Baseball's top McPitchers

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Baseball's top McPitchers

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, here's a list of Major League Baseball's top 10 winningest McPitchers:

1. Jim McCormick - 265 wins

The chunky, mustachioed Glasgow-born McCormick was the first Scotsman in Major League history. He held the record of winningest non-American born pitcher until Fergie Jenkins (then Bert Blyleven). His 1880 season leaps off the page; 45 wins, 1.85 ERA in 657.2 innings...although all this was achieved with underhanded tactics, literally. The overhand pitch was not allowed until 1884.

2. Joe McGinnity - 246 wins

Nicknamed "Iron Man," because of his offseason work in an iron foundry, a quick scan of his inning totals justifies the nickname from his moundwork alone. With a bewildering array of overhand, sidearm, and underhanded deliveries (including his underhanded curve he called "Old Sal"), McGinnity's trademark feat of durability was his 434.0 innings in 1903, including a 6-0 record from pitching both games of three separate doubleheaders in August of that season.

3. Dave McNally - 184 wins

Well known for: being part of 4x20 win rotation on the 1971 Orioles, playing out option year of 1975 to challenge the reserve clause.

Not as well known for: being the all-time winningest Montana-born pitcher (143 wins more than the next highest total).

4. Sadie McMahon - 173 wins

The ace of the juggernaut Baltimore Orioles teams of the early 1890's, McMahon formed what was called "the Dumpling Battery" with catcher Wilbert Robinson due to their unathletic physiques. Another case of a brief, bright 19th century pitching career curtailed at an early age due to injury (in this case, shoulder).

5. Dick McBride - 149 wins

McBride's peak seems to have been before the creation of any organized professional leagues; he was given time off from Civil War duty to pitch an important game for a Philadelphia team. Only Albert Goodwill Spalding (204) had more wins in the brief history of the National Association; the predecessor of the National League. He had otherworldly mutton chops.

6. Lindy McDaniel - 141 wins

119 of those wins were as a reliever, and that is second only to Hoyt Wilhelm (124) in Major League annals.

6. Sam McDowell - 141 wins

The best fireballer in the American League prior to Nolan Ryan's arrival, "Sudden Sam" posted 1652 whiffs from 1965-70, topping Bob Gibson's next best ML total by 199 despite over 100 fewer innings. Unfortunately, poor conditioning led to his decline, and by the time he was dealt to the Giants for Gaylord Perry, McDowell was nearly done while Perry had 180 wins and two Cy Young Awards left in the tank.

8. Scott McGregor - 138 wins

Solid career, entirely with the Orioles. Career year of 20-8 came in 1980...when teammate Steve Stone topped him with a Cy Young season of 25-7, but McGregor recorded four shutouts to Stone's one and posted a better WHIP (1.238 to 1.297) with neck-and-neck ERA's (3.32 for McGregor; 3.23 for Stone)

9. Mike McCormick - 134 wins

McCormick won the NL Cy Young Award back when it was more appropriately called "The Pitcher With the Most Wins Award." In 1967, his award-winning season, McCormick's 118 ERA was tied for 13th. Phil Niekro had a league-leading 1.87 ERA (of course assisted by the knuckleball-induced unearned runs) with an 11-9 record, but that's another discussion for another day.
10. Danny MacFayden - 132 wins

The leader among MacPitchers (or else Denny McLain's 131 would be No. 10), the bespectacled "Deacon Danny" hung around the Majors for 17 seasons, finishing up at 27 games under .500 for his career. Amazingly, as bad as his 2.65 career strikeout rate was, Ted Lyons was able to etch a plaque in Cooperstown with a lower one (2.32).

Bonus postscript:

The all-time wins leader actually born in Ireland is Tony Mullane, who would top this list with 284 had his name begun with Mc. Mullane was nicknamed "the Apollo of the Box" due to his good looks, was an ambidextrous hurler long before Greg Harris (longer still before Pat Venditte), and due to bigotry refused to acknowledge Fleet Walker's (credited as baseball's true first African American player) signals when the two were batterymates with Toledo (which was a Major League town with the American Association) in 1884.

For those who were wondering...Jack McDowell is 12th with 127 wins.

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

From ‘When It Happens’ to ‘Where It Happens,’ Cubs mining next generation of talent

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs turned Theo Epstein’s “Baseball is Better” speech from his first Wrigley Field press conference into a marketing pitch that might distract fans for a moment from an awful big-league product.          

The 2017 “That’s Cub” ad campaign actually uses what started organically years ago within the farm system, two words that recognized a great at-bat or a heads-up play or a defensive stop.    

Business vs. baseball is no longer the dominant storyline it had been during the early phases of the Wrigleyvile rebuild. Business and baseball are booming for what’s become Major League Baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors.

It’s just interesting that a franchise valued at north of $2 billion has found so much inspiration on the back fields of this spring-training complex, where staffers you wouldn’t recognize get to work before dawn and players you’ve never heard of dream about their big break.

It’s not just drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. And trading for Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Addison Russell. And hiring a manager obsessed with T-shirts. Baseball operations became a marketing department, selling prospects to Cub fans, the Chicago media and the gurus putting together the rankings – and trying to get buy-in from players who all think they belong in The Show.

Minor-league field coordinator Tim Cossins gets credit for “When It Happens,” a theme that didn’t simply revolve around 1908 and the championship drought. Jason McLeod, the senior vice president who oversees scouting and player development, suggested pairing the W flag with that phrase, and it became this ubiquitous idea around the team.   

