Remember When Kent Bottenfield and Jose Jimenez Were Great?
I was planning at some point to write an article on seasons that were statistical anomalies for pitchers, but I got such a good response on my hitter's article I figured I'd write the pitcher's article tonight.
When I started this article I already had one name in mind that I had to profile: Kent Bottenfield. I'll get to Mr. Bottenfield's 1999 season in a little bit, but first up will be Paul Abbott.
It's not totally uncommon to see a pitcher win 15-plus games with an earned run average north of four, but it is extremely rare to see a pitcher notch almost 40 percent of his career wins in one season with an ERA of 4.25.
Paul Abbott finished his career with 43 wins. 17 of those wins came in 2001, tied for sixth in the league.
Usually when a guy wins 17 games with a 4.25 ERA, you see somewhere between 8-12 losses to compliment the 17 games. Not Abbott.
He lost four games in 2001. He was 17-4!
The more things don't add up here, the more things make sense.
In 2001, Abbott pitched for the 116-46 Seattle Mariners. Two of the five guys in the American League that won more games than Abbott were on his team. All five Mariners starting pitchers won at least 10 games in 2001, including John Halama, who disappeared from Major League Baseball in a few years and would later throw a perfect game in the minors.
Me and my 63 MPH fastball probably could have reached double-digit wins for the Mariners in 2001.
But back to Abbott. His career story is just bizarre. He reached the Majors in 1990, and by 1993 he was gone. Then he resurfaced in 1998 and won his first game in the Bigs since 1991. Seattle stuck with him long enough for Abbott to reach double-digit wins for the first and only time in his career in 2001.
By 2004, he was gone again after going 3-11 with a 6.47 ERA with the Phillies and Devil Rays.
The next stop on the Statistical Anomaly Express is in Colorado.
Jose Jimenez threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 1999 as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. Despite the no-no, Jimenez was awful his freshman year in the Gateway City to the Midwest—he posted a 5-14 record and 5.85 ERA. Jimenez was then shipped off to Colorado.
The Rockies flirted with Jimenez as a closer for two season, and he managed to save 41 games during his first two seasons in the Rocky Mountains.
2002 proved to be the season Jimenez would really break out and become a premier closer—except not really.
He closed out 41 games and posted a solid 3.56 ERA while only blowing six games. Jimenez's biggest problem? Blowing tie games. He finished the season with a 2-10 record, and since he only blew six saves, it's safe to assume that when the game was tied you didn't want Jimenez on the mound.
Jimenez began the 2003 season as the Rockies' closer and converted on 20 of his 23 save opportunities. Despite his solid conversion rate, Jimenez was getting beat up badly. He was removed from the closer's role and finished the season with another 2-10 record.
In 2004, he found himself no longer in the Rocky Mountains, but rather on Lake Erie with Cleveland. He didn't fare any better there, finishing his short stint with the Indians with an ERA over eight.
The Statistical Anomaly Express continues east to stop in Atlanta to pick up Jaret Wright's 2004 season.
I'm guessing most remember that Wright had two dominant starts in the 1997 World Series for the Indians. He had a decent rookie year in '97 and an okay 1998 with Cleveland.
After that, things got ugly for Wright. 1999? Awful. 2000? Awful. 2001? Awful. 2002?
2003? Still awful.
2004? Pretty darn good.
Whaaat? How's this possible? He went 17-24 from 1999 to 2003, and his ERA only crept below five once.
Then Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone worked his magic and turned Wright into a 15-game winner in 2004. Better yet, Wright's ERA was 3.28, which was almost two runs lower than his career average.
His stint as an above-average pitcher lasted all of one year. Wright decided leaving the tutelage of Mazzone was a good idea and signed with the Yankees in 2005.
Right shoulder problems plagued Wright the rest of his career and ultimately led to Wright's release from the Pirates before the 2008 season.
We head back to St. Louis for my last two statistical anomalies. They come in two consecutive seasons, 1999 and 2000.
First up is Rick Ankiel in 2000. Yes, everyone knows his story from stud pitcher to pathetic pitcher to power hitter.
But does everyone know how dominant he actually was during his rookie year?
The guy was unhittable. He surrendered just over seven hits per nine innings, a ratio reserved for Cy Young winners. He managed to ring up 194 batters in just 175 innings.
Unfortunately for Ankiel, his filthy stuff couldn't always find the strike zone. He issued more than 4.5 walks per nine innings, which ultimately led to his demise.
When the 2000 playoffs rolled around, Ankiel uncorked wild pitch after wild pitcher in one of the most infamous postseason outings ever.
In 2001, with his psyche shaken and his control non-existent, Ankiel walked 25 batters in his first 24 innings. The Cardinals sent him down to the minors to straighten himself out. He wouldn't return until 2004.
Ankiel fixed his control problems, but hitters found him as hittable as he had ever been. Ankiel promptly retired from pitching and picked up an outfielder's glove and relied on his bat to make it back to the Majors.
Last, but certainly not least, is Kent Bottenfield. The first half of his 1999 season just doesn't seem logically possible. Bottenfield won more games by mid-May than he had ever won in a single season. He started the All-Star game with a 14-3 record to his name.
In the last 10 years, only two other pitchers—David Wells in 2000 and Curt Schilling in 2002—have started the Midsummer Classic with as many wins.
After the All-Star game, Bottenfield was a disaster. He managed to win only four more games during the 1999 season and finished with an 18-7 record.
The Cardinals pulled the ultimate sell high move, pawning Bottenfield off to the Angels for outfielder Jim Edmonds, who patrolled the St. Louis centerfield for eight seasons.
Kent played his last major league game in 2001 for the Astros after pitching poorly for both the Angels and Phillies.
The best part of Bottenfield's story? He's released two Christian-music albums, called "Take Me Back" and "Back in the Game," since he retired.
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