This is the second article in my Red Sox all-time franchise players series. Following up the Right Handers, comes the greatest left-handed pitchers in Red Sox history. Again, this isn’t the five best lefties to ever put on a Red Sox uniform, these are the five who did the most while in a Sox jersey.
Everyone knows about Babe Ruth. People also generally know he was a good pitcher before he switched to a full time hitter. But just how good was he?
Babe Ruth was 20 during his first full season, and won 18 games. The next season, at age 21, he led the league with a 1.75 ERA. The following season, he won 24 games. Ruth won 67 games with a 2.07 ERA, by the time he was 22 years old. Don’t forget the World Series either. By age of 23, Babe Ruth had set a record that would stand for 43 years, when he pitched 29 consecutive scoreless innings during World Series play. In 3 games total, Ruth pitched 31 innings, going 3-0, with a 0.87 ERA. He is both one of the best pitchers and hitters in World Series history. He would have undoubtedly made the Hall of Fame as a pitcher as well.
Lefty Grove is one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. Personally, I have him as the third greatest left-hander to ever take the mound. Much of that came with the Philadelphia Athletics, but Grove was still an excellent pitcher for five seasons in Boston. He picked up his 300th career victory in a Red Sox uniform.
After struggling in his first season while pitching with a sore arm, Lefty Grove returned to stardom for the next five seasons. From 1935-39, he averaged 17 wins per season for the Sox, with a 2.83 ERA. In 4 of those 5 seasons, he led the American League in ERA! Grove also led the league in WHIP twice, and made the All-Star Game in each of those five seasons.
Lester had a heck of a run in Boston, one most of us wish was still going. There was his return from Lymphoma in 2007, to pitch 5.2 shutout innings in the final game of that year’s World Series. The following season, he threw his no-hitter in May against the Royals at Fenway Park. His first 200 strikeout season in 2009, followed by his first of three All-Star appearances as a member of the Red Sox in 2010. Then his stellar postseason pitching again in 2013, as he won his second World Series.
In total, Lester won 110 games, while posting a 3.64 ERA in a Red Sox jersey. He finished in the top five in two separate Cy Young votes. He’s also 4th in Red Sox history in strikeouts, 1st among lefties. Most importantly however, Lester was 3-0 in World Series contests, allowing just a single run in 21 innings pitched. We could always count on Lester to pitch well in the clutch.
Mel Parnell is the all-time winningest left-hander in Red Sox history, with his 123 career wins. His heyday was from 1948-53, when he averaged 18 wins per season with a 3.22 ERA. In 1949, he led the league with 25 wins, and a 2.77 ERA while placing 4th in the MVP vote. If there were a Cy Young Award back then, he’d have been a shoo-in.
Unfortunately, Parnell had a short career. Following his 21 win season in 1953, he broke his arm and never fully recovered. He only won 12 games over the next 3 seasons, before calling it quits following an operation on his elbow. However, in his final season, Parnell had a little magic left in his left arm. That season, he threw a no-hitter at Fenway Park against the Chicago White Sox.
Dutch Leonard had a short peak with the Red Sox, but he made it count. In 1914, Dutch Leonard posted the lowest ERA, still to this day, in modern baseball history. That season he was 19-5 with a league leading 0.96 ERA and 0.88 WHIP! Regardless of the era, that is an all-time great season.
In six seasons with the Red Sox, Leonard won 90 games while pitching to a 2.13 ERA. He pitched once in both the 1915 and 1916 World Series. In each contest, Leonard allowed 1 earned run in a complete game victory.