Game 152, Mariners at Pirates: Take 2

marc w · September 18, 2019 at 4:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Justin Dunn/Tommy Milone vs. Dario Agrazal, 4:05pm

Ok, so Justin Dunn’s MLB debut didn’t quite go according to plan. 2/3 of an inning, with 5 walks and 2 runs is going to make a mess of your pitching line, but it’s not a death sentence, right?

Seven pitchers have made their MLB debut and gone an inning or less, and given up 5 or more walks. Two members of this inauspicious club never got another chance, including the only guy to exceed 5 walks, Dizzy Sutherland. Sutherland, whose nickname may have made light of a very real vision/balance problem, started a September game for the Washington Senators in 1949 and walked 6, giving up 2 hits and 5 runs. Banished back to Charlotte of the old Tri-State League, he pitched a few more seasons, and then seems to have retired – he never got to play for his hometown team again (Sutherland was from DC). Frank Wurm started the second game of a doubleheader in late 1944 and made it only 1/3 of an inning, walking 5 and giving up 4 runs. Like Sutherland, he never pitched in the majors again, despite being the only member of the club to record a strikeout. Wurm pitched one game for Montreal of the old International League the following year, going 1 IP with *6* walks, and that was it for him in the IL. With MLB players flooding back from the war, Wurm’s career seems to have ended after the 1945 season (as it did for Butch Nieman, the RF for Boston who was Wurm’s strikeout victim).

Wurm wasn’t the only 5-walk debut in 1944, though. By far the most famous such debut occurred in June of that year in Cincinnati, where the Reds came up with a plan to gin up fan interest despite the fact that the majority of MLB-talents were tied up in the war effort. They signed local high-schooler Joe Nuxhall, and sent him to the big club to make his debut against the St. Louis Cardinals. Nuxhall was 15 years old, and pretty clearly overmatched. He gave up 5 walks, 2 hits, and 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning, and went down to the minors where he pitched one more inning, giving up another 5 walks and 6 runs. He stepped away from the game in 1946, but made a remarkable comeback in 1952. He was an All-Star in 1955 and 1956, retiring with over 2,300 IP. He stuck around in Cincinnati, broadcasting Reds games for over 40 years.

Al Milnar debuted as a reliever for Cleveland in 1936, and had a statistical dead ringer for Dunn’s debut. Milnar walked 5, gave up 2 runs, but didn’t allow a base hit. The local kid went back to play for what Baseball-Reference says was a minor league team in Cleveland, but I’m not sure who that would’ve been. If it was the Indians’ AA affiliate, that would’ve been in Minnesota, or it could’ve been a semi-pro league. Anyway, Milnar stayed there for a while, getting a couple of big league games in 1938, then making the team for good in 1939. He made the All-Star team in 1940, going 18-10 for the Tribe.

The final two companions to Dunn have clear ties to Seattle. First is former M’s first-baseman Mike Carp, who pitched in relief for the Red Sox in a 14-5 drubbing by the Yankees. Strangely, the long-time Tacoma Rainier’s 5-walk debut was technically the best, or perhaps least-awful. Thanks to a double-play grounder and an infield pop-fly, Carp got out of the inning with only 1 run scoring. He never pitched again, and his big league career didn’t extend past 2014. He was traded to the Rangers late in the year and cratered, and a brief stint back in the PCL in 2015 went even worse.

That leaves the single worst 5-walk debut, which occurred in 1939. The Tigers starter was coming off a brilliant 1938 PCL campaign for the Seattle Rainiers, and was seen as a key player for the Tigers ’39-40 seasons. And then he debuted on May 2nd against the Yankees. The 19 year old, whose name was Fred Hutchinson, yielded *8* runs on 5 walks and 4 hits in just 2/3 of an inning in the Yankees 22-2 win. Banished to Toledo, he had sporadic bouts of wildness, but turned things around and after a bit of action in 1940, he became a rotation fixture after World War II, tossing 1,464 IP before beginning a successful stint as a big league manager. That career was cut short by cancer, a diagnosis made by his brother Bill back in Seattle (Bill/Fred’s father had been a physician in Seattle as well), and after he died in 1964, Bill named his new medical research facility in First Hill after Fred.

Thus, even the worst debuts are not always a death knell. And unlike Dizzy and Mr. Wurm, at least Justin Dunn will get another crack at things. Let’s hope things go better today.

1: Long, LF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Nola, 1B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Lewis, RF
6: Murphy, C
7: Gordon, 2B
8: Moore, CF
9/SP: Dunn/Milone

The big, hopeful, news of the day is that the Arizona Fall League kicks off down in, uhhhh, Arizona at 6:30. This high-level winter/fall-ball routinely collects some of the biggest prospect names, and has been a proving ground for future big-leaguers for well over a decade. This was a great first test for guys like Dustin Ackley and Clint Nageotte, but also a lot of players who went on to great things, from Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Kemp, and Howie Kendrick in the early days to Mike Trout and Bryce Harper in 2011 to Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Nico Hoerner last year. The M’s group is, without a doubt, the most heralded group of prospects they’ve assigned to the AFL ever. The group is co-headlined by the M’s top prospects, Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. Rounding out the position players are 3B Joe Rizzo and IF/UTIL Jose Caballero. It’s hard to evaluate pitching in the AFL at times, but the M’s are sending an intriguing group including hard-throwing RP Ray Kerr, sidearming multi-inning guy/potential starter Penn Murfee, lefty Aaron Fletcher (part of the Elias/Strickland deal with Washington), and strikeout maven Sam Delaplane. Murfee gets the start for the Peoria Javelinas tonight against Salt River, where he’ll be opposed by former M’s prospect Nick Neidert, now in the Marlins organization.* The Rafters have several big-time prospects, like 1B Seth Beer of the D’Backs and SS Royce Lewis of the Twins. 18 year-old uberprospect Wander Franco doesn’t seem to be in the AFL, but another Rays IF, Vidal Brujan, will be. Joey Bart, Forrest Whitley, Jo Adell, too. It’s a pretty big deal. Go Javelinas!

* Prospects, man. The M’s sent several pitching prospects (and other prospects) to Miami for both David Phelps and then Dee Gordon. Of these, Neidert seemed the most polished, while Robert Dugger was a relatively unknown pop-up prospect and Pablo Lopez didn’t have the prospect cache. Of course, now Lopez has been a relatively successful starter for a while, and Dugger’s made a few starts for the Marlins, while Neidert went sideways this year in AA/AAA.


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