like that would’ve been a lot of fun to cover in the social media era.

You might recognize some of the other names on this list: Hall of Famers like Tom Seaver, Tom Glavine, and Randy Johnson. Some great old-timey baseball names like Kirby Higbe, Sudden Sam McDowell, Socks Seibold, Rip Collins, and Hugh Mulcahy — or Hugh “Losing Pitcher” Mulcahy to his teammates on the interwar Phillies. And some good pitchers can’t escape the suck; Doc Medich won 12 games across stints with three teams in 1977, all of which had winning percentages under .400.

But let’s return to the original question: Where do Crochet and Fedde rank among pitchers responsible for the greatest percentage of their teams’ wins?

Top 10 Pitchers by Percentage of Team’s Wins
Season Team Lg Player Pitcher Wins Team Wins Pct.
1972 PHI NL Steve Carlton 27 59 45.8%
1951 SLB AL Ned Garver 20 52 38.5%
1938 SLB AL Bobo Newsom 20 55 36.4%
1923 PHI NL Jimmy Ring 18 50 36.0%
1934 PHI NL Curt Davis 19 56 33.9%
1928 BOS AL Ed Morris 19 57 33.3%
2004 ARI NL Randy Johnson 16 51 31.4%
1942 PHA AL Phil Marchildon 17 55 30.9%
1930 PHI NL Phil Collins 16 52 30.8%
1921 PHA AL Eddie Rommel 16 53 30.2%
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
AL/NL pitchers since 1920, minimum 10 pitcher wins, with a team winning percentage of .400 or less

Now, if you’re looking at this top 10 list and thinking, “Man, a lot of really terrible teams played in Philadelphia between the World Wars,” you are correct to have that reaction. Having seen the entire table of 314 pitcher seasons, the Phillies and A’s are extremely well-represented.

You’ll also notice that this list is very heavy on pitchers from the 1920s and 1930s. I’m not sure there are actually that many more major league-quality starting pitchers now, but there are a lot more spots: five (in reality, six or seven) for 30 teams, compared to four for 16 teams before expansion. Pitchers for bad teams just didn’t get swapped out then as much as they do now, so when their teams sucked, pitchers like Garver and Mulcahy would just wear it.

But there’s only one 21st century pitcher in the top 10, and only three since the end of World War II. So let’s lop Bobo and his buddies off the list and limit the search to 1946 and later, and this time include Crochet and Fedde. Here’s the new top 10:

Top 10 Pitchers, etc., since WWII
Season Team Lg Player Pitcher Wins Team Wins Pct.
1972 PHI NL Steve Carlton 27 59 45.8%
1951 SLB AL Ned Garver 20 52 38.5%
2024 CHW AL Garrett Crochet 5 15 33.3%
2004 ARI NL Randy Johnson 16 51 31.4%
1981 TOR AL Dave Stieb 11 37 29.7%
1969 CLE AL Sam McDowell 18 62 29.0%
1950 PHA AL Bob Hooper 15 52 28.8%
1960 KCA AL Bud Daley 16 58 27.6%
2002 KCR AL Paul Byrd 17 62 27.4%
2020 TEX AL Lance Lynn 6 22 27.3%
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
AL/NL pitchers since 1946, with a team winning percentage of .400 or less

Fedde is tied for 14th, four tenths of a percentage point out of the top 10.

Dropping the 10-win requirement allows Lance Lynn, who won six games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, to sneak in. Several pitchers accounted for 20% or more of their teams’ wins, even on good teams; Yu Darvish got credit for 23.5% of the Cubs’ wins that year, and they won the division. Also, spare a thought for Dave Stieb, who cobbled together 11 wins for a Blue Jays team that won just 37 of its 106 games in the strike-shortened 1981 season.

In short, things would be a lot worse if not for Fedde and Crochet, who in their nine combined wins have allowed a total of four earned runs in 63 innings. The White Sox have scored three or fewer runs in four of those nine wins. Replace them with less impressive starters and the White Sox would be well ahead of the pace to beat the 1962 Mets’ record. Instead, we’ll have to settle for watching Crochet chase Carlton’s.





Michael is a writer at FanGraphs. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Ringer and D1Baseball, and his work has appeared at Grantland, Baseball Prospectus, The Atlantic, ESPN.com, and various ill-remembered Phillies blogs. Follow him on Twitter, if you must, @MichaelBaumann.

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kipsoothmember
13 days ago

Personally speaking as a Sox I’m enjoying it. I want Reinsdorf associated with the worst record in baseball history.