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In this week’s mailbag, we’ll investigate pitching matchups that involved players with long surnames, Cy Young winners who were actually better in the year that followed their award-winning campaigns, and the most productive players selected among the top 50 picks of the Rule 4 draft. As always, if you have a question you would like to see answered in this space, please send me an email (remember to include your name and hometown).

The last names of Sunday’s starting pitchers, Jordan Zimmerman and Jeff Samardzija, total 20 characters. What game has featured the most characters in the last names of the starting pitchers?

Andrew Davis
Port St. Lucie, Florida

William "The Launching Pad" Van Landingham made 81 starts for the San Francisco Giants between 1994 and 1997 before injuries ended his career at the age of 28. There is some debate as to whether his last name counts as 13 or 14 characters, however. Major League Baseball lists his name with a space between “Van” and “Landingham,” but Baseball Reference removes the space. We’ll go with MLB’s version for the purpose of answering Andrew’s question.

On May 29, 1996, Van Landingham squared off against the Mets’ Jason Isringhausen, marking the only time in baseball history that the last names of a game’s starting pitchers have totaled 26 characters. Van Landingham’s matchups against Todd Stottlemyre in 1996 and 1997 are the only times pitchers have combined for 25 characters.

Date

Away Pitcher

Team

Home Pitcher

Team

Length

5/29/96

William Van Landingham

Giants

Jason Isringhausen

Mets

26

5/25/97

Todd Stottlemyre

Cardinals

William Van Landingham

Giants

25

6/8/96

Todd Stottlemyre

Cardinals

William Van Landingham

Giants

25

4/12/10

Justin Duchscherer

Athletics

Ryan Rowland-Smith

Mariners

24

4/7/10

Ryan Rowland-Smith

Mariners

Justin Duchscherer

Athletics

24

9/3/58

Arnie Portocarrero

Orioles

Vito Valentinetti

Senators

24

8/11/58

Bill Monbouquette

Red Sox

Vito Valentinetti

Senators

24

8/1/53

Al Worthington

Giants

Ken Raffensberger

Reds

24

5/30/50

Ken Raffensberger

Reds

Johnny Vander Meer

Cubs

24

How often do Cy Young winners improve the following season?

Sam Miller
Orange County, California

I debated a number of ways to define year-over-year improvement, including True Average (TAv) against, Fair Run Average Plus (FRA+), and Wins Above Replacement (WARP). In the end, I decided to use all three.

Only twice since 1960 has a pitcher improved his TAv against, FRA+, and WARP in the season after winning the Cy Young Award. In 1970, Tom Seaver defended his National League Cy Young by lowering his TAv against by .011, increasing his FRA+ by 25 points, and more than doubling his WARP from the previous season. Despite improving his advanced statistics across the board, Seaver finished only seventh in Cy Young balloting in 1970.

Year

TAv Against

FRA+

WARP

Comments

1969

.231

106

3.69

Won NL Cy Young

1970

.220

131

8.30

Placed 7th in NL Cy Young

It took nearly a quarter-century for another pitcher to replicate Seaver’s feat, but Jack McDowell did just that in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Like Seaver, McDowell received very little recognition for improving upon his Cy Young winning campaign in 1993, receiving no award votes in 1994.

Year

TAv Against

FRA+

WARP

Comments

1993

.248

102

2.47

Won AL Cy Young

1994

.237

120

3.36

Received no Cy Young votes

I enjoyed your article this week about teams using their draft picks efficiently. Can you tell us which players have achieved the most major-league success by overall draft pick?

George Lincoln
Terre Haute, Indiana

Let’s take a look at the top 50 picks in the draft and the players who have accrued the most WARP:

Overall

Year

Name

WARP

1

1993

Alex Rodriguez

105.4

2

1966

Reggie Jackson

81.6

3

1977

Paul Molitor

77.5

4

1973

Dave Winfield

70.8

5

1982

Dwight Gooden

52.0

6

1985

Barry Bonds

160.7

7

1989

Frank Thomas

72.3

8

1995

Todd Helton

57.3

9

1987

Kevin Appier

40.1

10

1967

Ted Simmons

59.6

11

1968

Greg Luzinski

30.7

12

1994

Nomar Garciaparra

46.3

13

1991

Manny Ramirez

74.7

14

1993

Derrek Lee

31.5

15

1971

Jim Rice

45.9

16

1997

Lance Berkman

55.6

17

1995

Roy Halladay

38.3

18

1974

Willie Wilson

46.9

19

1983

Roger Clemens

103.4

20

1990

Mike Mussina

60.1

21

1974

Rick Sutcliffe

29.0

22

1987

Craig Biggio

59.8

23

1992

Jason Kendall

47.6

24

1990

Rondell White

24.4

25

1989

Chuck Knoblauch

28.9

26

1976

Alan Trammell

54.3

27

1967

Vida Blue

37.2

28

1975

Lee Smith

29.2

29

1971

George Brett

92.9

30

1971

Mike Schmidt

116.7

31

1984

Greg Maddux

84.0

32

1983

Dave Magadan

20.0

33

1987

Dave Burba

26.5

34

1981

Mark Gubicza

22.9

35

1992

Johnny Damon

50.4

36

1985

Randy Johnson

90.7

37

1981

Frank Viola

33.7

38

2001

David Wright

37.1

39

1967

Don Baylor

38.0

40

1986

Kevin Tapani

27.1

41

1973

Fred Lynn

48.1

42

1977

Mookie Wilson

23.7

43

1972

Bob Knepper

15.5

44

1992

Jon Lieber

23.5

45

1998

Gerald Laird

5.0

46

1993

Scott Rolen

64.6

47

1984

Tom Glavine

63.3

48

1978

Cal Ripken Jr.

72.2

49

1995

Carlos Beltran

53.9

50

1972

Dennis Eckersley

53.3

 

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marshaja
4/12
Love these articles. In the true spirit of the question, wouldn't using ERA+ instead of FRA+ be better? More likely than not, a pitcher who wins the Cy Young has some luck factors on their side. While some do improve their underlying statistics, how many of them truly improved enough to overcome regression to the mean the next year?
Yefrem
4/12
I have faith slot 45 will be overtaken someday.
Kongos
4/13
If Jed Lowrie hits his Pecota projection for this year, he'll be at 5.2 at the end of the year.
jhardman
4/12
If you have the 45th slot in the draft, you're screwed. :-) Who has that slot this year? Sounds like a place to draft a kid who says he won't sign for anything less than a 100 bozillion dollars and get a replacement pick the next year.
Kongos
4/13
Trevor Story (Rockies) was #45 in 2011. Reid Brignac (2004) might eventually amount to something.
jnewfry
4/12
Brett and Schmidt went back to back at 29 and 30 in 1971? Wow. Have 2 Hall of Famers ever been picked back to back in other cases? And how often have that many teams passed on two hall of fame players in a single draft?
bradleyankrom
4/12
Can you email that to me (bankrom@baseballprospectus.com) with your name/hometown? I'll look it up for next week's mailbag.
apbadogs
4/12
Yep, and both drafted as shortstops! That was a horrible draft, with only Jim Rice taken prior to Brett/Schmidt being worth much. Frank Tanana was there but, meh.
tombache
4/12
Is there a mistake in Seaver's 1969 stats? B-Ref has him with a higher WAR in 1969 than 1970, tied for 6th while BP has him 20th. That's quite a difference.
bradleyankrom
4/13
Big FRA differences between 1969 and 1970 likely explains the difference.