#198- Burleigh Grimes, SP2

 

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Year Inducted: 1964 (Veterans Committee)

Score: 10836

The first generation of starting pitchers were mainly in the pre-1800’s and with very few exceptions had short careers and retired by the early 1910’s.  The second generation of pitchers completed their careers after before the mid 1930s.  On the whole, the second generation of starters is probably a little worse than the first generation.  Of the sixteen starters designated as second generation starters, seven of them rank below 160 while five out of thirteen starters from the first generation slot in the same block.  Mostly this is due to the second generation pitching in a more dominant offensive environment and did so for a longer period of time.  And one of the most infamous pitchers from the second generation was Burleigh Grimes.

Grimes pitched in parts of 19 seasons in the big leagues and compiled a record of 270 wins and 212 losses.  In his 4180 innings, he struck out 1512 batters against 1295 walks, and had an ERA of 3.53.  Grimes led the league in strikeouts once, wins twice, and pitched on 4 pennant winning teams.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot in Grimes’ career that makes him a great player.  His record is good, but many pitchers in the Hall of Fame have more wins and/or fewer losses.  His ERA- is only 94, meaning his ERA was only 6% lower than the league average ERA in his career.  His WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) is 1.37, which is the highest of any pitcher in the Hall of Fame.  To put that in perspective, in the 2015 season the average WHIP for a starting pitcher was 1.30, and in the past 6 seasons (2010-2015) was never as high as Grimes’ career mark.

So, why was Grimes inducted into the Hall of Fame?  Mostly due to being the last pitcher to use a spitball.  A spitball (or “spitter”) was when a pitcher would spit on his hand and then proceed to wipe it off on part of his uniform, only to be faking the whole time and actually hiding some foreign substance to doctor the baseball before he threw it.  It was supposedly done to give the pitch more movement, and in unexpected directions.  In 1920 baseball officially banned several types of trick pitches, including the spitball.  However, 17 pitchers (including Grimes) were allowed to continue to throw it because it was their primary pitch.  Most of those pitchers were retired by the end of the decade, but Grimes was able to hang on until 1934 meaning the pitch has been officially banned for over 80 years.

Grimes wasn’t a bad pitcher, rather he was an average one that relied on a trick pitch in order to get batters out.  Unfortunately, being average for 19 seasons doesn’t make someone a great pitcher.

Stay tuned for the next update, featuring the first third generation pitcher, as well as the first player to be inducted by the BBWAA on this list.

On deck 7/20/16 This pitcher for the White Sox threw a lot of innings, especially on Sundays.

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