After examining the top 15 offensive seasons in franchise history, we'll now take a look at the best single season pitching performances in team history. All of this of course comes as we continue our celebration of the club's 30th anniversary season.
The following list is of course subjective, but should stir up some great nostalgia for long time fans. Actually, this particular list will include a look at both starters and relievers as separating and evaluating the two fairly proved difficult. Therefore, this list will begin with a look at some of the most dominant relievers in team history and will then continue with a full list of the best seasons for starting pitchers.
In order to build the list, Mudcats' broadcaster Greg Young used a combination of advanced pitching metrics to rank every individual season in team history. Specific season accolades like league pitcher of the year awards, all-star nominations, end-of-year league rankings, franchise records and more were also heavily considered to round out the rankings.
Without further ado, and based on the criteria mentioned above, here are the top single season pitching performances in team history:
First up... the saves leaders: Nate Griep (2017), Chris Mobley (2008) and Matt Ryan (1995)
Nate Griep, RHP
Totals: 3-1-30, 2.37 ERA, 45/0 G/GS, 49.1 IP, 1.11 WHIP, 4.38 BB/9, 7.48 SO/9, 4.03 FIP
Accolades: CL Relief Pitcher of the Year, CL Leader in Saves
Nate Griep totaled a franchise record 30 saves and went on to be named the Carolina League's Relief Pitcher of the Year in 2017. Griep also pitched to a 2.37 ERA and put together a 3-1 record with 41 strikeouts against 24 walks over 49.1 innings pitched. Griep also held opponents to a .191 average against, including a razor-thin .109 average for left-handed hitters.
Chris Mobley, RHP
Totals; 5-3-28, 2.93 ERA, 53/0 G/GS, 58.1 IP, 1.10 WHIP, 2.47 BB/9, 10.8 SO/9, 2.57 FIP
Chris Mobley appeared in a team high 53 games and totaled a then-franchise record 28 saves while going 5-3 with a 2.93 ERA for the Mudcats in 2008. Mobley is second on Carolina's all-time list in both saves (28) and most games finished (45). Mobley additionally pitched for the Mudcats in 2006, 2007 and 2011.
Matt Ryan, RHP
Totals: 2-1-26, 1.57 ERA, 44/0 G/GS, 46 IP, 1.13 WHIP, 3.72 BB/9, 4.5 SO/9, 3.47 FIP
“Fish Fryin” Matt Ryan totaled a then-franchise record 26 saves with the Southern League Champion Mudcats in 1995. Ryan's 26 saves from the '95 season are the third most in team history.
More from the bullpen: Bobby Hunter (1993), Brad Boxberger (2011), Sean Fesh (2003) and Luke Barker (2018)
Bobby Hunter, RHP
Totals: 5-3, 1.01 ERA, 46/0 G/GS, 71 IP, 1.25 WHIP, 4.44 BB/9, 6.72 SO/9, 3.39 FIP
Bobby Hunter set a then-Southern League record for consecutive scoreless innings after pitching through 42 and 1/3 innings (May 20 - September 5) consecutive frames without allowing a run during the 1993 season. Overall, Hunter pitched to a 1.01 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 46 games in 1993.
Brad Boxberger, RHP
Totals: 1-2, 1.31 ERA, 30/0 G/GS, 34.1 IP, 0.84 WHIP, 3.41 BB/9, 14.94 SO/9, 1.86 FIP
Brad Boxberger first pitched for the Mudcats in 2010 before returning in 2011 where he would go on to put together an All-Star season. Boxberger appeared in 30 games for Carolina in 2011 and pitched to a 0.84 WHIP and 1.31 ERA. He also pitched to 14.94 SO/9ip while striking out 57 and walking 13 over 34.1 innings pitched.
Sean Fesh, LHP
Totals: 9-1, 1.87 ERA, 49/0 G/GS, 77 IP, 1.03 WHIP, 2.45 BB/9, 8.3 SO/9, 2.39 FIP
Sean Fesh went 9-1 with a 1.87 ERA over 49 total games for the Mudcats in 2003 and would go on to split the club's coveted Willie Duke Award at season's end. That alone should help illustrate just how good Fesh was that year as that 2003 Southern League title winning team also included Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Josh Willingham, Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Aguila.
Luke Barker, RHP
Totals: 6-4-20, 2.21 ERA, 46/0 G/GS, 61 IP, 1.03 WHIP, 2.36 BB/9, 9.3 SO/9, 2.71 FIP
Accolades: CL Relief Pitcher of the Year, CL Leader in Saves
Luke Barker was named the Carolina League's Reliever of the Year in 2018 after going 6-4 with a 2.21 ERA and a league best 20 saves. He also totaled 63 strikeouts against 16 walks over 61.0 innings pitched and held opponents to a .213 average in 46 appearances (second most in the league). The Chico, CA and Chico State University product additionally led qualified Carolina League relievers in fewest baserunners/9 IP ratio (9.30), while also finishing third among relievers in lowest batting average against (.213), fifth in highest strikeouts/9 IP ratio (9.30) and fifth in lowest BB-IBB/9 IP ratio (2.36).
