A 'vulture' is a relief pitcher who 'steals' wins from a starting pitcher. Tyler Clippard is a contemporary master of the art. But who is the greatest vulture ever? We need your input.
EDIT: We've found a winner. See bottom of post.
We can all probably agree with the conclusion that the pitching win is not a terribly meaningful or predictive statistic, and that if a general manager were to assemble a starting rotation by taking nothing but wins into consideration, his starting five would likely consist of Bob Welch, a splotch of paint splatter on a kitchen floor that bears a rough resemblance to Andy Benes, the most recently-fallen shingle from the roof of a century-old tuberculosis ward, a comical impersonation of Oil Can Boyd by versatile TV funnyman Jim Belushi, and Peter Moylan (not a starter!!!). If a pitcher recorded 18 wins last year, you can reasonably assume that he's probably at least kind of good, but his ERA could be 2.14 or it could be 4.23. His WHIP could be 1.071 or 1.495. You simply can't know.
Regardless, wins are fixtures on stat sheets, baseball cards, chyrons, and many other places we look in order to determine a player's worth. They do tend to mean something to us, even if that something isn't "is this guy good at baseball?"
It follows, then, that it means something when a starting pitcher delivers seven or eight innings of quality pitching, only for the lead to change hands through no fault of his own and the win to go to a reliever who pitched 0.2 innings. This pitcher is colloquially known as a "vulture," which leads us to our question:
Who is the greatest vulture in baseball history?
You can take this question however you'd like. "Greatest" can mean "best at baseball," or "best at being a frustratingly mediocre win accumulator," or simply the pitcher you think is most representative of the term, "vulture."
A terrific contemporary example is Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard, who recorded 11 wins in 2010 without making a single start. Five of those were scored as "Blown Save And Win," meaning that he first blew his team's lead, only for his hitters to bail him out and give him the win.
My personal answer, though, is Brad Clontz.
I spent some of my childhood years in Atlanta during the early-to-mid-1990s, meaning that a) I read newspapers, and b) I was a Braves fan. I scoured the box scores on a daily basis, poring over the obscene statistics thrown up night after night by the likes of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. I wanted them to get the win, but far too many times I was greeted by
W - B. Clontz (8)
and I would despair. In 1995 he was mediocre and got eight wins. In 1996 he was bad and got six wins. Eventually, I took to publicly declaring that Brad Clontz was "more like Bad Clontz," and I eventually revised my theory to suppose that he was, in fact, more like "Bad Klutz." And he was. He was more like a bad klutz, is what he was more like.
Enough about me and my pedestrian Atlanta Braves fandom, though. What about you? Who do you think is the greatest vulture in baseball history? You can either submit your answer in the comments below, or tweet me at @jon_bois.
I'll follow up with another post discussing your answers later today. Together, as always, we will find the answer.