I’m pretty vocal that pitcher wins in/of themselves are not a very informative stat. A pitcher can pitch great and lose if his team can’t score. A pitcher can pitch poorly and still win if given enough run support…ie, pitchers are given credit for team accomplishments.
There are a couple caveats to this, though, that keep me using it as part of the picture of a pitcher. I remember as a kid reading an article in “The Baseball Digest” that a pitcher with a .500 record on a losing team is actually likely pitching very well…ie, the pitcher deserves some credit if the team is clearly better with him on the mound. Another is that a lot of wins is telling. With that, I give you the records for longest pitcher win streaks and unbeaten streaks (the unbeaten streak is as a starter).
Gerrit Cole made headlines with his 20th consecutive regular season win when he and the Yankees beat the Red Sox Friday. It was also his 27th straight start without a loss.
The longest win streak for a pitcher, though, in major league history is still held by Carl Hubble. He won 24 straight decisions from 1936-37 for the NY Giants. Like Gerrit Cole, he lost a World Series game—to the Yankees in 1936. Another feat of his Hall of Fame career that should be remembered is pitching an 18-inning complete game shutout in 1933 (tied for longest complete game shutout with Walter Johnson, John Montgomery Ward, and Ed Summers).
The second longest winning streak is by Roy Face of the Pirates from 1958-59. Face’s 1959 season record was 18-1, still the record best winning percentage for qualifying pitchers. Usually a reliever, he also recorded 3 saves in the 1960 WS victory for the Pirates over the Yankees.
Cole is in a 4-way tie for third. He recorded 16 straight wins for the Astros from May on last year and is now 4-0 for the Yankees. His 20-game streak, however, is tied for the AL record.
Roger Clemens is the pitcher Cole has tied for the AL record. Clemens’ streak started with the Blue Jays in 1998, and he won the Cy Young Award that year. It continued until June in 1999 with the Yankees.
Rube Marquard was the first to record 20 straight wins, for the Giants 1911-12. He won the last start of 1911, and the first 19 of 1912. The Hall of Famer’s 19-0 start to a season is still the MLB record best. If the pitcher win rule were the same then as now, his streak would actually be 21. There was one game in which he pitched an inning of scoreless relief at the top of the 9th that his Giants won in walk off fashion at the bottom of the inning. That’d make him the pitcher of record now, but back then it was just the pitcher with the most innings who got the decision.
The final 20-game win streak is owned by Jake Arrieta of the Cubs in 2015 and their 2016 World Series winning campaign.
As mentioned above, Cole has also now gone 27 straight starts without a loss. That’s tied for 4th best ever. That record owner is Roger Clemens with 30, over the same time period as his 20-win streak. If Cole starts, and does not lose, his next scheduled start next week against the Rays, he will move into a tie for second. The other pitchers with 27+ straight starts without a loss:
Kris Medlen 2010-2012, at 28—this includes missing a year due to Tommy John surgery, and also includes his Braves winning 23 straight games in which he started. He’s easily the least accomplished pitcher I mention in this article, but it does indicate how good he could have been if not derailed by injuries.
Dave McNally was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the 1960’s for the Orioles. He had 4 consecutive 20 win seasons. From 1968-69 he set a then-AL record 17 straight wins, and a then-MLB record 28 straight starts without a loss.
The other pitcher with 27 straight starts without a loss spent much of his time as a reliever: Firpo Marberry of the 1920’s Washington Senators. Indeed, he was the first pitcher with 20 or more saves in a season (22 for the Senators in 1926). He led his league in saves 6 times. I actually found one article that called him the best eligible pitcher not in the HoF. I don’t know about that, but it’s certainly a compliment.