Cubs

Baseball's top McPitchers

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Baseball's top McPitchers

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here's a list of Major League Baseball's top 10 winningest McPitchers:

1. Jim McCormick - 265 wins

The chunky, mustachioed Glasgow-born McCormick was the first Scotsman in Major League history. He held the record of winningest non-American born pitcher until Fergie Jenkins (then Bert Blyleven). His 1880 season leaps off the page; 45 wins, 1.85 ERA in 657.2 innings...although all this was achieved with underhanded tactics, literally. The overhand pitch was not allowed until 1884.

2. Joe McGinnity - 246 wins

Nicknamed "Iron Man," because of his offseason work in an iron foundry, a quick scan of his inning totals justifies the nickname from his moundwork alone. With a bewildering array of overhand, sidearm, and underhanded deliveries (including his underhanded curve he called "Old Sal"), McGinnity's trademark feat of durability was his 434.0 innings in 1903, including a 6-0 record from pitching both games of three separate doubleheaders in August of that season.

3. Dave McNally - 184 wins

Well known for: being part of 4x20 win rotation on the 1971 Orioles, playing out option year of 1975 to challenge the reserve clause.

Not as well known for: being the all-time winningest Montana-born pitcher (143 wins more than the next highest total).

4. Sadie McMahon - 173 wins

The ace of the juggernaut Baltimore Orioles teams of the early 1890's, McMahon formed what was called "the Dumpling Battery" with catcher Wilbert Robinson due to their unathletic physiques. Another case of a brief, bright 19th century pitching career curtailed at an early age due to injury (in this case, shoulder).

5. Dick McBride - 149 wins

McBride's peak seems to have been before the creation of any organized professional leagues; he was given time off from Civil War duty to pitch an important game for a Philadelphia team. Only Albert Goodwill Spalding (204) had more wins in the brief history of the National Association; the predecessor of the National League. He had otherworldly mutton chops.

6. Lindy McDaniel - 141 wins

119 of those wins were as a reliever, and that is second only to Hoyt Wilhelm (124) in Major League annals.

6. Sam McDowell - 141 wins

The best fireballer in the American League prior to Nolan Ryan's arrival, "Sudden Sam" posted 1652 whiffs from 1965-70, topping Bob Gibson's next best ML total by 199 despite over 100 fewer innings. Unfortunately, poor conditioning led to his decline, and by the time he was dealt to the Giants for Gaylord Perry, McDowell was nearly done while Perry had 180 wins and two Cy Young Awards left in the tank.

8. Scott McGregor - 138 wins

Solid career, entirely with the Orioles. Career year of 20-8 came in 1980...when teammate Steve Stone topped him with a Cy Young season of 25-7, but McGregor recorded four shutouts to Stone's one and posted a better WHIP (1.238 to 1.297) with neck-and-neck ERA's (3.32 for McGregor; 3.23 for Stone)

9. Mike McCormick - 134 wins

McCormick won the NL Cy Young Award back when it was more appropriately called "The Pitcher With the Most Wins Award." In 1967, his award-winning season, McCormick's 118 ERA was tied for 13th. Phil Niekro had a league-leading 1.87 ERA (of course assisted by the knuckleball-induced unearned runs) with an 11-9 record, but that's another discussion for another day.
10. Danny MacFayden - 132 wins

The leader among MacPitchers (or else Denny McLain's 131 would be No. 10), the bespectacled "Deacon Danny" hung around the Majors for 17 seasons, finishing up at 27 games under .500 for his career. Amazingly, as bad as his 2.65 career strikeout rate was, Ted Lyons was able to etch a plaque in Cooperstown with a lower one (2.32).

Bonus postscript:

The all-time wins leader actually born in Ireland is Tony Mullane, who would top this list with 284 had his name begun with Mc. Mullane was nicknamed "the Apollo of the Box" due to his good looks, was an ambidextrous hurler long before Greg Harris (longer still before Pat Venditte), and due to bigotry refused to acknowledge Fleet Walker's (credited as baseball's true first African American player) signals when the two were batterymates with Toledo (which was a Major League town with the American Association) in 1884.

For those who were wondering...Jack McDowell is 12th with 127 wins.

Anthony Rizzo declines role as an activist, says trip to Florida 'was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'

Anthony Rizzo declines role as an activist, says trip to Florida 'was the hardest thing I've ever had to do'

MESA, Ariz. — Anthony Rizzo’s gone above and beyond for his community in the wake of one of the worst mass shootings in United States history, when 17 people lost their lives last week at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, Rizzo’s alma mater.