“We tied everything into it,” McLeod said Sunday at Sloan Park. “When that time comes, when it happens, can you lay the bunt down? When it happens, can you execute a pitch? Can you go in and pinch-run, steal the base when the time comes?

“The big ‘When It Happens’ is when we win, of course, but for us in (player development), it was about everything that we’re going to be asked to do in that moment: Are you going to be ready when it happens?”

Now what? The defending World Series champs are going with: “Where It Happens.”

A bullet point from Epstein’s bio in this year’s media guide references how his first three first-round draft picks with the Cubs “combined to set up the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series when Schwarber singled and (Albert) Almora pinch-ran, moved to second on Bryant’s deep fly to center, and scored on Ben Zobrist’s double.”

“We’re never going to forget about the importance of young players,” Epstein said. “There’s definitely a lot of talented, interesting prospects still in the system and sometimes they get a little overshadowed because of the star young players we have at the big-league level and how quickly some of those guys moved through the system. But there’s a lot of talent there.

“We’re going to lean on young players beyond our prospects, not just in trades, but also to provide organizational depth and also to serve as the next generation, the next infusion of talent at the appropriate time.

“But it’s a process. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs in development for all these guys. And we have a ton of faith in our player development operation to help these guys along the way.”

So Ian Happ will start the season one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa and see if some combination of injuries and his switch-hitting skills and defensive versatility gets him to the North Side at some point. Or used as a trade chip for pitching, the way third baseman Jeimer Candelario and catcher Victor Caratini appear to be blocked.

Joe Maddon already compared Eloy Jimenez – who can’t legally buy a beer in Wrigleyville yet – to a young Miguel Cabrera or Edgar Martinez. The Cubs are practically begging for someone like Eddie Butler to pitch his way into the 2018 rotation.

By Monday morning, when the full squad reconvenes after a weekend trip to Las Vegas, the Cubs could start making cuts and shaping their Opening Night roster. But the Cubs are going to need so much more than the 25 players who will be introduced next Sunday at Busch Stadium. Maddon used 26 pitchers and 149 different lineups last season. This is “Where It Happens.”

“If this particular group of youngsters were in a different organization that had a greater need right now, you’d probably hear a lot more about these guys,” Maddon said. “But the fact that they’re stuck behind a Bryant and a Russell and a Javy (Baez) and a Rizzo and a (Willson) Contreras and a Schwarber, et cetera, et cetera, it becomes more difficult to really push or project upon these guys.

“But I think these young guys have gone about their business really well. If it’s bothering them or if they’re concerned about that, they’re not showing that. I think they’ve put their best foot forward.”

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

Joe Maddon doesn’t have any concerns about new Cubs closer Wade Davis

MESA, Ariz. – The Cubs studied all the MRIs and analyzed every pitch Wade Davis threw last season, poring over the information on the All-Star closer. During the winter meetings, Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore even took the unusual step of allowing the Cubs to give Davis a physical exam.  

The Jorge Soler trade wouldn’t be announced until athletic trainer PJ Mainville met with Davis at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley. The Cubs got another read on the flexor strain in his right forearm that twice put Davis on the disabled list last season.

Davis now has a 19.64 ERA through five Cactus League appearances – and the complete confidence of a manager who isn’t connecting those dots.

“The injury’s really not an issue,” Joe Maddon said Sunday at the Sloan Park complex. “He feels really good right now. He kind of thought that whole thing was a little bit overblown last year, according to (what he told) me. Because even in talking to him in the offseason: ‘I’m fine. I’m good. I feel really good.’”

Maddon managed the Tampa Bay Rays while Davis broke into the big leagues as a starter and began the transition to reliever. Everything clicked in Kansas City’s bullpen, with Davis blowing away hitters and notching the last out of the 2015 World Series.

“I’m watching him,” Maddon said. “He’s throwing the ball really well easily. That’s what’s really encouraging to me. From the side, there’s no bumping and grinding and…” Maddon made a grunting noise to illustrate his point: “There’s none of that. It’s easy. I look up at the gun and I’m seeing 94, 95 and sometimes 96 (mph). It’s like: Wow, I have never seen him do that in camp.”

Across the last three seasons, Davis allowed three home runs while piling up 234 strikeouts in almost 183 innings. This spring, he has twice gotten only one out, like Saturday’s 29-pitch, four-run appearance against the Colorado Rockies. Overall in March, he’s given up eight earned runs, nine hits and five walks in 3.2 innings.  

“Honestly, I’ve known him long enough that it’s not” a concern, Maddon said. “You’re not going to believe this, but he’s actually throwing better than he normally does in spring training. The biggest problem he’s having right now is command.

“Velocity looks good. The break on the breaking ball looks good. He’s just not throwing the ball where he wants it. And this guy is normally the kind of pitcher that can dot it up really well.

“But everything else looks really good to me, (because) I had him back with the Rays and in spring training you always saw him throwing like 86, 87, 88 (mph). I’m seeing easy 94-95. I’m seeing sharp break on some breaking stuff. It’s just bad counts and bad command right now.”

This isn’t the Cubs saying Carlos Marmol or Jose Veras is our closer. A guy with a 0.84 ERA in 23 career playoff appearances doesn’t care about Cactus League stats. As long as Davis is healthy, there should be no doubts about the ninth inning. Check back next week amid the sea of red at Busch Stadium.

“A lot of it’s just an adrenaline rush sometimes,” Maddon said. “A lot it’s just a moment that you can’t recreate here. You can’t do it. It’s impossible.”