[Editor’s note: Joe Guzzardi’s usual Wednesday guest post will appear on Friday this week.]
Upon hearing news that Roy Halladay won his 20th game on Tuesday, I began to make a list. Halladay is the latest addition to a small club: pitchers who won 20 games their first year in a new league after playing in the other circuit. Making a quick run of Baseball-Reference.com, I found ten men who have accomplished this in the National or American League since the founding of the second league in 1901.
These pitchers are:
Roy Halladay: The newcomer here, Halladay looks like the odds-on favorite for National League Cy Young this year, as he’s now 20-10 with a 2.53 ERA. Halladay received an American League Cy Young and six All Star nods over his 12 seasons with Toronto before coming to the Phillies in a December 2009 trade.
Fergie Jenkins: The future Hall of Famer won 20 games six straight years for the Cubs early in his career then faltered in 1973 to 14-16 with a 3.89 ERA and was dealt in the offseason to the Rangers. Jenkins proceeded to go 25-12 with a 2.82 ERA in 1974, winning the American League Cy Young.
Gaylord Perry: The Giants packaged Perry and another player for five-time strikeout champion Sam McDowell in November 171 and it haunted them. McDowell went 10-8 with a 4.33 ERA in 1972 and was gone from San Francisco within another year, while Perry won 180 more games in his career and two Cy Youngs. The first of these came with the Indians in 1972 when Perry went 24-16 with a 1.92 ERA.
Mike Cuellar: A promising pitcher for the Astros and an All Star in 1967, Cuellar became an a powerhouse with his trade to the Orioles in December 1968. Cuellar won 20 games his first three seasons in Baltimore and shared the 1969 Cy Young with Denny McLain.
Carl Mays: Despite going 208-126 with a 2.92 ERA, Mays was notorious for throwing the pitch that killed Ray Chapman in 1920 and for allegedly fixing games in the 1921 and 1922 World Series, as recounted by longtime sportswriter Fred Lieb in his 1977 memoir, Baseball As I Have Known It. Lieb wrote of how the Yankees asked for waivers on Mays following the 1923 World Series and how Yankee skipper Miller Huggins wrote to Mays’ new manager, Garry Herrmann of the Reds, “I may be sending you the best pitcher I have, but I warn you that Carl is a troublemaker and always will be a hard man to sign.” Mays went 20-9 in 1924 for Cincinnati, had one more good season, and was effectively done.
Jack Chesbro: Chesbro’s 21 wins for the New York Highlanders in 1903 were seven less than what he posted for the Pirates the year before, though he more than made up for it by going 41-12 with a 1.82 ERA for New York in 1904. The win total is a record in the modern era.
Cy Young, Joe McGinnity, Chick Fraser, Clark Griffith: I group these pitchers together as they were the men who won 20 games the first year of the American League, 1901, after they jumped over from National League clubs.