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Generation Gap
2005-09-01 22:14
by Mike Carminati

When "King" Felix Hernandez and Randy "Big Unit" Johnson faced off for a 2-0 pitchers' duel in which both went at least seven innings, each struck out seven, and neither gave up more than four hits. Unfortunately, for Hernandez, two of the four hits he allowed were homers.

But aside from what happened on the field, this game represented a passing of the guard, from a 41-year-old, 5-time Cy Young winning, future Hall of Famer to a 19-year-old, flame-throwing kid who has just a handful of major-league starts to his name but is full of potential. It's like that scene at the end of "The Natural" in which Roy Hobbs faces seemingly his former self, a young Pirate pitcher fresh from the farm. And like the aging Robert Redford character, Johnson got the best of the youngster. However, if Hernandez turns into the pitcher that many expect him to become, he'll probably have the last laugh.

Aside from the symbolic meaning of the event, which may not be apparent for another ten or fifteen years, I wondered about something more tangible. I was left contemplating the significance of the age differences of the two starting pitchers. I couldn't remember the last time a pitcher who was 40 or over faced a teenager. So I looked it up…

There were 153 potential matchups prior to this season. This was based on all combinations of a pitcher over 40 and another under 20 who were in the same league in the same season but on different teams and who started at least one game (from 1997-2004, I dropped the league constraint given intraleague baseball).

Using Retrosheet I was able to confirm that there have not been any other such pitching matchups in the last 40 seasons. Before 1966, Retrosheet's data is inconsistent, so the potential pairing prior to that season cannot be fully investigated.

It's a rare thing in baseball to find something that hasn't been done before, but that's what we might have seen the other day. If nothing else we saw pairing that probably hasn't happened in, well, Randy Johnson's lifetime. Isn't that enough?

Here are all the potential matchups in the last forty years, all of which never came to pass:

YrLgOver40AgeUnder20AgeAge Diff
2003NLDavid Cone40Edwin Jackson1921
2003NLJeff Fassero40Edwin Jackson1921
2003MLBDavid Wells40Edwin Jackson1921
2003MLBJamie Moyer40Edwin Jackson1921
2003MLBRoger Clemens40Edwin Jackson1921
2003MLBTerry Mulholland40Edwin Jackson1921
1999NLOrel Hershiser40Rick Ankiel1921
1999MLBTom Candiotti41Rick Ankiel1922
1999ALTom Candiotti41Matt Riley1922
1999MLBOrel Hershiser40Matt Riley1921
1991ALCharlie Hough43Todd Van Poppel1924
1991ALNolan Ryan44Todd Van Poppel1925
1989ALJerry Reuss40Wilson Alvarez1921
1989ALTommy John46Wilson Alvarez1927
1985ALDon Sutton40Ed Correa1921
1985ALJoe Niekro40Ed Correa1921
1985ALPhil Niekro46Ed Correa1927
1985ALTommy John42Ed Correa1923
1984ALTommy John41Jose Rijo1922
1984NLJerry Koosman41Dwight Gooden1922
1982ALLuis Tiant41Edwin Nunez1922
1980NLJim Kaat41Mark Davis1922
1980NLPhil Niekro41Mark Davis1922
1979ALJim Kaat40Bruce Robbins1921
1979ALJim Kaat40Mike Morgan1921
1965ALSatchel Paige58Gil Blanco1939
1965ALSatchel Paige58Jim Palmer1939
1965ALSatchel Paige58Joe Coleman1840

Here are the rest of the potential matchups:

YrLgOver40AgeUnder20AgeAge Diff
1965NLWarren Spahn44Larry Dierker1826
1964NLWarren Spahn43Billy McCool1924
1964NLWarren Spahn43Larry Dierker1726
1964NLWarren Spahn43Rick Wise1825
1963ALEarly Wynn43Denny McLain1924
1963ALEarly Wynn43Jerry Stephenson1924
1963ALEarly Wynn43Wally Bunker1825
1963ALHoyt Wilhelm40Denny McLain1921
1963ALHoyt Wilhelm40Jerry Stephenson1921
1963ALHoyt Wilhelm40Wally Bunker1822
1963NLWarren Spahn42Chris Zachary1923
1963NLWarren Spahn42Dick Calmus1923
1963NLWarren Spahn42Jay Dahl1725
1963NLWarren Spahn42Marcelino Lopez1923
1962ALEarly Wynn42Bobby Darwin1923
1962ALEarly Wynn42Dave McNally1923
1962ALEarly Wynn42Jack Jenkins1923
1962ALEarly Wynn42Jim Manning1824
1962ALEarly Wynn42Sam McDowell1923
1962NLDiomedes Olivo43Joe Moeller1924
1962NLWarren Spahn41Joe Moeller1922
1961ALEarly Wynn41Bob Sprout1922
1961ALEarly Wynn41Lew Krausse1823
1961ALEarly Wynn41Sam McDowell1823
1961ALEarly Wynn41Wilbur Wood1922
1959NLElmer Singleton41Ed Keegan1922
1958ALMurry Dickson41Milt Pappas1922
1958ALMurry Dickson41Stover McIlwain1823
1958ALSal Maglie41Milt Pappas1922
1958ALSal Maglie41Stover McIlwain1823
1958NLSal Maglie41Dick Ellsworth1823
1958NLSal Maglie41Mike McCormick1922
1957ALSal Maglie40Jerry Walker1822
1957ALSal Maglie40Jim Derrington1723
1957ALVirgil Trucks40Jerry Walker1822
1957ALVirgil Trucks40Jim Derrington1723
1957NLMurry Dickson40Mike McCormick1822
1957NLSal Maglie40Mike McCormick1822
1957NLSal Maglie40Von McDaniel1822
1954ALConnie Marrero43Bob Miller1825
1953ALBobo Newsom45Bob Miller1728
1953ALConnie Marrero42Bob Miller1725
1953ALSatchel Paige46Bob Miller1729
1952ALBobo Newsom44Bud Black1925
1952ALBobo Newsom44Dick Brodowski1925
1952ALConnie Marrero41Bud Black1922
1952ALConnie Marrero41Dick Brodowski1922
1952ALSatchel Paige45Bud Black1926
1952ALSatchel Paige45Dick Brodowski1926
1951NLDutch Leonard42Bill Koski1923
1949ALSatchel Paige42Chuck Stobbs1923
1949NLDutch Leonard40Johnny Antonelli1921
1949NLRip Sewell42Johnny Antonelli1923
1948NLBobo Newsom40Charlie Bicknell1921
1948NLBobo Newsom40Curt Simmons1921
1948NLFritz Ostermueller40Charlie Bicknell1921
1948NLFritz Ostermueller40Curt Simmons1921
1948NLRip Sewell41Charlie Bicknell1922
1948NLRip Sewell41Curt Simmons1922
1948NLThornton Lee41Charlie Bicknell1922
1948NLThornton Lee41Curt Simmons1922
1947ALRed Ruffing43Art Houtteman1924
1947ALRed Ruffing43Chuck Stobbs1726
1947ALThornton Lee40Art Houtteman1921
1947ALThornton Lee40Chuck Stobbs1723
1947NLRip Sewell40Curt Simmons1822
1947NLSi Johnson40Curt Simmons1822
1946ALJohnny Niggeling42Art Houtteman1824
1946ALRed Ruffing42Art Houtteman1824
1946ALTed Lyons45Art Houtteman1827
1945NLBoom-Boom Beck40Herm Wehmeier1822
1945NLBoom-Boom Beck40Ralph Branca1921
1945NLCurt Davis41Herm Wehmeier1823
1945NLHod Lisenbee46Ralph Branca1927
1944NLCurt Davis40Andy Hansen1921
1944NLCurt Davis40Bob Barthelson1921
1943NLCarl Hubbell40Rex Barney1822
1943NLCarl Hubbell40Rogers McKee1624
1943NLFreddie Fitzsimmons41Rogers McKee1625
1942ALJoe Heving41Lou Bevil1922
1942ALTed Lyons41Lou Bevil1922
1942NLFreddie Fitzsimmons40Andy Lapihuska1921
1940ALLefty Grove40Hal Newhouser1921
1939ALFred Johnson45Early Wynn1926
1939ALFred Johnson45Fred Hutchinson1926
1939ALFred Johnson45Hal Newhouser1827
1939ALFred Johnson45Walt Masterson1926
1938ALFred Johnson44Bob Feller1925
1937ALRube Walberg40Bob Feller1822
1937ALRube Walberg40Randy Gumpert1921
1936NLBob Smith41Elmer Burkart1922
1936NLJesse Haines42Elmer Burkart1923
1934ALHerb Pennock40Reese Diggs1822
1934ALSam Jones41Reese Diggs1823
1933NLDazzy Vance42Jack Salveson1923
1933NLEppa Rixey42Jack Salveson1923
1931ALRed Faber42Lew Krausse1923
1928ALJack Quinn44Mel Harder1826
1928ALJack Quinn44Pat Simmons1925
1927ALJack Quinn43Josh Billings1924
1925ALJack Quinn41Hank Johnson1922
1925ALJack Quinn41Harry Kelley1922
1925ALJack Quinn41Lefty Willis1922
1925ALVean Gregg40Hank Johnson1921
1925ALVean Gregg40Lefty Willis1921
1925NLBabe Adams43Ed Clough1825
1918ALBill Donovan41Frank Shellenback1922
1918ALBill Donovan41Vic Keen1922
1918ALBill Donovan41William Pierson1922
1918ALNick Altrock41Frank Shellenback1922
1918ALNick Altrock41Vic Keen1922
1918ALNick Altrock41William Pierson1922
1917ALEddie Plank41Walter Anderson1922
1911ALCy Young44Earl Hamilton1925
1910ALCy Young43Dave Skeels1726
1910ALCy Young43Lefty Russell1924
1909ALCy Young42Joe Wood1923
1908ALCy Young41Bill Bailey1922
1907ALCy Young40Bill Bailey1822
1907ALCy Young40Walter Johnson1921
1890AAEd Green40George Nicol1921
1888NLJohn Greening40Ad Gumbert1921
1888NLJohn Greening40George Borchers1921
1888NLJohn Greening40Lev Shreve1921
1888NLJohn Greening40Willard Mains1921
2005-09-02 09:01:49
1.   Cliff Corcoran
Looking at that list of teenage starters, its interesting how few of them went on to Hall of Fame quality careers. Just these five:

Walter Johnson
Bob Feller
Hal Newhouser
Early Wynn
Jim Palmer

I wonder how many Hall of Fame hitters debuted in the big leagues as teenagers. The only one that jumps to mind is Robin Yount. It would be interesting to find out if teenage hitters have better careers than teenage pitchers (the assumption there being that teenage pitchers get overworked and burn out early).

Also, one assumes that players hit the majors as teenagers because great things are expected of them. It would be interesting to see how often those great things actually happen, or if it can be said that these players are being rushed. I know that it's generally true that truly great players hit the majors in their very early 20s (Edgar Martinez being perhaps the only exception), and that the likelihood of a player developing into a Hall of Famer is greater the sooner they hit the bigs (I may be distorting that truism somewhat). But I wonder if that's a trend that reverses itself on the other side of 20.

2005-09-02 10:21:02
2.   Mike Carminati

48 future HoFers played as teenagers, three of whom went into the Hall as managers:

Name category MinOfAge
Al Lopez Manager 19
John McGraw Manager 18
Leo Durocher Manager 19
Christy Mathewson Player 19
Harry Heilmann Player 19
Harmon Killebrew Player 18
Hank Greenberg Player 19
Hal Newhouser Player 18
George Kelly Player 19
George Davis Player 19
Freddie Lindstrom Player 18
Eddie Collins Player 19
Al Kaline Player 18
Don Drysdale Player 19
Jimmie Foxx Player 17
Chief Bender Player 19
Catfish Hunter Player 19
Cap Anson Player 19
Brooks Robinson Player 18
Bobby Doerr Player 19
Bob Feller Player 17
Bill Mazeroski Player 19
Babe Ruth Player 19
Amos Rusie Player 18
Early Wynn Player 19
Nolan Ryan Player 19
Waite Hoyt Player 18
Ty Cobb Player 18
Tris Speaker Player 19
Travis Jackson Player 18
Sandy Koufax Player 19
Sam Crawford Player 19
Rogers Hornsby Player 19
Roger Bresnahan Player 18
Robin Yount Player 18
Herb Pennock Player 18
Pud Galvin Player 18
Jim Palmer Player 19
Nellie Fox Player 19
Mickey Mantle Player 19
Mel Ott Player 17
Johnny Bench Player 19
John Ward Player 18
Joe Morgan Player 19
Joe Kelley Player 19
Joe Cronin Player 19
Walter Johnson Player 19
Ray Schalk Player 19

2005-09-04 20:34:11
3.   Jon Weisman
One that just missed for ya: September 9, 2003, Edwin Jackson (b. September 9, 1983) vs. Randy Johnson (b. September 10, 1963).

Jackson was born in Germany - but unfortunately, the time zone thing works to his disadvantage.

As far as your chart above goes, Jackson was never 19 years old in the majors. His first game was this.

2005-09-05 13:52:55
4.   Mike Carminati

I saw that one but Johnson came out as 39 in my analysis. Jackson registers at 19 because I use 7/1 as the cutoff date (same method as Baseball-Reference, I believe).

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