Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Birthday...

Hooks Dauss!

By Bill

One of the many odd little things I enjoy, for no reason I can name, is pitchers whose careers straddle 1920: guys who just kept on being the same player, with the same skills relative to the same league, but whose numbers completely changed overnight.

From 1912-1919, Hooks Dauss pitched 1869 innings, allowed just 25 homers, and went 126-92 with a 2.85 ERA, good for a 101 ERA+.

From 1920-1926, Dauss pitched 1521.2 innings, allowed 62 homers, and went 97-90 with a 3.86 ERA, good for a 104 ERA+.

Born George August Daus on this date in 1889 in Indianapolis, "Hooks" was one of those great, unforgettable names players used to get for doing great, unforgettable things like...throwing a pretty good curveball. (Not sure why he got the extra 's' in his last name; I assume it was an attempt to de-ethnicize it, but "Dauss" isn't exactly "Smith," with one 's' or two.) At age 19, Dauss caught on with the Duluth White Sox of the Class-D Minnesota-Wisconsin League, where he played with 18 year old future Hall of Famer Dave Bancroft. After two years there, Dauss' tour of Minnesota continued with a stop with the Winona Pirates (where he presumably had teammates, but I can't prove it) and one with the (original) St. Paul Saints. In St. Paul, Dauss was spotted by Tiger scout and former journeyman catcher/first baseman Deacon McGuire, and he made his big league debut later that year, just after his 23rd birthday, near the end of the 1912 season. Next Wednesday will be the 99th anniversary of his debut, in fact. Celebrate accordingly!

For much of his career, Dauss had a way of alternating good years with bad ones; starting with his first full year in 1913, his ERA+es go 117, 98, 121, 89, 109, 89, 90, 104, 99, 92, 107, 90, 137, 106. His "traditional" and unadjusted numbers get a big boost from getting to play about half his career in the deadball era, the opportunity to finish most of his starts (for his career, he finished 245 games out of the 388 he started) and pitching for a team with the likes of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford and Bobby Veach. In 1914, Dauss went 19-15 with a pretty 2.86 ERA...but led the league in earned runs allowed, with 96; league-wide, the average ERA was 2.76. In 1919, he posted an ugly 3.55 ERA (90 ERA+), but thanks to huge years from Cobb, Veach, Ira Flagstead and Harry Heilmann, put up a 21-9 record.

Dauss would spend his entire career with the Tigers, spanning 1912-1926. Would you have come up with Dauss if someone asked you who was the franchise leader in wins (223, fourteen more than George Mullin)? He's in the top four or five of most other franchise lists for career-totals categories as well.

Dauss' 102 career ERA+ and 26.7 rWAR are nothing special, but fifteen seasons with one team (even back then) was a rare, very cool thing. And fifteen seasons as a slightly-above-average starting pitcher isn't all that easy to do. He was Jack Morris, basically, without that one shining moment.

Dauss would have turned 122 today, if he were born a tree or something. He developed a heart condition late in his career, retired in 1926 at age 36, and struggled with the condition for the rest of his life, finally passing away from a ruptured aorta nearly fifty years ago, at age 73.

One more fun fact, since that's a terrible way to end a post: Dauss led the league in batters hit by a pitch three times, and hit more than ten in a season five times. He amassed 121 for his career, putting him in the top 50 of all time in HBPs (right behind Dennis Martinez and Jim Kaat, who both pitched more than a thousand more innings).

A lot of facts here come from Dauss' SABR Bio Project page. Check that out.

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