His actions and words have carried plenty of weight in the last week, but Rizzo’s comments upon returning to Arizona were more focused on the general need for change rather than specific actions related to the issue of gun violence in America.

The Cubs’ first baseman, who returned to spring training on Monday after spending several days being with his community in Florida, repeatedly voiced the opinion — though it’s ridiculous to think there’s a counter argument that could actually qualify as someone’s opinion — that these mass shootings need to stop happening with such an incomprehensible amount of frequency.

But he stopped short of taking a full step into the national debate on the issue, clarifying that his comments made on Twitter the day of the shooting were not referencing gun control or that specific debate at all.

“Obviously, there needs to be change,” Rizzo said. “I don’t know what that is, I don’t get paid to make those decisions. I can sit back and give opinions, but you just hope somewhere up the line of command, people are thinking are thinking the same things that a lot of innocent kids are thinking: ‘Why? Why am I scared to go to school? Why am I scared to say goodbye to my son or daughter?’ God forbid someone was in an argument with someone they loved that day, how bad — it’s a bad time right now in the country with what’s going on with all these shootings.

“My opinion is my opinion. I don’t think it’s fair to my teammates and everyone else if I come out and start going one way or the other. I think, my focus is on baseball. My focus is definitely on Parkland and the community there and supporting them and whatever direction that they go. But for me it’s hard enough to hit a baseball, and it’s definitely going to be hard enough to try to be a baseball player and a politician at the same time.”

Rizzo has no more of an obligation to be a spokesman on this issue than any other American does, and his presence at his old school last week, his words at a vigil for the victims of this tragedy were powerful. Rizzo has established himself as a remarkable member of his community in Chicago, and he won the Roberto Clemente Award last season for his charitable efforts off the field. His willingness to leave Arizona and be with members of his community was reflective of the type of person Cubs fans and Chicagoans have gotten to know.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Just going back, you don’t what to say. There’s nothing you can say,” Rizzo said. “When people get shot, you’re grateful that they’re alive. When they pass away, you’re grateful that you knew them, to look at the bright side of things if you can. But just to see how real it is, it’s sad.

“The more I just sat and thought about it, I felt helpless here. That’s where I grew up, in Parkland. I got in trouble there, I succeeded there, I learned how to be who I am because of Parkland, because of Stoneman Douglas. So to be across the country and not be there and then to find out some very close people have lost loved ones, to be there to help them and support them was very important to me.”

Rizzo repeatedly said how proud he is of the students of Stoneman Douglas, who have been outspoken on social media, directing their comments toward the president and other members of the government and sharing their opinions that gun control is necessary for the violence to stop.

But Rizzo refrained from wading into that debate and even chastised those who mischaracterized his Twitter comments as a call for gun regulation.

“To be very clear I did not say the word ‘gun’ one time,” he said. “Anyone out there who wrote gun control, saying I called for gun control, I think is very irresponsible and I did not say that once.

“I don’t know what needs to be done, I don’t know. I don’t know enough about it. I know there are a lot of shootings. I know they are done with a specific make, but I don’t know what needs to be done. But something, some type of change needs to happen for the better because I’m sure people in here have kids. No one right now feels very comfortable on a daily basis sending their kid to school and not knowing if they’re going to see them again.”

That kind of message might not be as declarative as some would have hoped. But it remained a powerful one, showing that even if he wasn’t ready or willing to declare himself an activist, Rizzo shares the feelings of many Americans who are simultaneously numb to the news of these shootings and completely and entirely fed up with their frequency and the lack of action taken to stop them.

“As a human being, probably everyone in here when they first the initial (reports of a) shooter, I took my next golf swing, because that’s how numb this country is to it,” Rizzo said. “Until something crazy happens, when you hear ‘open shooter’ nowadays, it’s like, ‘OK,’ take your next breath and keep going. Then I found out it was at Douglas, you get a little more concerned, ‘OK, what’s going on.’ At first it’s a few people injured, then you found out it was what it was, and it’s just — it’s gut-wrenching. You just go numb.

“I stand behind my community, and I’m really proud of how everyone’s coming together. Obviously I said there needs to be change, I don’t know what the change needs to be. I’m just really proud of those kids and how they’re coming together and becoming one in Parkland. It’s really inspiring to see, and it makes me proud.”

