Pittsburgh Pirates All-Time Top 100: 25. Rip Sewell

Truett Banks Sewell, better known as “Rip,” was a 6’1” pitcher from Decatur, AL. Born on May 11, 1907, the left-side batting right hander made his first professional appearance in 1931 with the Raliegh Capitals, a “C” level team in the Piedmont League. He posted a 17-6 record, finishing the season with the Nashville Volunteers of the Southern Association, going 0-1.

1932 would see Sewell split his season between the “A” level Beaumont Explorers in the Texas League (2-1, 2.40), the “AA” level Toronto Maple Leafs in the International League (3-6, 4.42), and the Detroit Tigers for a cup of coffee in June (five appearances, 0-0, 12.66 ERA in 10.2 innings). He wouldn’t sniff the major league again until 1938.

Over the next five seasons, Sewell played for the Seattle Indians in the “AA” Pacific Coast League (6-17, 5.90), the Toledo Mud Hens in the “AA” level American Association (14-12, 6.07), the Louisville Colonels in the AA (6-20, 8.12), and the Buffalo Bisons (26-22, ERA around 3.80). His contract was purchased by the Pirates after the 1937 season.

1938 would see Sewell appear in 17 games for the Pirates, all in relief. In his very first appearance, on April 28th, he struck out five Cardinals in 2.2 innings, allowing only a walk as the Bucs dropped a 5-3 decision to St. Louis. In 38.1 innings pitched, he walked more batters than he struck out. In fact, he never struck out more batters than he walked throughout his major league tenure. He posted an 0-1 record with a 4.23 ERA and a 1.617 WHIP. The Pirates finished the season with an 86-64 record, second in the National League and only two games behind the Chicago Cubs.

In 1939, Sewell appeared mostly out of the bullpen, with two saves out of his 40 relief appearances. He also made 12 starts, completing five complete games. He posted a 10-9 record with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.418 WHIP, appearing an NL second leading 52 total times. His best showing of the season was probably on May 10th, when he earned his first career major league shutout by limiting the Giants to six hits and striking out six with only one walk in a 5-0 win over New York. The Bucs finished sixth in the eight team NL, at 68-85.

Sewell put together a pretty good season in 1940, posting a 16-5 record (NL fourth in wins, second in the league with a .762 winning percentage) and a then-career best 2.80 ERA (NL third) and finishing 25th in the NL MVP vote. He completed 14 of his 23 starts, along with 10 relief appearances, keeping his WHIP down at 1.244 and a career best 8.019 hits allowed per nine innings. His 4.4 pWAR rating ranked sixth in the NL, and his 17 putouts at pitcher ranked him third. August was a particularly good month for him. On August 4th, he struck out seven, allowing a single earned run on four hits in a 6-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched another complete game four hitter on August 9th, defeating the Cubs, 6-2. On August 22nd, he pitched his first shutout of the season, allowing five hits in a 4-0 win over the Giants. In his next start on August 28th, he earned his second straight shutout, a three-hit, 5-0 win over the Phillies. The Pirates brought up the rear of the first division, finishing fourth in the NL with a 78-76 record.

1941 would see Sewell lead the NL in losses, finishing the year at 14-17 with a 3.72 ERA. He completed 18 (NL seventh) of his 32 starts (NL fourth), with seven relief appearances scattered throughout the season. He posted a career low 1.241 WHIP, along with a respectable 8.1 H/9. He led the league with 21 putouts at pitcher. He pitched eight shutout, five-hit innings on July 27th before a reliever took a 2-0 loss to the Giants. On July 6th, he pitched a complete game four hitter, beating the Bucs by a score of 2-1. The Pirates again finished in fourth, at 81-73.

