Jan 14, 2013

Stat Anomaly: 20 Losses, Art "Hard Luck" Houtteman in 1952

It looked so bucolic in 1952 for Art Houtteman.  The sun gave light to the bright backdrop of the azure sky. He was back from missing the 1951 season due to military service; what could be better than looking forward to a season of baseball after such an experience?  He had his whole career in front of him; he was 24 years old, his previous season in the bigs in 1950 resulted in a 19-12 record with a league leading 4 shutouts, what could happen?

But this sunny optimism belies the almost tragedy that had already befallen Art "Hard Luck" Houtteman in his career to that point.  He started his career as a 17 year old in 1945 and did not pitch well enough to make the postseason roster of the World Series winning Tigers.  He never won a World Series in his career; though he did pitch in one for the 1954 Indians.  In 1947, he began the season in the minors, but he began starting ballgames in August, finishing with 8 starts, 6 wins, 7 complete games, and 3 shutouts.

The next year is when he earned his nickname; he was 2-16 with a 4.66 ERA, with the two wins sandwiched  around two 8 game losing streaks.  His teammates chalked up to a series of bad luck and seeing eye singles given his pedigree as a top ranked prospect.

The beginning of 1949 had a nearly tragic accident occur to him.  He nearly died in a car accident during spring training, fracturing his skull.  He was back in the rotation by the end of May and ended up earning MVP votes in an impressive season.  He also had a noteworthy season in 1950.

1951 was spent drafted into the military, but probably because of his skull fracture from 1949, he could not be on the field.  He spent nearly 11 months in a military hospital before being discharged.

His stuff was still there when 1952 dawned; he had his lucky uniform number on.....and nothing worked.  He pitched a one hitter in April, unluckily allowing the hit in the 9th inning, but otherwise his performance was not up to his previous standards, allowing 4 runs or more in 12 of his 17 starts, going 3-11 with a 5.13 ERA.

At this point, he was pulled from the regular rotation and became a spot starter, getting irregular work.  He did not excel in general, though he pitched 3 complete game victories (including one shutout).  He finished 8-20 with a 4.36 ERA, 109 K in 221 innings and 10 complete games.  Ironically, his WHIP was a career low 1.28, so maybe it was hard luck that year after all.

1 comment:

Carl Crawford Cards said...

As a stat, Ws can be all about luck. For a guy from the '50s, that's a harsh was to go!