Enter Jim Hickey, the Cubs' new pitching coach tasked with shepherding one of baseball's best staffs

Enter Jim Hickey, the Cubs' new pitching coach tasked with shepherding one of baseball's best staffs

MESA, Ariz. — For years, Chris Bosio was credited as part of the reason for the Cubs’ recent string of pitching success. He helped turn Jake Arrieta into a Cy Young winner and oversaw pitching staffs that led the Cubs to three consecutive NLCS appearances and that curse-smashing World Series win in 2016.

But now it’s 2018, and Bosio is out. Jim Hickey is in.

The Cubs’ new pitching coach arrives with high expectations and has been tasked with shepherding a group of arms that saw a few too many bumps in the road last season. Jon Lester had his worst season in a long time, Jose Quintana’s numbers weren’t as good as they had been during his time with the White Sox, Tyler Chatwood led the National League in losses last season, and Yu Darvish got roughed up in a pair of World Series starts. And that’s before even mentioning the bullpen.

Still, even with all that said, the Cubs look to have, on paper, one of the best starting rotations in the game. And the upgrades in the bullpen have tempered some of the rage over the relief corps’ repeated postseason implosions. Theo Epstein’s front office had a mission this offseason to improve the pitching staff, and Hickey is a very large part of trying to accomplish that mission.

“What really was the slam dunk in my decision to come to Chicago or at least the finishing touches on it was getting to meet Theo, getting to meet Jed (Hoyer), going physically to Chicago, go to the offices there, seeing the physical building, meeting the people inside, just getting that vibe. Everybody was on the same page, and that page was winning,” Hickey said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. “And also built not just to win here for two or three years but for a sustained period of time, and that was what was very, very attractive.”

Hickey’s ties to the Cubs are obvious. He worked as Joe Maddon’s pitching coach in Tampa Bay for eight seasons before Maddon left to take over managing duties on the North Side. The two coached some phenomenal pitchers with the Rays, guys like James Shields, David Price, Scott Kazmir and Chris Archer and won an American League pennant in 2008. Prior to that, Hickey coached for the Houston Astros and oversaw a staff that included Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt en route to the 2005 World Series.

How does the Cubs’ rotation of Lester, Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Quintana and Chatwood compare to those great rotations from Hickey’s past?

“That’s a really tough question. But I think one through five, it may be as deep as any staff that I’ve had,” he said. “Really tough to say. I’ll give you a better idea after the season’s over, but one through five, it’s really, really good. Had some very, very good staffs, obviously, in years past. But these five guys, we talk about it all the time, the starters pitching innings and not falling into this pattern of starters being used less and less and the bullpen being used more and more.

“If you were to give me a staff of five guys, or give anybody a staff of five guys, that threw between 185 and 200 innings, you would probably have a championship-caliber club. And that’s what my expectations are out of this staff, and I think they will be a championship-caliber club.”

Hickey’s toughest task, though, likely won’t be working with all those veteran starters but instead working with a  bullpen that struggled under the bright lights of the postseason last October. While Cubs relievers had the sixth-lowest ERA in baseball during the regular season (3.80), the playoffs were a different story, with the bullpen rocked to the tune of a 6.21 ERA. Cubs relievers walked a postseason-high 27 batters while striking out only 35 in 37.2 innings.

The front office tried to fix that strike-throwing problem by bringing in new closer Brandon Morrow, who shone with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, and Steve Cishek, who has closing experience from his time with the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners, plus he worked with Hickey last season in Tampa Bay.

But Hickey is the bigger key to fixing that problem, and it’s one of his biggest objectives to not just bring the walks down but make the Cubs one of the best staffs in baseball when it comes to issuing free passes.

“I really think that walks, especially out of the bullpen, are a little bit more of a mindset than they are anything physically or mechanically wrong,” he said. “You come into a situation where maybe you give up a base hit and maybe it changes the game, so you’re a little bit reluctant to throw the ball over the plate.

“So I think it’s more of a mindset, and once the group gets the mindset of ‘attack, attack, attack,’ it’ll be contagious. And I think it is contagious. I think last year it was probably contagious in that there was more walks than you would like, and I think as you turn the corner and head the other direction, that would be contagious, as well.

“I have very few outcome goals in a season. I don’t sit there and say, ‘I want to lead the league in earned-run average’ or ‘I want to lead the league in strikeouts.’ … But that one thing, that one outcome goal that I always have for a staff is to have the least amount of walks in the league. And I think at the end of the day, especially with the talent that’s out there, if that is the case, it’s going to be an extremely successful season.”