Saturday, April 08, 2006

April 8th, 1946

Jim "Catfish" Hunter Born

The story about that nickname is well-known by now, Charley O. Finley decided Jim Hunter needed a nickname and made up a story about how Hunter used to catch catfish in the backwoods of North Carolina. The nickname ended up serving him well, in addition to being quite snappy, Hunter knew if someone who was calling his name really knew him or not, as friends never called him "Catfish."

Bill James has a pretty good section on Catfish--albeit a trifle flawed, he notes that the Yankees lost six more games Hunter's first year with the team, that's true, but it sure wasn't the fault of the man who threw 328 innings with the league's second best ERA--and observes that Catfish pitched his entire career not making trouble for himself. Hunter rarely walked anyone--his career BB/9 was just 2.4--and while he gave up a fair amount of home runs (374 in exactly 500 career games) that was largely because Hunter was almost always going to throw strike one, so while he gave up some home runs on that pitch, he also got a lot of outs that way and was nearly always throwing from ahead in the count.

As an aside, I would've liked Hunter as a pitcher, and not just because he was a Yankee. Home runs annoy me but pitchers who walk guys (and go to long counts doing so) just drive me absolutely insane, as you might've noticed. Hunter almost never walked anyone, threw a lot of strikes and did it quickly. That's my kind of guy.

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