In 1942, Sewell went 17-15 (NL sixth in wins) with a 3.41 ERA. He completed 18 (NL eighth) of 33 starts (NL fourth), along with seven relief appearances and an NL second best five shutouts. He again led the league in putouts, with 19. From June 6th through August 25th, he went 10-7 with a 2.27 ERA, including all five shutouts. On June 6th, he pitched a complete game three-hitter, winning a 3-1 decision over the Phillies. On August 28th, he went the distance in another three-hitter, defeating the Boston Braves 6-0. The Pirates finished fifth in the NL, at 66-81.

1943 would see Sewell lead the NL in wins at 21-9, with a career best 2.54 ERA (NL fourth). He completed a league leading 25 games out of 31 starts (NL eighth), with three saves (NL 10th) in four relief outings. He ranked fourth in the NL with 5.7 total WAR, and his WHIP was 1.289. On opening day, (April 21st), he pitched a 6-0 three-hit win against the Cubs, striking out four. He made his first all-star team, and finished sixth in the NL MVP voting. Pittsburgh’s 80-74 record netted them fourth place in the NL.

In 1944, Sewell matched his career high in victories, going 21-12 (NL third in wins, sixth with a .636 win percentage) with a 3.18 ERA, completing 24 (NL fourth) of 33 starts (NL fifth) on the season. He earned his second consecutive all-star invitation and finished the season 11th in the NL MVP race. He ranked first in the league with a 5.9 pWAR and 10th with 8.276 H/9. He again led the NL with 21 assists at pitcher. On May 14th, he pitched 10 innings of six-hit ball, earning a 1-0 win over the Giants. May 28th would see him strike out six and allow six hits in a 4-0 outing against the Phillies. Pittsburgh posted a 90-63 record, finishing in second place in the NL and 14.5 games behind St. Louis.

In 1945, Sewell posted an 11-9 record and a 4.07 ERA. He completed nine of 24 starts as his WHIP ballooned to 1.612. He could still on occasion toss out a gem, as on July 19th, when he threw an eight-hit shutout against the Giants, 4-0. The Pirates went 82-72, finishing fourth in the NL.

1946 would see Sewell go 8-12 with a 3.68 ERA. He made his third career all-star team, and completed 11 of his 20 rotation starts. He lowered his WHIP back down to 1.292 and his H/9 back to 8.4. On July 1st, he struck out five and allowed four hits in a 1-0 victory over Chicago. Pittsburgh limped to a 63-91 finish, just two games ahead of the last place New York Giants.

In 1947, Sewell posted a 6-4 record with a 3.57 ERA. He beat Chicago 1-0 on opening day, allowing five hits. His best game of the season may have been in relief. On July 24th, he entered the top of the first inning down 4-0 with two outs. He eventually earned the win, going the rest of the way and allowing two earned runs on six hits in the eventual 8-6 Pirates victory. Not all days were that good, as the Bucs went 62-92, tied with the Phillies for last place in the NL.

1948 would see Sewell rebound to go 13-3, posting an NL best .813 winning percentage. He had a 3.48 ERA. On August 11th, he pitched a three-hitter to earn a 4-2 win over the Cubs. In fact, he owned the Cubs that season, going 7-1 with a 2.61 ERA. The Pirates returned to respectability, with an NL fourth best 83-71 record.

1949 would be Sewell’s last major league season. At the age of 42, he was the oldest player in the National League. He went 6-1 with a 3.91 ERA. As in seasons past, his best performance of the season was likely on opening day, a 1-0 complete game gem over Chicago. The Bucs went 71-83, finishing in sixth place.

All-Time Statline: 12 seasons, 143-97, 3.43 ERA, 385 games, 243 starts, 137 CG, 20 shutouts, 15 saves, 2108.2 innings pitched, 2082 hits allowed, walked 740, struck out 634, 1.338 WHIP, 26.7 wins above replacement (24.6 as pitcher, 2.1 as a hitter).

Next up: a “Deacon” from the turn of the century, and number five on the all-time win list.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the managing editor (Charlie) or SB Nation. FanPosts are written by Bucs Dugout readers.

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