A Biography in 1,000 Players No. 114 Hoyt Wilhelm (Number 3 Relief Pitcher)

I like knuckleball pitchers a lot. They are fun to watch. Sometimes the hitters get so frustrated. It is hard to do as these hitters have such skill. Still when you have a pitch no one knows where it is going, including the guy who threw it, it is going to cause a lot of confusion. I just glanced at Wilhelm’s FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). It is half a run higher than his actual earn run average. That usually mean Wilhelm was very lucky in his career. I looked at Phil Niekro. His FIP is a third of a run higher than his ERA, also very lucky. I wonder if FIP is missing something with knuckleball pitchers and they are better than FIP ERA shows. It would be an interesting study.

Hoyt Wilhelm was the first pitcher to pitch in 1,000 games. In 1968 Wilhelm broke Cy Young’s record of 906 games. Of course, Young was a starter. Now Wilhelm is 6th on the all-time list, but a lot of the pitchers around him through less innings.

Wilhelm pitched in the early days of relief pitchers when they were still trying test how much a relief pitcher could throw. Wilhelm survived because his out pitch was the knuckleball which puts less strain on the arm.

In his rookie year Wilhelm barely qualified for the Earned Run Average title. He made it by five innings. He won the title though. In 1958 he pitched for Cleveland and they gave him a few starts. He was then traded to Baltimore and made a few more. The next year he became a starter. He than led the league in ERA for the second time. However, he only started a few more games in his career after that. He might have remained a starter, but Wilhelm was already 36 in 1959 and the Orioles had some good young starters they wanted to try.

That was one problem for Wilhelm he was 29 years old when he came in the league. He was 49 when he retired and looked older. That was what I remembered most about him. Wow, this guy is old. Just look at him. Of course, I was 13 when he retired. I just saw him on tape. He looked old at the end of his career. However, he was one hell of a pitcher.

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Author: Douglas Byzewski

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