Introducing… Paul Derringer

One of the National League’s finest pitchers during the 1930s, Oom Paul was a workhorse who had four twenty-win seasons and a pair of 300 innings pitched campaigns.  The pack mule only pitched one season in the Major Leagues in which he didn’t reach a double-digit total in complete games.

Derringer exploded on the scene in 1931, leading the National League with a .692 winning percentage as a rookie for the Cardinals.  The freshman right hander finished fourth in the senior circuit in the strikeout department and was given a handful of MVP votes by the men who filled out  said ballots.  He regressed mightily the following year as too many of his pitches met with lumber.  The Cardinals lost interest in the lad early in 1933 and swapped him to Cincinnati where he’d enjoy his better years.

Traded to the Reds with Sparky Adams and Fish Hook Stout, Oom Paul suffered in Cincinnati initially.  The Reds had a futile offense which forced Derringer to lead the NL in losses despite a flattering ERA of 3.30.  The Reds punchless offense kept Paul from winning games he ordinarily would have won with better teams.  But despite the Reds lackluster offense, Oom Paul established himself as the staff ace in 1934 when he led Cincy moundsmen in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts.

The Reds were still a subpar team in 1935 but that didn’t keep Derringer from notching his first 20-win campaign.  Paul won 22 games for the Reds in ’35 with Gene Schott finishing second on the club with eight victories.  The following year, knowing that Oom Paul was the ace up his sleeve, skipper Chuck Dressen used Derringer in a league best 51 games; 37 starts.  Paul finished fifth in the senior circuit with 121 strikeouts.

In 1938, the Reds started to turn things around under Hall of Fame skipper Bill McKechnie.  McKechnie called his All-Star pitcher to work a league best 307 innings.  Oom Paul also led the NL in complete games and was the runner-up in the wins department with 21.  Derringer, who could strike the pimple on a gnat’s nose with his pitches, was one of the finest pitchers for accuracy of his time.  Oom Paul issued an average of just 0.160 walks per inning in ’38 while Hall of Fame peers Carl Hubbell (0.184), Red Ruffing (0.332) and Lefty Gomez (0.414) all had less marksmanship abilities than the Cincinnati man.

Derringer’s finest year may have been his 1939 campaign in which he pitched the Reds to a World Series with his remarkable 25-7 record.  Paul led the NL with a .781 winning percentage while fashioning a 2.93 ERA and tallying 128 strikeouts compared to just 35 walks.  Oom Paul looked swell in the Fall Classic, keeping his ERA at a trim 2.35, but he failed to win either of his starts.  But he would get redemption the next year.

Derringer pitched the Reds to another pennant in 1940, leading the NL with 37 starts.  named to the fourth of his six career All-Star teams, Oom Paul notched his fourth 20-win season while leading his Reds to a World Series showdown with the Tigers of Detroit.  Unable to get a win in ’39 against the Bronx Bombers, Paul won a pair of games against the Tigers, bringing a title to Ohio with his Game 7 victory.

Derringer continued to pitch well on into the 1940s and due to his advanced age, was able to play through World War II.  After going 10-11 for the Reds in 1942, his contract was purchased by the Cubs before the start of the 1943 season.  Oom Paul pitched for the Cubbies through 1945, seeing his last Major League action in the 1945 World Series.

THE NUMBERS

W 223/L 212/PCT .513/G 579/CG 251/IP 3,646/H 3,912/BB 761/SO 1,507/SHO 32/ERA 3.46

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2 comments
  1. brettkiser said:

    Although Derringer has a high innings pitched total, his career winning percentage isn’t very flattering. He toiled on some poor clubs before the Reds caught fire in the late 1930s. 223 career wins is a decent enough total, but Paul was very hittable despite a rather low ERA for the time he played. His tremendous accuracy does help his cause but the red flags previously mentioned are enough to keep him wanting for enshrinement. His HOF chances are below average.

  2. Al said:

    If one believes in FIP, then I think Derringer needs to be taken much more seriously. From 1932 to 1942, Derringer pitched the most innings and had the 2nd best weighted average FIP (3.31 to Dizzy Dean’s 3.41). He pitched 900+ more innings than Dean over that stretch, so one can argue Derringer was easily the best pitcher during his 11-year prime.

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