Forty Is the New 20; Old-Time Pitchers Racked Up the Wins

By Glen Sparks

No pitcher has won 40 games in a season since Ed Walsh did it in 1908.

No pitcher has won 40 games in a season since Ed Walsh did it in 1908.

There was a time when pitchers didn’t think much about winning 40 games in one season. That time was the Gilded Age.

Between 1877 and 1908, big-league pitchers won at least 40 games in one season 37 times. A few pitchers, such as Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn, James “Pud” Galvin and Will White, did it more than once.  Radbourn set the single-season mark with 59 wins for the Providence Greys in 1884. No pitcher has hit the 40-win mark since Ed Walsh compiled a sterling 40-15 record for the 1908 White Sox.

The Tigers’ Denny McLain was the last pitcher to win at least 30 games in one season. He went 31-6 in 1968. (Who are the biggest single-season winners in baseball since 1968?) The last National League pitcher to win 30 games was Dizzy Dean, for the 1934 Cardinals.

Since 2000, pitchers have reached 20 victories in a season 23 times. The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright have done it in 2014. (The Reds’ Johnny Cueto has 19 wins and may have one more start this season.  Dazzy Vance update:  Cueto did indeed get another start, and he was as good as usual.  He finished the season 20-9.  Congrats, Johnny, one of baseball’s top pitchers.)

The following is a list of major league pitchers who have won at least 40 games in one season. Thank you once again to the invaluable web site baseball-reference.com for help with the stats.

*Steve Carlton went 27-10 for the Phillies in 1972, and Bob Welch went 27-6 for the A’s.

 

Baseball’s 40-Game Winners

Rank Player Wins Year L or R
1 Old Hoss Radbourn 59 1884 R
2 John Clarkson 53 1885 R
3 Guy Hecker 52 1884 R
4 John Clarkson 49 1889 R
5 Charles Buffinton 48 1884 R
Old Hoss Radbourn 48 1883 R
7 Al Spalding 47 1876 R
Monte Ward 47 1879 R
9 Pud Galvin 46 1883 R
Pud Galvin 46 1884 R
Matt Kilroy 46 1887 L
12 George Bradley 45 1876 R
Silver King 45 1888 R
Jim McCormick 45 1880 R
15 Bill Hutchinson 44 1891 R
Mickey Welch 44 1885 R
17 Tommy Bond 43 1879 R
Larry Corcoran 43 1880 R
Will White 43 1879 R
Will White 43 1883 R
22 Lady Baldwin 42 1883 L
Tim Keefe 42 1886 R
24 Jack Chesbro 41 1904 R
Dave Foutz 41 1886 R
Bill Hutchinson 41 1890 R
Tim Keefe 41 1883 R
Ed Morris 41 1886 L
Charles Sweeney 41 1884 R
30 Tommy Bond 40 1877 R
Tommy Bond 40 1878 R
Bob Caruthers 40 1885 R
Bob Caruthers 40 1889 R
Jim McCormick 40 1884 R
Bill Sweeney 40 1884 R
Ed Walsh 40 1908 R
Will White 40 1882 R
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