|Name:||Adrian Joss||Position:||Starting Pitcher|
|Accolades:||Hall of Fame (1978)|
|Best Season (1908)||24||11||.686||1.16||42||35||29||9||325.0||232||42||2||30||130||0.81||.192|
Many people have forgotten about, or never have even heard of Addie Joss due to the decades that have passed since he last pitched and that is a shame. While Bob Feller holds many Indians records due to longevity, Joss was the first great pitcher for Cleveland and remains the best as far as efficiency is concerned.
Born in Wisconsin in 1880, Joss played his first professional seasons with Toledo in 1900 and 1901, but would play his entire Major League career in a Cleveland uniform. After winning 25 games in 40 starts in the Western Association in 1902, Joss was signed by the Cleveland Blues (also known as the Bronchos) in their second year of existence.
Earl Moore was the original staff ace in 1901, but Joss would quickly surpass all others with a 2.77 ERA in his rookie year with 17 wins, 28 complete games and five shut outs. Also part of this rotation was Bill Bernhard, a free agent who came over from the Philadelphia Athletics early in the season and the three pitchers joined to be one of the best rotations in Indians history, pitching at least 695 combined innings in each season from 1902 through 1905 with a high of 788.1 in their first year together in 1902.
As good as he was, Joss would improve in 1903 with a 2.19 ERA and 18 wins in 283.2 innings on his own. While Moore topped Joss all around, setting records for wins (20), ERA (1.75) and strike outs (148) although all these team records would be broken by 1906 including two in 1904 when Bernhard won 23 games and Joss finished with a 1.59 ERA.
Joss threw just 192.1 innings in 1904, but still completed 20 of his 24 starts and won 14. This win mark would be his lowest in any full season as he averaged 19 per year from 1902 through 1909. In addition, you could say that all pitchers finished what they started in Joss’ age, but he did it more than anyone. His five shut outs in 1904 were one less than his average of six per season which lead to his current team record of 45. As far as complete games, he finished 234 of 260 starts, second in Indians history to Feller in complete games and second to Moore in percentage of games completed with 90.0% (Moore completed 90.7%).
After leading the AL in ERA in 1904, Joss’ ERA rose to 2.01 in 1905, but he won 20 games for the first time as he threw 286 innings in 32 starts. While this wasn’t his biggest workload in a season, he did strike out a career best 132 while walking just 46. Always an incredible control pitcher, his 1.02 WHIP that year was his only year above 1.00 between 1903 and 1909 on his way to setting the Major League career record of 0.968.
Because he began his career at such a young age, Joss was only 26 in 1906 and he continued to improve each year through 1908. Each of these years, he completed at least 28 games, won at least 20 and held an ERA below 2.00. After Bernhard had set the team mark for wins in 1904, Joss broke it in 1907 with 27 in 38 starts. Since then, this number has only been matched by Feller in 1940 and surpassed by Jim Bagby, Sr. in 1920 when he won a team record 31. For his career, Joss would eventually win 160 games, sixth in Indians history and a number that has been surpassed only by Hall of Famers and Mel Harder, who played 20 seasons compared to just nine for Joss.
There is no question that 1908 was Joss’ best season and the best by an Indians rotation in club history. Joss alone lead the Majors and set the team record for ERA (1.16) and WHIP (0.81) with 24 wins and two saves. Next to him, Bob Rhoads and Charlie Chech also held ERAs below 1.80 while they had five starters in total with at least 165 innings thrown and an ERA below 2.21. Despite just 459 runs allowed as a team (the second lowest total in franchise history to 1918), the Naps won just 90 games and finished a half game behind Detroit, Joss’ closest chance at a World Series.
Part of his great 1908 was the first perfect game in Indians history and the second in the American League when he kept the White Sox off the bases on October 2nd. Further showing how impressive this rotation was, it was the second Indians no hitter ever after Rhoads had tossed the first less than a month earlier on September 18th. Joss would repeat his feat with his second no hitter just two years later on April 20th, 2010 against the White Sox again.
It would have been nearly impossible for Joss to improve upon his 1908 campaign, but he did his best with another incredible ERA of 1.71 and WHIP of 0.944 in 1909. While he struck out only 67 in 242.2 innings, he lead the league for the second year in a row with a 1.1 BB/9 (0.8 in 1908). His pinpoint command more than anything else made him the incredible pitcher he was and even compared to his peers he was astounding with an average of 5.4 WAR per season from 1902 through 1909 and 45.9 in his Hall of Fame career.
Unfortunately, we’ll never know what Joss was fully capable of as he got sick in 1910 and pitched just 13 games (one of which was the no hitter mentioned earlier). Just before the the 1911 season began, Joss died from tubercular meningitis in April at the age of 31. In order to support his widow, a group of players got together and held the first All-Star game as a charity event. The event featured the American League All-Stars playing against the Cleveland Naps. Many future Hall of Famers were on the field that day including Ty Cobb (wearing a Cleveland jersey, but playing for the all-stars), future Indian player/manager Tris Speaker and current Naps Cy Young and Napoleon Lajoie.
Even though he only played nine seasons Joss still ranks in the top ten Indians all time in wins, losses, innings and complete games. He also holds six of the Indians top ten single season marks in WHIP and four of the top five in ERA. Overall, he was very possibly the greatest player to ever throw a baseball in a Cleveland uniform. Like Feller, he played his whole career in Cleveland, but he was only able to play half the seasons as his life was cut short. Although a century has passed since his death, no Indians pitcher has even come close to his team records for ERA and WHIP. In addition to his MLB record for WHIP, only Ed Walsh, a pitcher for the White Sox during the same era as Joss, has a better ERA in all of baseball history.
After his death, because Joss had only played nine seasons he was not eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA. He was eventually inducted, however, in 1978 by the veterans committee, better late than never and has been enshrined in the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame as well.