Year Inducted: 1991 (BBWAA, ballot #3, 334/443)
There are some players that have heart breaking stories; stories that make people cry and stories that movies should be made out of. Today’s pitcher lost his mother when she was 52, was divorced once, lost his second wife to an automobile accident, then lost his fiance to suicide while she also killed their 3-year old daughter. Through it all, instead of going clinically insane he dominated the game and became an ambassador for several charities and the first Canadian in the Baseball Hall of Fame. That man was Ferguson Jenkins.
During Jenkins’ marvelous career, he became known for three things. The first was his intimidation. Jenkins threw 4500 innings and struck out nearly 3200 batters, one of sixteen pitchers ever to cross the 3000-K plateau. Jenkins was exceptionally dominant, though, striking out 6.4 batters every nine innings with a WHIP of 1.14 and an ERA of only 3.34 despite playing many years in Wrigleyville and held batters to a .239 batting average. Jenkins was a big believer in pitcher’s batting, thinking they needed to be all-around players. As such, when the pitcher came up he would treat them as any other batter, while many other pitchers would lessen their focus with a weaker hitter at the plate.
The second thing he was known for was his control. Jenkins was the first pitcher to ever to strikeout 3000 men while walking less than 1000. In his career, Jenkins walked 1.99 batters every 9 innings (meaning he struck out more than 3 times the men he walked), with only 997 free passes allowed. Jenkins wouldn’t back down from any hitter, so he would occasionally get burned by a long ball (0.97 HR/9), but his low walk rate contributed to his WHIP as well as his FIP being only 3.28 despite a high HR-rate.
But, the thing he is most remembered for was his lack of luck. Jenkins never played for a team that finished in 1st place, and as such never pitched in the post season (making him probably the best pitcher that never did). So, despite his 284-226 record, which is fantastic given the circumstances, he never really got the reputation of a Steve Carlton or Gaylord Perry who were able to win 300 games. According to his SABR Bios page, Jenkins threw a complete game loss 13 times with a score of 1-0, helping to underscore how mediocre a lot of teams he played on were.
The lack of 300 wins aside, Jenkins was an awesome pitcher and rightfully deserving of his induction. He didn’t go in on first ballot though, due to the BBWAA holding his win total against him. But, the fact that he accomplished so much in only 19 seasons (compared to his contemporaries like Carlton and Perry who pitched well over 20) shows how great he really was. And, with all the bad luck he had in his life, it’s nice to know that he is happily married right now and doing well.
Stay tuned for the next update.
On deck 10/28/16 Another pitcher who struck out 3000 batters without winning 300 games.