Finally, the top single season starting pitching performances in team history:
14. Dontrelle Willis, LHP
Totals: 4-0, 1.49 ERA, 6/6 G/GS, 36.1 IP, 0.91 WHIP, 2.23 BB/9, 7.93 SO/9, 2.79 FIP
Accolades: NL Rookie of the Year
Dontrelle Willis, the 2003 NL Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star, pitched for the Mudcats during the 2003 season before being rapidly promoted to the (then Florida) Marlins that same season. The Oakland, Calif. native made just six starts with the Mudcats in 2003 before getting his call to the bigs and making his MLB debut on May 9, 2003. From there, Willis went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors and help the Marlins win their second World Series title. He made his final start with the Mudcats on May 3, 2003 in Jacksonville where he struck out four and allowed two runs on three hits over 8.0 full innings pitched. While in Carolina, Willis struck out 32 batters in 36 innings for the Mudcats and posted a 1.49 ERA over his six starts.
13. Tim Wakefield, RHP
Totals: 15-8, 2.90 ERA, 26/25 G/GS, 183 IP, 1.13 WHIP, 2.51 BB/9, 5.9 SO/9, 3.44 FIP
Accolades: SL Hall of Fame
Tim Wakefield, one of the game’s all-time great knuckleball pitchers, first pitched for the Mudcats during the club’s inaugural 1991 season and briefly again in 1993. That season saw Wakefield pitch to a 2.90 ERA while going 15-8 in what was just his second professional season. He also ended up leading the '91 Mudcats in ERA (2.90), WHIP (1.29), strikeouts (123), innings (183.0), starts (25) and wins (15). He went straight to big leagues the following season in 1992 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but would later return to the Mudcats in 1993 to re-work his knuckleball. Wakefield’s 183.0 innings pitched in 1991 set a franchise record that still holds to this day. He also totaled eight complete games and totaled 15 wins in 1991 also setting Carolina franchise records in both categories.
12. Aaron Cook, RHP
Totals: 7-2, 1.42 ERA, 14/14 G/GS, 95 IP, 0.97 WHIP, 1.8 BB/9, 5.49 SO/9, 3.09 FIP
Accolades: SL All-Star, SL Pitcher-of-the-Week
Aaron Cook was nearly untouchable during the first half of Carolina's 2002 season. The Fort Campbell, KY native started that season with Carolina before earning a mid-season promotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs, just weeks before representing the Colorado Rockies in the 2002 MLB Futures Game. He departed the Southern League as the league's leader in ERA (1.42) and innings pitched (95.0). He also went 7-2 for Carolina and wrapped up the first half of the 2002 season with back-to-back three-hit shutouts in Tennessee and Greenville. He went on to be named the Southern League's Pitcher-of-the-Week the week of his promotion and was also named to the Southern League All-Star team.
11. Noah Zavolas, RHP
Totals: 6-5, 2.98 ERA, 22/22 G/GS, 133 IP, 1.14 WHIP, 1.56 BB/9, 6.9 SO/9, 3.19 FIP
Accolades: CL Pitcher of the Year, CL All-Star, Two-time CL Pitcher-of-the-Week, CL Leader in FIP, CL Leader in SO/BB, CL Leader in BB/9ip
Noah Zavolas was named the Carolina League's Pitcher of the Year in 2019 after finishing the season ranked second in the league in ERA (2.98), fourth in innings pitched (133.0) and second in WHIP (1.14). He also led the league in both lowest BB/9ip ratio (1.56) and in SO/BB ratio (4.43). Zavolas totaled a team best 11 quality starts in 2019 and pitched through the sixth inning 14 total times. He also pitched through the seventh inning eight times, two times through the eighth and once through the ninth as he tossed a nine-inning, complete-game, two-hit shutout with a career high 11 strikeouts on June 23 in Potomac. The Harvard product was the second Mudcats pitcher in team history to earn the Carolina League’s Pitcher of the Year award, joining Cody Anderson who won the same award following the 2013 season. Former Mudcats pitcher Travis Wood was additionally named the Southern League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher during his 2009 season with Carolina.
