The Philly Fifty, #23: Eddie Plank, Athletics

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

Longevity – 5

The pitcher who has thrown the most innings professionally in Philadelphia? It’s not Robin Roberts (3,739 IP), but lefty Eddie Plank, who threw 14 straight seasons for the A’s from 1901-1914, and averaged an amazing 276 innings per season. His 3,860 innings are the most in Philly’s history.

Peak – 4

It’s hard to identify a peak for Plank – he was very good his entire career. He was top-10 in the MLB in in WAR for pitchers 11 times, top-5 7 times, but only 2nd once. During his 14-year stint with the A’s, only Christy Mathewson had a higher WAR. Think of a Cole Hamels-type talent who never quite made it to Roy Halladay.

Popularity – 1

More people in this town have probably heard of Jason Pridie.

Team Success – 5

Plank was a huge piece of Connie Mack’s first dynasty with the A’s. In his 14 seasons, they went 1,222-838-38. That’s a 59% winning percentage, or about 96 wins per season on today’s 162 game schedule. So take the Phillies run the last 5 years, include this year and then stretch it out until 2020 and you’ve got an idea what the A’s were like in the regular season with Plank around. In the playoffs (just the WS at that time), the A’s went to 5, winning 3.

Awards – 3

There was no Cy Young award yet, as he was still pitching, but as mentioned above, Plank is the type of pitcher who would likely have gone to a lot of all-star games, but never won a lot of hardware.

Stats – 4

Plank pitched 1,200 more innings than anyone else during the A’s time in Philadelphia (1901-1954). Because of this, he’s first in all the counting stats: complete games (362), shutouts (59), wins (284), losses (162), strikeouts (1,985) and walks (913). In terms of rate stats, he’s 4th in ERA (2.39), 6th in ERA+ (120) and 3rd in WHIP (1.23). In terms of WAR, he was the most valuable pitcher in the history of city (for his career), even above Steve Carlton and Lefty Grove, at 69.5 wins above replacement.

Historical Standing – 3

He is a Hall of Famer, but having pitched so early on in the sports’ history, he’s not really a celebrated one. Despite all his lofty stats above, it took him several tries to get in (didn’t get in until 1946), which shows more about how the process has changed rather than him being not worthy.

Excitement – 3

He was not a power pitcher, which tends to put a few more butts in the seats. His 4.6 K/9 rate is downright Kendrick-ian, though obviously in a different era. He was consistent but never the best.

Total: 28

For the complete list and explanation of criteria and scoring, check out the Philly Fifty page

8 thoughts on “The Philly Fifty, #23: Eddie Plank, Athletics”

  1. This well intended project takes a hit every time the popularity category factors in.  I’ve not gone through the list of late to see just how many ancient athletes got crushed in this category, but Plank loses a critical 2-4 points by having zero chance against more modern, and more exposed guys who eek past him (Curt Schilling might be an example, I forget what he got on the popularity scale).

    Perhaps popularity should be relative to the athlete’s time.  Maybe that was one reason Kenny Durett was unjustly left off the list.  Eddie Plank being less known than a Jason Pridle should have zero bearing on his place on an all-time top 50.

    What I’m saying is it’s not really even okay to slight Eddie Plank when part of the criteria is 2012 shirsey sale type numbers.  The fact that Eddie could match zeroes with Doc or Cliff today, at about 227 years old is light years more important, and maybe should be the only criteria.  But I hope Wilt doesn’t get shortchanged in this category.  That’s all I’ll say about Wilt for now.

    It’s just 1 person’s opinion, anyway, but that popularity category is annoying enough to have said something.        

    • I second that emotion.  Old-timers are gettin’ the shaft!  But to be fair, Pete forewarned of category inclusion and rating subjectivity.  Just another reminder that it’s a young man’s game. 🙂  


      Carlos Ruiz, Phanatic – 5
      Any leftover with a Ring – 4
      Erik Kratz, Kevin Frandsen – 3
      Hector Luna, Laynce Nix – 2
      Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Chief Bender, Pete Alexander, Eddie Plank – 1 

      • The point you both bring up is a good one and one I definitely considered. However, the tipping for me was that I would simply be guessing as to players popularity back in the 1900’s. Aside from digging up old newspapers, or hoping wikipedia has some accurate info, there was really no way of me knowing. I DO have SOME sense (obviously it is subjective) as to the overall popularity of players now-a-days.

        In some cases it favors more recent players. In others, it might favor players from a couple decades ago who we now only remember the good parts about. But there is no question it hurts the A’s players, who are not thought about in this city at all…

    • <<Perhaps popularity should be relative to the athlete’s time.>>

      No, no, 1000 times no.  Idiotic suggestion.  You can’t measure popularity of the Bulletin, Inky and radio versus people exposed to cable, blogs, and talk radio.  Scratch that.

      But here’s one I won’t come back and scratch.  The project is about the City’s BEST 50 athletes.  What’s popularity got to do with best?  

      The opinions expressed should NOT be taken as criticism.  It’s (the project) something to be proud of, and wasn’t gonna please 11 out of 10 people anyway. 

      Speaking for myself, I’ve just been passing along reactions along the way,as others seem to, on a few of the rankings, and in this case, one of the categories.            

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