The 1920s was one of the worst decades in the history of Major League Baseball for starting pitcher stats. It is the worst, except for the 1890s, 1930s, and 2000s (now).
It’s especially interesting because it followed one of the best decades in history for starting pitcher numbers—the 1910s.
The 1910s is the best decade for starting pitcher numbers, other than the 1870s and the first decade of the 1900s.
The 1920s was the first decade of the live ball era.
Every starting pitcher on this list pitched at least part of their career in the 1910s, and this needs to be adjusted for, because pitching in the 1910s obviously positively affected their numbers. The more they pitched in the 1910s, the more adjustment is needed.
Another thing that makes this decade interesting is the fact that there are nine starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame from the 1920s. That is more than any other decade in the history of MLB, along with the nine from the first decade of the 1900s.
Seven of the nine HOFers make this top 10. So two of them don’t make the top 10; that only leaves three spots for non-HOFers.
There were 60 starting pitchers from the 1920s who pitched in at least 200 games.
If a player does not appear on the list of the 60 eligible players list, then they either didn’t reach 200 games, or I consider them a pitcher from the 1910s or the 1930s.
The 1930s will be covered in a separate article, and I just wrote an article on the 10 best starting pitchers from the 1910s.
Pitchers will only be in one decade. For example, Grover Alexander will appear in this article. So, he will not appear in my 1930s article, which I will write at a later date, and he did not appear in my 1910s article.
An Explanation of the Stats
The statistics used will be Games Pitched, Games Started, Innings Pitched, ERA, ERA+, W, W percentage+, H/9 (OBA), WHIP (OOB percentage), SHO, SHO/40 (per 40 games started), K, and K/BB (ratio). I will also letter-grade their length of career.
First, I will include their raw career numbers. These are simply their career numbers.
Second, I will include their adjusted career numbers, if they had a long career (which most have).
Adjusted career is this: Let’s take Red Faber, for example. Faber is a starting pitcher from the 1920’s that had a long career. So in order to find his real numbers, I have to exclude some late seasons during his career to find the numbers that he really carried during his career, since he pitched past his prime.
With Faber, I’d exclude his 1927 season. That is his adjusted career. Again, this can only be done with long career players. If I don’t list an adjusted career under a player’s raw career numbers, then it means they didn’t play long enough to adjust for their long career or it means they didn’t have any bad seasons.
Third, I will include peak career numbers. Many like short peaks, but not me. I include the best seasons equaling at least 200 games for a peak. It takes away the possibility of a pitcher having one or two lucky seasons. The 200-game peak will let us know how good the pitcher was at his best.
Note: W percentage+ is a statistic that I have invented. It takes the team’s winning percentage into account. It is very complicated as different weights are applied to seasons depending on how many games and innings pitched a pitcher accumulated during a single season. Having said that, here’s the simple version.
If a starting pitcher has a career .500 W percentage during the 2000s and that pitcher pitched for the Yankees. Well, .500 is not good. But, if that pitcher pitched for the Royals, then .500 is good.
This is the reasoning behind W percentage+. It is to W percentage what ERA is to ERA+. It’s not foolproof, but neither is ERA+, just another piece of the puzzle and far, far more important than raw W percentage.
The 60 Starting Pitchers
Here are the 60 starting pitchers from the 1920’s that reached at least 200 games (listed in alphabetical order): Vic Aldridge, Grover Alexander, Jesse Barnes, Virgil Barnes, Larry Benton, Sheriff Blake, Ted Blankenship, Joe Bush, Hal Carlson, Rip Collins, Stan Coveleski, Bil Doak, Pete Donohue, Howard Ehmke, Jumbo Elliott, Red Faber, Alex Ferguson, Dana Fillingim, Milt Gaston, Joe Genewich, Dolly Gray, Burleigh Grimes, Jesse Haines, Slim Harriss, Waite Hoyt, Bill Hubbell, Elmer Jacobs, Sam Jones, Tony Kaufmann, Ray Kremer, Dolf Luque, Carl Mays, Hugh McQuillan, Doug McWeeny, Lee Meadows, Jake Miller, Clarence Mitchell, Johnny Morrison, Art Nehf, Joe Oeschger, Herb Pennock, Jesse Petty, George Pipgras, Jack Quinn, Jimmy Ring, Eppa Rixey, Dutch Ruether, Jack Scott, Joe Shaute, Bob Shawkey, Bill Sherdel, Urban Shocker, George Smith, Allan Sothoron, Lefty Stewart, Sloppy Thurston, George Uhle, Dazzy Vance, Elam Vangilder, and Tom Zachary.
The Honorable Mentions
Here are the 10 starting pitchers that just missed the top 10 for various reasons (listed in alphabetical order): Bill Doak, Jesse Haines, Sam Jones, Ray Kremer, Art Nehf, Herb Pennock, Jack Quinn, Bob Shawkey, Bill Sherdel, and Tom Zachary.
The Top 10
10. Urban Shocker (1916-1928) Career Length Grade: C-
Raw Career: 412 G, 317 GS, 2,681.2 IP, 3.17 ERA, 124 ERA+, 187 W, 117 W%+, 9.1 H/9, 1.26 WHIP, 28 SHO, 3.5 SHO/40, 983 K, and 1.5 K/BB