The Most Fascinating Team in MLB History…the 1930 Phillies

Posted by Johnny Goodtimes, Thu, October 03, 2013 02:45 PM | Comments: 10
Fun Stuff, History, Merchandise

This article was originally published at Philly Sports History by Johnny Goodtimes.

Chuck Klein wearing the Phillies 1925-1932 Fitted Home Hat.

Phillies slugger Chuck Klein

The 1930 Phillies were probably the most fascinating team in MLB history. They hit .315 as a team, the 3rd highest total in MLB history. (Interestingly, the Giants hit .319 that same year to set the record.) They had 1,783 hits that season, still the most in MLB history. The Phils had 5 regulars who batted over .300, including outfielders Chuck Klein and Lefty O’Doul, who both batted over .380. Klein had perhaps the greatest regular season in Phillies history, finishing with a line of .386-40-170, and a slugging percentage of .687 (Miguel Cabrera had a SLG% of .606 last year while winning the Triple Crown). And yet, these Sultans of Swat finished 52-102, 40 games out of first. You read that right. A team that batted .315 collectively finished 50 games UNDER .500. How is that possible?

It’s possible because the 1930 Phillies had the worst pitching staff in the history of baseball. The only team you could even compare them to was my Little League team that finished 0-15 in 1984 (True story). For some perspective, think about how terrible Adam Eaton was in 2008, when he went 4-8 with a 5.80 ERA. And just think, the 1930 Phils had 11 pitchers with worse ERAs than Adam Eaton.

Authentic Phillies 1925-1932 Fitted Home Hat

Save $4 on the 1930 Phillies cap by clicking on it.

A few years ago, a guy named Tom Ruane wrote a paper called “Modern Baseball’s Greatest Hitting Team”. The answer? The opponents of the 1930 Phillies. Try these stats on for size: Phillies’ opponents batted .346 that year (27 points higher than those record setting 1930 Giants), with 1994 hits (200 more than the record holders, the 1930 Phillies) and scored 1199 runs (Over 130 more than the record holders, the 1931 Yankees.) The ace of that staff was none other than Phil Collins. And you thought No Jacket Required was his worst work. (Rim Shot).

The infamous Les Sweetland.

The infamous Les Sweetland.

Actually, Collins wasn’t the problem. He was an almost respectable 16-11 with a 4.78 ERA. Ray Benge came next, with a 5.70 ERA. Then came two record holders. Les Sweetland set a record that year that has never been broken, throwing for a 7.71 ERA, (the worst of all time among pitchers who qualify for ERA title). #2 for worst all time was his teammate Claude Willoughby, with a 7.59 ERA. It must have been like Mantle and Maris chasing the Babe’s home run title that year. And Hal Elliot just fell short of qualifying for an ERA title, throwing 117 innings. Otherwise he would be 2nd, with a 7.67 ERA.

And so when people say they wish they could combine the 2008 Phils’ hitters with the 2011 Phils’ pitchers to make the perfect team, I argue that they’d be even better if you combined the 2011 Phils with the 1930 Phils. Heck, they’d win 130 games.

If you wanna purchase the same cap worn by Klein and his teammates, click here. The link will automatically discount the hat by $4 or you can enter the promo code “1930Phils” in the future.

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About Johnny Goodtimes

Johnny Goodtimes has written 18 articles on Phillies Nation.

Johnny Goodtimes is not only Philly's premiere quizmaster, he's also a Philly sports history junkie, starting his own site, Philly Sports History. He has written humor and sports columns for the City Paper, Philly Mag, and the Metro, and still harbors an unhealthy resentment towards Rod Barajas.

  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    Do people have ANY idea of HOW MANY times this year’s Phillies had games that were microcosims of the year? It seemed that way in 2012 as well, another lost cause season. Maybe that stuff just gets accented in a losing season, but I swear, it’s in triple figures. Every game, there’s SOMETHING that feels identical to a consistent, year long theme that JUST KILLS ya..

    The reason I mention that is because I read the original article the post carries an excerpt from, and found this addition fascinating.

    “Anyways, that brings us back to that game against the Pirates on July 23rd of that year. Somehow, the Phils only gave up two runs in the first game of that double header, but their bats fell silent, and they lost 2-1. They came back with a vengeance in the 2nd game, rapping a team record 27 hits (a record that was tied in a 1985 game against the Mets). But in a perfect encapsulation of their season, they still lost the game, 16-15, in 13 innings, with Les Sweetland taking the loss. A day later, they would play host to the Cubs, and lose to them, 19-15. Claude Willoughby was the losing pitcher, being replaced without recording a single out.”

