On Sunday, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joel Pineiro was looking to continue his good pitching and help secure the team victory that often results. The 30-year-old right-hander came into his start at Pittsburgh with his last eight decisions having been wins, with two no-decisions.
The Cardinals had won Pineiro’s last 11 starts and 12 of his last 13. Until the sixth inning, Pineiro looked to be on the way to his 15th victory of the season. That would have tied his teammate Chris Carpenter for the second-highest total in the National League behind teammate Adam Wainwright’s 17.
However, Pineiro stumbled, yielding three earned runs to tie the game. The free agent-to-be left the mound Sunday with a no-decision in a contest the Cardinals eventually lost in the bottom of the ninth inning.
What a difference a year makes. In 2008, Kyle Lohse was the only member of the Cardinals staff to log 15 victories. The 2007 club did not have even one and Carpenter was alone reaching that level in 2006.
With Pineiro’s next victory, the 2009 Cardinals will join a select group of just 20 past St. Louis clubs since at least 1901 with three or more 15-game winners in that given season.
Only twice during that time had four Cardinals pitchers won 15 or more games, with the most recent occurrence having been in 2004. Carpenter was joined by Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan and Matt Morris that year.
The next season, the 2005 club was the last to feature three 15-game winners in Carpenter, Suppan and Mark Mulder. While there were many such campaigns in the first half of the 20th century, it happened just once between 1969 and 2000, in 1985.
In terms of the club having multiple 20-game winners in a single season with a third starter having at least 15 wins, that occurred just three times, including in consecutive seasons.
In 1927 and 1928, Jesse “Pop” Haines reached the 20-win plateau, joined by Grover Cleveland Alexander the first year and Bill Sherdel the second. They each reached at least 16 the other year. The 1985 Cardinals featured a pair of 21-game winners in Joaquin Andujar and John Tudor as Danny Cox added 18.
As individuals, Bob Gibson, Harry Brecheen, Dizzy Dean and Bill Hallahan were part of this feat in three different seasons, tied for the most years of any pitcher in club history. Carpenter will join them here in 2009 with his third – once Pineiro secures his 15th victory, that is.
Three or more 15-game winners in a single season, Cardinals, 1901-2009
* not yet qualified
Looking at the winning percentage of these top three pitchers in the years in question, we see the current trio ranks third with victories in 70.8 percent of their decisions. When they qualifiy, they would be placed only behind the strong World War II clubs of 1944 and 1945 at 72 percent each.
Winning percentage, three or more 15-game winners in a single season, Cardinals, 1901-2009
* not yet qualified.
Thanks to Tom Orf for the historical data.