When discussing the Cleveland Spiders (and those Cleveland teams that came before them) it’s always necessary to bring up the pitchers that made them great. We’ve already covered the hitters, but they can’t compare to this list that includes the greatest pitcher in baseball history and a player who averaged more than 500 innings per season while playing in Cleveland. The early days of baseball were famous for their fantastic pitchers and the Spiders were no different. Here are the top ten.
10. John Harkins: 1884 Blues
Harkins only played one season for the Blues, but was something no one else was at the time, a strike out pitcher. He had a pre-1901 Cleveland record 4.4 K/9 and 192 strike outs overall. In 1884 he combined with the number two pitcher to throw 750 of the team’s 994 total innings.
9. John Clarkson: 1892-1894 Spiders
Clarkson was the number three starter from 92 through 94, finishing out the regular rotation. The 1892 season was his high point as the top four starters all had ERAs under 2.60 and Clarkson himself had the third best single season ERA in Spiders history.
8. Jack Powell: 1897-1898
Powell is the first of three players to have their final year in 1898, despite the fact that the last year of the Spiders was in 1899. All three of these players were part of the travesty when the Robison brothers traded the entire roster to the St. Louis Perfectos that they also owned. In the two years Powell did play for the Spiders, he won 41 of his 87 games played. Of his 81 starts, he completed 71 and held an ERA of just 3.78.
7. Cinders O’Brien: 1888-1890 Blues, Spiders & Infants
O’Brien was a great starter for three seasons at the end of the 1880’s. He started in 96 games and completed 91, keeping an impressive 3.69 ERA and a .252 BAA (second in team history). His strike out numbers were also great for the day with 3.4 K/9 and 311 total, fifth in club history. This was despite pitching around 2,000 less innings than the leaders.
6. Hugh Daily: 1883, 1887 Blues
Daily didn’t play long in Cleveland, but was very impressive in the second to last season with the National League Cleveland Blues and the first season of the American Association Blues. In just two seasons he still threw more than 500 innings and held an ERA of 2.76, the second best in Spiders/Blues history.
5. Ed Beatin: 1889-1891 Spiders
There is a big break between the number four and number five pitchers on this list, going from 821 innings by Beatin to over 1,000 for every pitcher yet to be named. Impressively, Beatin completed 90 of 94 starts, allowing him to accumulate so many innings in just two full seasons.
4. Jersey Bakley: 1888-1890 Blues, Spiders & Infants
Bakley didn’t rack up the wins of some of the players listed above him, but deserves credit for being the ace on a few different really poor teams. His 1888 season was his most impressive with 532 innings and a 2.98 ERA with 25 wins in 61 starts, but he never threw less than 300 innings in a season and finished with an impressive 3.39 career ERA.
3. Nig Cuppy: 1892-1898 Spiders
Cuppy gave the Spiders a veritable number two starter from 1892 through 1896. Over that span he averaged 330 innings per seasons. In his career he ranks in the top five in almost every statistic, including his .635 winning percent and 139 wins.
2. Jim McCormick: 1879-1884 Blues
McCormick played just at the onset of professional baseball and did things that are unfathomable in today’s game. While he didn’t rack up quite the wins as the number one player, his durability has the be among the most prodigious in baseball history. In six seasons he threw over 3,000 innings including a record 657.2 in 1880. He set club records for wins (45), strike outs (260) and starts (74) that season as well. Probably most impressive was that he wasn’t just some innings eater. His 2.28 career ERA is the best by any Cleveland player ever. Not only was he the best player of his time, he was just about the only pitcher, throwing 77% of the Blues innings from 1879 through 1882.
1. Cy Young: 1890-1898 Spiders
Denton True Young was so good that the award for the best pitcher in the league is still named after him. He still holds records for wins, losses, complete games and innings and it all started with the Spiders. He played his first nine years in Cleveland where he won almost half his 511 games. In addition to his MLB records, Young holds the Spiders records for wins, starts, shut outs and innings. Even while playing more than anyone else, he still came in fourth in qualifying ERA among Spiders and Blues.
Borderline: Zeke Wilson, Lee Viau, Henry Gruber, Bobby Wallace, George Davies