    I can only imagine the intensity of watching the 3rd of those 3 games, second in a row in which they scored 15 and LOST. That was part of a string of games in which they gave up 16, 19, 9, 16, 10, 9, 5, 11, 9m and 9 runs in consecutive games.

    Funny thing is they only gave up 5 runs in the first 3 games of the season. But how they played a 2-1 in Game 1 of the doubleheader, and then scored consecutive 15′s and lost is just ridiculous. If somebody told me, “That’s baseball,” I’d smack ‘em in the face. That’s not baseball. It’s insanity. NOBODY does that.

  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    “But how they played a 2-1 in Game 1 of the doubleheader, and then scored consecutive 15′s and lost is just ridiculous. If somebody told me, “That’s baseball,” I’d smack ‘em in the face. That’s not baseball. It’s insanity. NOBODY does that”

    Nobody? Wrong again, pal. Whenever you see a negative record, think Chicago Cubs.

    The Cubs 23-22 loss to the Phils in’79 was the day after they got shutout 13-0.

    So they gave up 36 runs in consecutive games, meaning your statement about NOBODY does that is 20% off the 2 game record for most runs given up in consecutive losses. Somebody deserves an even harder face slap.

    And I only checked those 2 games. Not the entire record book.

  • Posts: 0 George

    Had Adam Eaton pitched in 1930, he’d be the “worst ERA” record holder, probably by a significant margin. That was such a hitter’s year (TWO of the top three teams with the all time highest batting averages?) that even good pitchers looked so-so.

    One hears talk about lively balls, but apparently the ones used in 1930 were like golf balls wrapped with titanium wire, or dipped in something that attracted wood. Ben Revere probably could have hit a few out of the park that year.

  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    Here’s another high total given up in 2 consecutive games. In 1 day, no less.

    Doubleheader baseball at a time when Oriole Magic was on respite from the fine tradition it is.

    Aug 22, ’07. Rangers scored 30, then 9, in a sweep.

  • Posts: 0 MP

    From baseball-reference Chuck Klein had an OPS of 1.123 that year.

    And there were FIVE players in 1930 with higher OPS!

    Hack Wilson
    Babe Herman
    Al Simmons

    • Posts: 0 schmenkman

      The 1930s in general were very hitter-friendly, and those inflated stats are a big reason why that decade is over-represented in the Hall.

      • Posts: 0 George

        Makes you wonder how a guy like Dizzy Dean managed to win consistently before his toe was smashed; including one season with 30 wins.

        (I know, wins are a doubtful measurement, but he must have had some pretty good periperals to win thirty in that decade of offensive dynamite.)

      • Posts: 0 schmenkman

        Wins wouldn’t be any harder to get, assuming your team’s hitting is also raised by the offensive tide.

      • Posts: 0 George

        I considered that, and it’s likely Ol’ Diz was helped out at least a few times. But his lifetime ERA was 3.02. I think he was tricking all those heavy hitters just a bit. Either that, or the Cards were secretly ringing in some balls from around 1912.

  • Posts: 0 Ken Bland

    I’m gonna use this thread to segue into a 19th cousin distance related item. This thread’s about scoring runs, and this is about them NOT scoring.

    I won’t go long winded on how offense was down across the game this year. Suffice to say that 12 guys with 100 rbi is an average of 1 per team if we just count the half decent teams in the game. So much for one-two tandems, and murderer’s row, population 3

    The reasons are as long as the components on Mrs. Moyer’s grocery list back when all the Moyers were young uns.

    But here’s a little known factoid that maybe places second to none in the reasons behind the drop, and it hits home with the Phils, having housed Ryan Howar’s bat in their lineup for nearly a decade.

    In 2012, there were 7800 “defensive shifts” utilized. So what, you ask? That’s close to 60% more than in 2012, when 4,500 such strategies were used.

    Do ‘em right, and that’ll keep runners from crossing the plate.

    Within this reason for declining offense, there figure to be multiple reasons that shifts gone crazy was the theme of ’13. But one thing on the list is even further use of analytics. I can’t say that “stuff” is overused, though the degree of it these days can drive you nuts, and overshadow the sport’s core appeal of story development, but that’s no small potato in growth, and no doubt a major reason for the offensive decline.

    Where exactly the Phils fit in with that, I couldn’t guess. They fielded some pretty poor defenders last year, and figuring their archaic tendencies in a lot of facets of the game, it’s not unreasonable to assume they haven’t been a pioneer in this underpublicized facet. But that’s assumption. And a hope that it’s something they have, or will be cognizant of. Because for whatever reasons offense went down, the astounding growth in defensive shifts has to tell you that it was a presence felt part of the story.

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