Introducing… Earl Whitehill

Whitehill, a southpaw from Cedar Rapids, spent the bulk of his career with the Detroit Tigers.  He made his debut in the day of Cobb and ended his playing days just before World War II.  An innings-eater deluxe, Earl often worked 240 innings a season.  Over the course of his career he posted twelve 200+ innings pitched seasons.  Earl won 218 games in his career but had a rather high ERA.  One must note that Whitehill pitched during the Lively Ball Era when runs were scored at a record pace and middling players were hitting .300.

Whitehill made his debut with the Cobb-led Tigers on 1923 and looked sharp in eight outings.  The southpaw pitched 33 innings and only surrendered 22 hits.  That strong showing allowed him to work regularly the following season and he responded with a 17-9 record on a 3.86 ERA.  After a rough season in 1925 Earl rebounded with a 16-win season in ’26.  He worked 252 innings that year and only surrendered seven homeruns.  This was a time when power numbers were escalating all over baseball but Whitehill kept the ball in the yard.  The next year he only coughed up four gopher balls while exceeding 230 innings.

After back-to-back losing seasons in 1928 and ’29, Earl notched 17 victories for the Tigers in 1930.  He completed 16 of his starts that year but proved a better competitor the following season when he posted 22 complete games in 1931.  In his tenth year with the Tigers in 1932, Whitehill finished third in the American League in the shutouts department but he had yet to see World Series action.  All that changed the following year.  After ten seasons in Motown, Earl made his first and only Fall Classic appearance but it came after a deal that sent him to the Senators.  Traded to Washington for the first great relief pitched in baseball history, Firpo Marberry, Earl helped Washington win the AL pennant.

Not only did Whitehill make his lone World Series appearance in 1933 but the southpaw also enjoyed his greatest season.  He went 22-8 for the Senators on a nifty 3.33 ERA.  He paced the junior circuit in games started and completed 19 of his starts.  He only pitched in one game in the 1933 World Series but it was a terrific outing.  Earl turned back the Giants with a complete game five-hit shutout.  However good Whitehill was, the Giants were better and won the title.  After his greatest campaign Earl reverted back to his usual self in 1934 when he posted an ERA above 4.00 and had a record just a hair above .500. 

Whitehill finished third in the American League with 279 innings pitched in 1935.  He fashioned a 14-13 worksheet for the Senators and for the fifth straight season he faced over 1,000 batters.  Although he had a winning record (14-11) in 1936, his ERA climbed to 4.87 and it was the last year he would exceed 200 innings of work.  Washington sent Earl to Cleveland in a three-team deal and he went 8-8 as a spot starter/long relief pitcher.  As a 39-year-old in 1938 he had his last winning season when he went 9-8 for the Tribe.  He spent one final year with the Cubs before hanging up his spikes.

THE NUMBERS

W 218/L 185/PCT .541/ERA 4.36/G 541/CG 226/SHO 16/IP 3,565/H 3,917/BB 1,431/SO 1,350

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