Monday, January 19, 2009

Missouri baseball

I'm a firm believer in that where you're from impacts your life. As such, I've created a couple of websites over the years devotes to players from a particular area: Delaware Baseball and Hawaii Baseball.

I'm also the current chair of the Society for American Baseball Research's (SABR) Minor League Committee. In this capacity I received an e-mail last week from the Sport Information Director for Washington State University, Craig Lawson. He has compiled the statistics for all 229 Washington State alumni who have gone on to play professional ball. 31 of those have reached the major leagues. Given that 35 players born in Hawaii and 48 born in Delaware have played in the major leagues, to have that many from a single school, one that (at least to me) isn't a baseball powerhouse, is mighty impressive.

That led me to want to write about major leaguers who have attended Missouri schools for today's post (and next weeks' baseball post, I think). Why Missouri? Because a good number of my friends who are into baseball live in Missouri and have either attended, work for, or at least know of these schools. And also, why not? It's my blog :)

Using Baseball Reference, I looked at the 87 players denoted as having attended Missouri schools and picked an All-Star team of 25 players from it. I'll look at the pitchers today. By the way, the college data used by Baseball Reference comes from SABR. If you're into baseball research or history, you really should be part of SABR.

First up, the rotation:

Sonny Siebert - University of Missouri. Well you can tell right away we're not dealing with Texas A&M when the ace of the rotation is "just" a two-time All-Star. Siebert pitched a season for Missouri and then signed with the Cleveland Indians. He would post double digits in victories for the Indians four times and the Red Sox four times in a 12 year major league career. His second season in the majors was his best. Siebert went 16-8 with 191 strikeouts in 188.2 innings. His 2.43 ERA was third in the league and he led the league in strikeouts to walk percentage as he issued just 46 free passes.

The number two man in our rotation is there primarily based on his rookie season. Lou Fette reached the majors with the Boston Braves in 1937. The 30-year old pitcher went 20-10 with a 2.88 ERA and finished 5th in the National League in MVP voting. His teammate and fellow elder rookie (he was 33) Jim Turner outscored him by one point in the balloting by posting a 20-11 record and a 2.38 ERA. Despite having two twenty game winners on the staff, the Braves finished in the bottom half of the standings, going 39-52 with other pitchers getting the decision. The side-arming Fette, who attended Missouri Valley College, was an all-star in 1939 then injured his arm and was never able to find his form again. Despite pitching only a fraction of a season in 1939, he led the league with six shutouts.

A pair of Truman State University pitchers take the next two spots in the rotation; Al Nipper and Bruce Berenyi. Berenyi was the first of the two to reach the majors. The Cincinnati Reds drafted him in the first round of the 1976 draft following a college season where he tied a Division II record by striking out 21 batters in a game. After leading the American Association in strikeouts in 1979 and 1980 the Reds brought him to the big leagues in 1980. He started just six games but returned in 1981 to post a successful season, finishing 4th in the Rookie of the Year balloting. Berenyi posted some decent seasons as a starter despite struggling with control. The Reds sent him to the Mets for a trio of minor leaguers in 1984. Berenyi injured his rotator cuff and was only able to manage 53 more innings after the 1984 season.

Nipper did not have the dazzling performances Berenyi did as a collegiate and minor league player but he also had a successful rookie season. Nipper was 11-6 with a 3.89 ERA for the Red Sox in 1984 and finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year voting. A series of injuries plagued Nipper and he never really matched his rookie campaign. He was traded to the Cubs before the 1988 season but was released after a lackluster, injury-filled season. Nipper worked on developing a knuckleball and returned to the majors in 1990 with the Indians. He could only hang on for nine games and then he was released. he spent much of the 1990's as a pitching coach.

The last spot in the rotation goes to an active pitcher, Shawn Marcum. The Missouri State pitcher has been developing into a top pitcher with the Toronto Blue Jays. The 26 year old has shown a lot of potential and could very well move up the ranks of Missouri-educated pitchers.

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