On Weird Records

Gus Weyhing, Hit Batters

Well, I needed at least one obscure player in here. If you’ve never heard of Weyhing, I don’t blame you; I hadn’t either before I started putting this list together. He was a fairly decent nineteenth-century pitcher who apparently loved to throw inside.

Weyhing’s career was, in many ways, fairly typical of his time. He had a very nice five-year run in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, a stretch in which he threw over 400 innings every year but one, won 30 games four different times and racked up over 1,000 strikeouts. In 1892, he won 32 games, tossed 46 complete games in 49 outings and picked up six shutouts – silly numbers by today’s standards, but not at all strange in the era of the two-man rotation.

Something about pitching nearly 3,000 innings before he turned 27 took its toll on Weyhing, and he struggled through his last seven years in the sport, drifting from team to team. Through it all, though, he found a way to plunk plenty of hapless batsmen. He led the league in his first two seasons, including a whopping 42 in 1888, and when he retired, he was by far the all-time leader with 277 of them.

In the century-plus since Weyhing’s retirement, no one has come within 50 hit batters of his dubious record. The closest recent pitchers are Randy Johnson and Tim Wakefield, who rode a wicked slider and a crazy knuckleball to 190 and 186 respectively. They’re two of only eight pitchers to even come within 100 hit batsmen of Weyhing.

The active leader, by far, is Jamie Wright, a journeyman reliever currently with the Dodgers who’s plunked 151 in his career. Given that he’s about to start his age-39 season, it’s safe to say he won’t be making much of a run at Weyhing’s record.

Greg Maddux, Putouts (Pitcher)

I’ve talked about this one before, but it fits even better here. As with Rose’s interference mark, the fact that Maddux holds this record isn’t all that surprising. He played for a long time and he’s widely considered the greatest fielding pitcher ever. Why wouldn’t he be the all-time leader in a fielding stat like putouts?

Again, though, the magnitude of his lead is simply stunning. He racked up 546 putouts in his career. Second place belongs to the highly underrated Kevin Brown, who had just 388.

How did Maddux do it? Longevity was a big part, of course, but he was also tremendous on a per-season basis, leading all NL pitchers in putouts eight different times. It helped that he was largely a pitch-to-contact guy (although he did pick up his share of strikeouts), leading to a higher-than-average number of balls in play, and he was great at inducing weak contact, including soft ground balls that might pull the first baseman off the bag or allow the pitcher to apply a tag. Maddux was also very adept at keeping runners off base, which meant a high percentage of outs when he was on the mound happened at first – a base, incidentally, that the pitcher often covers.

More than anything, though, I think this record speaks to Maddux’s almost superhuman ability to understand and predict baseball. He had a sixth sense for knowing where the ball was going to go, and when most pitchers would just be ducking for cover, he had his glove perfectly positioned to catch a line drive anywhere near the mound. Even into his 40s, he had enough left in the tank to impress you with a defensive play that no one else would’ve made.

Pitcher putouts are all but meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but even the most frivolous stats tell a story. If you want to understand the greatness of Greg Maddux, there are worse places to start than this odd little record.

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