10. Corbin Burnes, RHP
Totals: 5-0, 1.05 ERA, 10/10 G/GS, 60 IP, 0.88 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 8.4 SO/9, 2.64 FIP
Accolades: Brewers Minor League Pitcher of the Year
Corbin Burnes pitched for the Mudcats at the beginning of the 2017 season before receiving a promotion to Double-A Biloxi on May 29. He went 5-0 over 10 starts with the Mudcats and left the Carolina League that season as the league leader in earned run average (1.05), WHIP (0.88) and fewest baserunners/9ip ratio (8.25). Burnes was also second in the Carolina League in lowest average against (.181), third in innings pitched (60.0) and fourth in strikeouts (56) before the promotion. The right-hander was later named the 2017 Brewers' Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going a combined 8-3 with a 1.67 ERA between both High-A Carolina and Double-A Biloxi. The Bakersfield, CA native also totaled 36 walks and 140 strikeouts over 145.2 innings and 26 starts between both High-A and Double-A in 2017.
8. Elmer Dessens, RHP
Totals: 15-8, 2.49 ERA, 27/27 G/GS, 152 IP, 1.26 WHIP, 1.24 BB/9, 4.03 SO/9, 3.54 FIP
Accolades: SL All-Star, SL Leader in ERA, SL Leader in Wins
9. Matt Ruebel, LHP
Totals: 13-5, 2.76 ERA, 27/27 G/GS, 169.1 IP, 1.15 WHIP, 2.39 BB/9, 7.23 SO/9, 2.95 FIP
Accolades: SL Pitcher-of-the-Week
Elmer Dessens and Matt Ruebel were quite the one-two punch for the Mudcats during the club's championship season in 1995. The two starters both made a team best 27 starts that season and led the club in just about everything else in the process. Dessens pitched to a 2.49 ERA while earning the Southern League's ERA title that year. Dessens also totaled a Southern League best 15 wins. Ruebel, meanwhile, led that '95 championship Mudcats team in innings (169.1), strikeouts (136) and WHIP (1.15). Ruebel also totaled four complete games that season, including two, two-hitters on April 28, 1995 vs. Orlando and July 1, 1995 vs. Port City. Ruebel is third in team history in innings (169.1) and tied for second for most wins (13) in a single season. Dessens is third in team history in lowest ERA (2.49) and tied for the team record for most wins (15) in a season.
7. Gary Wilson, RHP
Totals: 8-5, 2.56 ERA, 22/22 G/GS, 161.2 IP, 1.12 WHIP, 2.06 BB/9, 5.4 SO/9, 3.50 FIP
Accolades: SL All-Star, SL Leader in Complete Games
Gary Wilson pitched to a team leading 2.56 ERA and team best 1.12 WHIP during the 1994 season. The Arcata, CA and Sacramento State product also pitched through a Southern League leading seven complete games (second most in franchise history) for the playoff bound Mudcats in 1994. One of those complete games included a one-hitter versus Orlando on June 27, 1994. He flirted with a no-hitter for seven and 1/3 innings that night in Zebulon before settling with a one-hit gem. In all, Wilson walked two, struck out eight and hit a batter while going the distance against the visiting Cubs. Wilson was also one of three Mudcats named to the Southern League All-Star team in 1994.
6. Cam Roegner, LHP
Totals: 9-5, 2.16 ERA, 19/19 G/GS, 108.1 IP, 1.15 WHIP, 2.33 BB/9, 5.9 SO/9, 3.38 FIP
Accolades: CL All-Star, CL Pitcher-of-the-Week
Cam Roegner, a Wisconsin-native and life-long Brewers fan, opened the 2018 season at 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA over 21 and 2/3 innings pitched and his first four starts. He went on to carry those numbers into May, and at one point led all of Minor League Baseball in earned run average at 0.68 in late May. His run to the top of the ERA leader board among all full-season league pitchers was aided by a 31 and 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings streak from May 2 through May 30. Roegner was later recognized as a mid-season All-Star for the first time in his career and eventually earned promotions to Triple-A and Double-A in the second half. He first made a spot start with Triple-A Colorado Springs on 7/15, before returning to Carolina and eventually joining the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers on 7/31. He appeared in five games with the Shuckers before finishing the season in Triple-A on 9/3.
