Early Boston aces posted incredible numbers

Early Boston aces posted incredible numbers

Early Boston aces posted incredible numbers

Baseball fans are accustomed to starting pitching in this day and age -- closely watched pitch counts, help from relievers and closers, and even in a few cases, performance-enhancing drugs to get them through. But there was a time when all this was unheard of and pitchers were workhorses who could still put up amazing numbers (and were paid an average of $100,000 a year in today's dollars!) Sadly these great men have been forgotten. So let me remind you of just a few who pitched in Boston.

Just as a point of reference for today's standards, below is a list of the top pitching stats of 2012:

Win-Loss: 16-3 (Kyle Lohse, STL)
Innings pitched: 238 1/3 (Justin Verlander, DET)
Complete games: 6 (Verlander)
Shutouts: 5 (Felix Hernandez, SEA)
ERA: 2.53 (Clayton Kershaw, LAD)

Joanne Mongeau

Let's start with Mel Parnell, a Red Sox Hall of Famer and two-time All-Star who played with the Sox his entire career (1947-1956). To this day, he is Boston's all-time leader among lefties with totals of 1,752 2/3 innings pitched, 232 games started and 123 wins. In 1949 he had a 25-7 record, 295 1/3 innings pitched with only eight home runs allowed; 27 complete games (including four shutouts) and an ERA of 2.77. He is said to be one of the most consistent pitchers of all time.

Then how about Dutch Leonard, who pitched for the Sox from 1913-1918 with a 2.13 ERA before wrapping up his career with the Tigers in 1925. In his best year, 1914, he had a 19-5 record, 224 2/3 innings pitched with only three home runs allowed, 17 complete games (seven shutouts) and an amazing ERA of 0.96, a 20th century record that still stands.

From 1908-1915, Smoky Joe Wood posted an ERA of 1.99 that remains first in franchise history. His most amazing year occurred in 1912 when he racked up a 34-5 record (still the Sox's single-season wins record), 344 innings pitched with only two home runs allowed, 35 complete games (10 shutouts) and an ERA of 1.91. And even more impressively, 16 of those 34 wins were consecutive. Sadly, in the spring after that incredible year, the right-hander fell on his pitching hand and broke his thumb. Back in 1913, there was nothing that could be done to help him, and although he struggled in pain to try to pitch for two more years, he never was able to come close to the caliber he once was.

And for some numbers to really knock your Sox off, go back to 1889 and Hall of Famer John Clarkson, who pitched for the Boston Beaneaters from 1888-91. That year, he had a 49-19 record with an incredible 620 innings pitched. He pitched 68 complete games with 284 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.73. He was first in the league in ERA, wins, strikeouts, WHIP, games started, complete games, shutouts AND innings pitched. And as if that wasn't enough, he could also hit. To this day, he ranks eighth among National League pitchers in home runs.

Finally, there is Babe Ruth. Most know he was a pitcher, but few know how great a pitcher he was. He pitched for the Sox for the entire time he was with them (1914-1919), pitching a total of 1,190 1/3 innings and only allowing nine home runs. But his greatest year was in 1916.

That year, he started 40 games, and pitched 23 complete games with nine shutouts. He had a 23-12 record with an ERA of 1.75, best in the AL that year and third in all of MLB. All that, and in 323 innings pitched that year he did not allow a single home run. But his best work was in the World Series. In that same year, he had an ERA of 0.64 over 14 innings pitched. Between 1916 and 1918, he pitched 29 scoreless innings, a World Series record that stood for 43 years.

As Red Sox fans, we have a lot of history to be proud of! Don't let these men or their amazing numbers be forgotten, the likes of which we will never see again. So the next time you are asked who is the greatest player in Red Sox history, remember Mel, Dutch, Smoky Joe, and even Babe … but should anyone feel the need to brag about his prowess as a Yankee, be sure to tell them of the wonder of his pitching, ONLY for a city called Boston!

Joanne Mongeau is an MLB Rewards Guest Columnist. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.