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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #36 Eppa Rixey

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #36. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back this afternoon for #35.

#36 – Eppa Rixey

Years: 1912-1918, 1920

87-103, 2.83 ERA, 1.245 WHIP in 1604.0 IP

Previous Rank: 46 (+10)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 9th among pitchers, 34th among Phillies

Signature Achievements: Pitched ninth-most innings in Phillies’ history, 16th best ERA and ninth-best FIP among Phillies’ starters

Signature Season: Went 22-10 with a 1.85 ERA with 1.091 WHIP in 1916

Easily the best pitcher in club history with a losing record, Rixey joined the Phillies at the age of 21, fresh out of the University of Virginia. Rixey skipped minor league baseball altogether, making his debut on June 21, 1912. Rixey would go 10-10 with a 2.50 ERA in 20 starts, throwing 10 complete games. Rixey  had a breakout campaign in the Phillies’ 1915 pennant-winning season, posting a 2.39 ERA with a 1.285 WHIP in 29 games, 22 of which were starts.

Rixey would be a hidden gem on the staffs of the successful 1910’s Phillies’ squads. Despite leading the National League in losses in 1917 with 21, Rixey posted a 2.27 ERA and a 1.123 WHIP. From 1912 through 1920, Rixey would rank seventh in the NL in fWAR, 23rd in WHIP, and 13th in starts and appearances. Rixey would be overshadowed, of course, by perhaps the best pitcher of that generation in the National League, Grover Cleveland Alexander, who won 207 games in the same span with a 2.00 ERA.

Rixey would be a big part of why the 1915 Phillies won the pennant. Rixey would have an even better 1916, posting a 1.85 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP. Rixey would be one of many Phillies from the first quarter of the 20th century that would prove to have an even better career even after he left Philadelphia. Rixey would serve in the U.S. Army’s Chemical Warfare Division, missing the 1918 season. It looked like World War I may have slowed Rixey down: a rocky 6-12, 3.97 ERA 1919 and a slightly better 11-22, 3.48 ERA 1920 made some believe this.

The Phillies would trade Rixey before the 1921 after Rixey had butted heads with manager Gavvy Cravath to the Cincinnati Reds where he was reunited with the Phillies 1915 skipper Pat Moran. Rixey would be traded for #42 in the countdown Jimmy Ring and someone named Greasy Neale. From 1921 through 1932, the National League average ERA was between 3.78 and 4.97, the Phillies’ average ERA was between 4.47 and 6.71 (!!), and Rixey’s ERA was 3.33. Oops.

Rixey would go on to win 179 games with the Cincinnati Reds in 13 seasons and retire as the all-time National League wins leader. He was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1963.

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