5. Seth Webster, RHP
Totals: 8-7, 2.82 ERA, 20/19 G/GS, 130.2 IP, 1.06 WHIP, 0.55 BB/9, 6.61 SO/9, 2.36 FIP
Seth Webster's 2015 season with the Mudcats saw him go 8-7 with a 2.82 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and truly remarkable 12.00 SO/BB ratio. The side-arm throwing Webster totaled 96 strikeouts and walked just eight batters while pitching through 130.2 innings in 2015. For context, the Major League record for SO/BB ratio is 11.6250 and was set by Minnesota's Phil Hughes in 2014. Webster led the Mudcats in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and wins in 2015. He was also third in the Carolina League in ERA and second in WHIP. The Alexandria, LA native is Carolina's all-time leader in highest SO/BB ratio. He is also third on Carolina's record list in lowest WHIP (1.06) and first in fewest BB/9ip (0.6). Webster was signed by the Braves a non-drafted free agent on May 18, 2015 from the Frontier League’s Schaumberg Boomers and made one start with the Rome Braves before his assignment to Carolina. He would later be released by Atlanta following the 2015 season, making 2015 his only year in affiliated professional baseball. He did, however, spend five seasons in the independent leagues.
4. Ryan Merritt, LHP
Totals: 13-3, 2.58 ERA, 25/25 G/GS, 160.1 IP, 0.95 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, 7.13 SO/9, 3.46 FIP
Accolades: CL All-Star, CL Leader in Wins, CL Leader in Innings Pitched, CL Leader in WHIP, CL Leader in Lowest Batting Average, CL Pitcher-of-the-Week, Ed Hales Award
Ryan Merritt pitched to a Carolina League leading, and franchise record, 0.95 WHIP during his stifling 2014 season. Merritt also led the league with 13 wins, a .216 average against and with 160.1 innings pitched. In all, the McKinney, TX native totaled 127 strikeouts while walking only 25 batters. Merritt not only owns the team record for lowest WHIP, but also ranks third in team history in highest SO/BB ratio (5.08) and is second all-time in victories (13).
3. Jordan Yamamoto, RHP
Totals: 9-4, 2.51 ERA, 22/18 G/GS, 111 IP, 1.09 WHIP, 2.43 BB/9, 9.16 SO/9, 3.29 FIP
Accolades: CL Pitcher-of-the-Week
Jordan Yamamoto fell just shy of officially qualifying for the Carolina League lead in earned run average in 2017, but still put together one of the best seasons in team history. The Honolulu, Hawaii native went 9-4 with a 2.51 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .223 average against and 113 strikeouts over 111.0 innings pitched in 2017. Yamamoto, did however, lead Carolina League pitchers with at least 110.0 innings pitched in earned run average in 2017. Had he officially qualified with just a couple more innings pitched, Yamamoto would rank fifth in ERA, fifth in WHIP and third in SO/9ip in team history. Yamamoto also finished that 2017 season going 4-1 with a 0.27 ERA over his last five starts (9.27 SO/9ip, .176 AVG) and ended the year with a streak of 21.1 consecutive scoreless innings over his final four appearances.
2. Cody Anderson, RHP
Totals: 9-4, 2.34 ERA, 23/23 G/GS, 123.1 IP, 1.10 WHIP, 2.26 BB/9, 8.17 SO/9, 3.04 FIP
Accolades: CL Pitcher of the Year, CL All-Star, CL Pitcher-of-the-Week, Ed Hales Award
Cody Anderson was named the Carolina League's Pitcher of the Year after pitching to a league best 2.34 ERA over 23 starts for the Mudcats in 2013. Anderson also finished that All-Star season second in the Carolina League in WHIP (1.10), fourth in average against (.236) and third in SO/9ip ratio (8.17). Overall, the right-hander from Quincy, CA went 9-4 with 31 walks and 112 strikeouts in 2013. He was the second Carolina prospect to win a league pitcher of the year award and his 2.34 ERA from the 2013 season is the second lowest in team history.
1. Travis Wood, LHP
Totals: 9-3, 1.21 ERA, 19/19 G/GS, 119 IP, 0.97 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 7.79 SO/9, 2.50 FIP
Accolades: SL Most Outstanding Pitcher, SL All-Star, 2x SL Pitcher-of-the-Week, SL Leader in ERA, SL Leader in WHIP, SL Leader in Avg. Against, SL Leader in Highest SO/9ip
Travis Wood’s 2009 season with the Mudcats was not only one the greatest in franchise history, it was also one of the greatest single seasons in Southern League history. The southpaw from Little Rock, Arkansas earned Most Outstanding Pitcher honors after leading the Southern League in ERA (1.21), WHIP (0.97), average against (.189) and highest SO/9ip (7.79). In all, Wood went 9-3 that year with 37 walks and 103 strikeouts over 119.0 innings pitched during what was an All-Star season with the Mudcats in 2009. Additionally, his razor-thin 1.21 ERA from that 2009 season is both a Southern League and Mudcats' franchise record. Wood's 0.97 WHIP from that same year is second all-time in team history.
Greg Young is the play-by-play broadcaster and Director of Media Relations and Broadcasting for the Carolina Mudcats. Follow the Mudcats on Twitter @CarolinaMudcats.