The finest of the 1800 pitchers still left out of the Hall of Fame, McCormick was a finer pitcher than many of his Hall of Fame peers. Where the Hall of Fame gentlemen outperformed Jim was in the wins department, but Jim’s 264 career victories are no small potatoes. Unlike many of the peers, who pitched longer but weren’t necessarily better, Jim didn’t notch 300 wins.
Jim made his debut in 1878 with the Indianapolis Blues, posting a 1.69 ERA – second best in the National League. He caught on as player/manager of the lowly Cleveland Blues in 1879 and started 60 of the team’s games (McCormick was one of only two pitchers on the Blues roster). He reached stardom the following season, pacing the National League with 45 wins, 74 games started, 72 complete games and 657 innings pitched. His 1.85 ERA was good for fifth best in the circuit.
After his monster year in 1880, he won 26 games in ’81 while leading the league with 57 complete games. His 526 innings were second in the league. Many pitchers during this period enjoyed short careers. McCormick, who only pitched ten years, was somewhat of an anomaly. There weren’t many Tim Keefe or John Clarksons running around – men who could work heavy loads and still dominate – but McCormick was one of them. He had a tremendous 1882 campaign, leading the NL with 36 wins, 67 games started, 65 complete games and 595 innings worked.
He didn’t toss as many innings in 1883, but he was just as dominant. Jim won 28 games with a league best .700 winning percentage. His 1.84 ERA also topped the league and when he defected to the Union Association in 1884, his 1.54 ERA was tops in that circuit. After the Union Association folded, Jim returned to the National League but with a poor Providence Grays team. He was saved from the doldrums of the Grays early in the season when he was dealt to the Chicago White Stockings where he posted a 20-4 record.
He became a 30 game winner again in 1886 with Chicago, posting a 31-11 mark (good for a .738 winning percentage). But with five 500+ inning seasons under his belt, McCormick was essentially done in 1887 when he struggled through his final Major League campaign for Pittsburgh.
Pitching has always given Hall of Fame voters fits: they tend to focus on a pitcher’s win totals and discard his other stats. McCormick was a more valuable pitcher than many of his enshrined contemporaries. The below figures prove this.
Hits allowed per inning: McCormick (0.957); Pud Galvin (1.069); Hoss Radbourn (0.956); Mickey Welch (0.957) and Kid Nichols (0.971).
Strikeout to walk ratio: McCormick (2.28 to 1); John Clarkson (1.66 to 1); Galvin (2.41 to 1); Radbourn (2.09 to 1); Welch (1.43 to 1) and Nichols (1.47 to 1).
Jim McCormick also has more career wins than peers Amos Rusie and Vic Willis and his career ERA is lower than every enshrined 1800’s pitcher with the exception of Monte Ward – who pitched in 1,813 fewer innings than Jim, I should add.
Jim McCormick’s career stats: W 264/L 214/PCT .552/G 492/CG 466/IP 4,275/H 4,092/BB 749/SO 1,704/ERA 2.49