Bob Feller (1918-2010)

Sad news tonight as Bob Feller has passed away at the age of 92. Others will undoubtedly share fond stories and memories of Feller the human being, but here’s the statistical spin on one of the game’s greatest pitchers.

During Feller’s 18 season career – interrupted for the 1942-1944 seasons due to his military commitments – he tossed 3,827 innings while striking out 6.33 batters per nine innings. A modest rate in today’s league, but back then, Feller’s ratio led pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched, and finished third among pitchers with at least 500 innings pitched – with Vinegar Bend Mizell and Harvey Haddix topping him by under a batter per inning pitched.

He led the American League in Wins Above Replacement two times (1939 and 1940) and finished 128th overall for his career with more than 63. He finished first or second in American League Pitcher WAR six times – every season from 1938 through 1941, and upon his return 1946 and 1947. The league’s strikeout (counting) from 1938-1941 and 1946-1948; Feller’s career 2,581 strikeouts rank 26th overall even today.

Feller was the youngest player going in the American League during the 1936 and 1937 seasons (he was 17 and 18), and the ninth oldest in 1956 (he was 37). A lifelong member of the Cleveland Indians, Feller finished in the top five of MVP voting four times; he won 266 games; pitched well enough to amass a career ERA of 3.25 and a career FIP of 3.48 and entered the Hall of Fame in 1962. All of this to say that Feller knew how to throw a baseball by batters in a more powerful and cunning manner than most pitchers who have entertained this game.

Losing a loved one during the holiday season is an unenviable reality of life for the folks around Feller tonight. Please keep those people in your thoughts during their time of mourning.




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29 Responses to “Bob Feller (1918-2010)”

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  1. Greg says:

    In 1946, Feller was a 10.1 WAR player, notching a silly 151 ERA+ over 371.1 innings and striking out a career-high 8.4 batters per 9.

    In 1945, he was a gun captain on the USS Alabama in Japanese waters.

    RIP to the Heater from Van Meter.

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    • Sal Bando says:

      2.14 FIP over 371.1 IP! Am I correct in assuming that would be like 16+ WAR based on whatever formula Fangraphs uses for contemporary pitchers? Obviously the game has changed, still a ridiculous season though.

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  2. CircleChange11 says:

    IIRC, Feller was pitching and threw what the batter felt was a ball. He asked the ump, “That was a strike?” to which the reply was “sounded like it”.

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  3. Ian says:

    RIP, Bob. Here’s hoping he’s playing ball again.

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  4. Seth says:

    This was a nice little tribute.

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  5. Jason T says:

    Say ‘hi’ to Mr. Niehaus for us, Bob. Godspeed.

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  6. Karma says:

    This is a sad day. He was the only Icon that Indians actually had. We lost a good one in Cleveland.

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  7. Tigerdog says:

    They don’t make em like they used to!
    1946: 26- 15, 2.18 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.1 WAR (actually after the WAR)
    42 starts, 36 complete games, 10 shutouts,
    371 Innings, 348 K’s,
    6 relief appearances, 4 saves,

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  8. Free DJK says:

    No disrepect to his career, but Bob Feller the human being was a prick.

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  9. Mike says:

    Setting aside Feller’s amazing career and thanking him for his service to our country, it was sad listening to an old, bitter man constantly harp on modern-day players for making too much money. It’s tough when people are not able to see that the business of baseball isn’t the same today as it was in the 40s and 50s — perhaps he would have liked the owners to keep more money in their own pockets and tie players to their teams forever like in the “good old days.” May he rest in peace, but let’s make sure we have a full picture of the man.

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  10. pft says:

    It’s interesting to see how Fellers numbers declined once the color barrier was broken in 1948. I always discount ball players numbers pre-1948 since MLB was not much better than Triple A ball with the reduced talent pool.

    Fellers K rate was not that great especially after 1948 and he walked a bunch of guys. His HR rate looks ok, but then you consider he pitched in a park where CF was 470 ft.

    Might be a # 3 starter today at best.

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    • Ben says:

      He also turned 30 in 1948. He wouldn’t be the first pitcher to see a natural decline after turning 30. And he lost three and half seasons in his prime to go fight a war, which skews his career-average metrics. Finally, he had a career ERA+ (which is park adjusted) of 122, including three seasons over 150.

      I don’t deny that the color barrier was obviously wrong and that white players pre-1948 had an advantage. But by any reasonable standard, Bob Feller was a #1 starter and Hall of Fame pitcher.

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    • Ryan says:

      Feller injured a muscle in his back in 1947, and never had the same fastball after that. That’s why he wasn’t as effective from 1948 onwards.

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    • Rickey Henderson says:

      Because once the color line was broken there was just a huge influx of black and latin players right? Oh wait, wrong. You have some teams like Boston and New York (who were some of the best around) that didn’t get a black player into their lineup until the mid 1950s. Larry Doby, one of the few black players to even make an immediate impact was on Feller’s own team. And the Dodgers, who had the biggest influx of black players was in the opposite league and never played Feller’s Indians.

      Maybe his decline was due to the normal wear and tear on pitchers. Feller in the 5 seasons before his decline in ’48 (a year he led the league in K’s and starts) he was averaging WELL over 300 innings pitched. In 1947, Feller threw 80 more innings then the #2 guy in all of ML baseball in Hal Newhouser. In ’48, he still lead the majors in IP and strikeouts. The guy was a horse, so MAYBE that had something to do with his decline? You think? I always discount stupid remarks that players that played before the color barrier somehow don’t count. There are statistical advantages to every era of baseball.

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      • Ryan says:

        Absolutely. Feller was a horse in an era of horses who took 4 years off followed by seasons of 371, 299, 280 innings.

        While we can debate the effects of innings and wear and tear and whether we’re “coddling” pitchers today, I think we can all agree that 371 innings is a beastly workload for a flamethrower.

        By any standard, Feller is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

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    • JR says:

      Babe Ruth was nothing more than a fat old man, with little-girl legs

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  11. matt1101 says:

    RIP Feller.

    Check out http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2010/12/rip-bob-feller.html

    A great account of Feller.

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  12. CarlosM7 says:

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  13. JimS says:

    Bob Feller a prick?
    I met Bob on a trip to Cooperstown in 2001. He spent a lot of time there signing autographs at $20 a pop to make at least a little money in his later years; can’t blame him a bit. It wasn’t really busy at the time so my son and I were able to have a conversation with him. He was most gracious and seemed in very good humor to me. I took a picture of him and my son, who was 11 at the time, standing together and I have the print on my desk. The smiles on both their faces seem genuine enough to me. Did he have opinions about today’s game? Sure, but he’s as entitled as anyone. I’ll always have pleasant memories of that day!

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  14. Cidron says:

    Bob was nothin but class. I met him many times, as my father pitched in the same Cleveland rotation as Bob did, and lived in semi close proximity to each other (well, until my father passed last year, and bob this year that is).. Great player, and guy, will be missed. To bad alot of fans nowadays dont even know the guy, or the history of the game to appreciate what the people did before the steroid era on talent alone.

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