By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The magic number for starting pitchers to secure automatic entry to the National Baseball Hall of Fame used to be 300 wins.
At least that’s what it was during the era when Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) played.
That also explains, in part, why Jenkins, who amassed 284 wins in 19 big league seasons between 1965 and 1983, had to wait until his third year of eligibility to be elected.
But as we know, Jenkins suited up for a lot of mediocre Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers teams over the course of his career. In fact, he never had the opportunity to pitch in the post-season.
So one question that has been rumbling around in my head for several years is: should Jenkins have been a 300-game winner?
And after spending a considerable amount of time reviewing the game logs of all of Jenkins’ MLB starts on Baseball Reference, I can conclude that the answer is a resounding yes.
With greater run support – especially in his early years with the Cubs – the durable right-hander would’ve definitely surpassed the 300-win mark.
Here are some highlights of my research:
– Jenkins started and pitched at least six innings in 22 MLB games where his teams lost either 1-0 or 2-0. His record in those games was 0-21 with one no decision.
– In nine of those contests, he pitched a complete game. In 11 others, he tossed seven or more innings and twice he toed the rubber for six innings.
– In 1968 alone, Jenkins started six games that the Cubs lost 1-0 – including three within a one-month span (June 16 to July 11).
– In his start on June 16, 1968, he hurled 10 scoreless innings and allowed just five hits and struck out seven, but had to settle for a no-decision. The Atlanta Braves would then score a run in the 11th off Cubs reliever Chuck Hartenstein to win 1-0.
– Jenkins also started 14 MLB games where his team lost 2-1. In eight of those starts, he tossed a complete game and in five others he hurled seven or more innings.
– In a pair of those 2-1 losses, he had two of his highest single-game strikeout performances. On June 27, 1970, he pitched a complete game for the Cubs against the Pittsburgh Pirates and struck out a career-high 14 batters, but was saddled with a tough-luck loss. Amazingly, just over 10 years later, on July 15, 1980, at the age of 37, he struck out 13 Chicago White Sox in an eight-inning start for the Rangers.
– Jenkins also pitched 10 or more innings in a game 14 times in his career. In those games, he had a 5-4 record with five no-decisions.
– His biggest tough-luck, extra-inning performance came on July 22, 1973 while he was pitching for the Cubs against the San Francisco Giants,. In that game, he hurled 12 innings and permitted just four hits and one run, while striking out six. Unfortunately for him, the Giants would score three runs off reliever Bob Locker in the 13th inning to secure a 4-1 victory.