Our Philadelphia Phillies History Month rolls on here at TBOH with a look at those times that the club had a pair of pitchers combine for 40 wins in a season.
That feat has been accomplished a dozen times in the Phillies’ 133-season history. However, nine of those 12 happened in the first two decades of the 20th century, when starting pitching was a far different ballgame.
Over the first half-century or so of organized professional baseball, starting pitchers usually finished what they started. So if a pitcher started a game and his team won, he usually got credit for the ‘W’, and “Wins” totals for such pitchers were huge. It’s the main reason that Cy Young was able to accumulate the MLB record of 511 wins in his career.
Once relief pitchers began to take on a more prominent role in the 1920’s and beyond, starting pitching began to evolve. Pitchers who started a game were around in the later innings in fewer and fewer instances, meaning that those “Wins” statistical totals dropped drastically. The Phillies were thus no exception.
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The Phillies franchise record for pitching Wins by a duo is 55, set in the 1916 season by a pair of Baseball Hall of Famers, Grover Cleveland Alexander and Eppa Rixey. That year, the right-handed Old Pete Alexander registered 33 wins, while lefty Rixey was credited with 22 victories.
In fact, the six highest such combination seasons in Phillies history all involve Alexander, and he accomplished the feat every season from 1913-17. In 1913, Tom Seaton had 27 wins while Alexander registered 22 of his own.
In 1914, Alexander’s 27 victories combined with Erskine Mayer‘s 21 to pass the mark. In 1915, his 31 wins combined with Mayer having 21 for the 2nd highest total in club history.
In 1917, when Alexander had a 30-win season, two teammates each had 16 – Rixey, and righty Joe Oeschger. The 1911 season had been the first time that Alexander was involved in such a combo, when his 28 wins combined with 15 by Earl Moore.
The first time that the feat was accomplished by Phillies pitchers came in the 1901 season when Red Donahue won 21 games and Al Orth 20. Their effort was matched four years later when Togie Pittinger (23) and Bill Duggleby (18) combined for the same in 1905.
After 1917, it would be 35 years before another Phillies pitching combo would reach the mark. That year, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts won 28 games. A pair of teammates, righty Karl Drews and lefty Curt Simmons, would each win 14 times.
Three years later, in the Phillies 1980 World Series-winning campaign, Carlton was part of the final time that a club pitching duo would accomplish the feat. ‘Lefty’ won 24 times that year, while righthander Dick Ruthven accumulated 17 wins.
Though the 30-wins mark has been reached and surpassed a handful of times, only one Phillies combo has even come close over the last quarter-century. That was the duo of Roy Halladay (19) and Cliff Lee (17) in the record-setting 2011 regular season.
For a two-man combination to reach 40 wins, you need two outstanding starting pitchers, each having stellar seasons. And usually at least one of them is going to have to surpass the 20-win mark as one of the best in the game. It could be some time before another Phillies combo takes a run at the mark.