Player: Brian Kingman signed with the A's as undrafted free agent in 1975 after he graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Featuring a good fastball and hard breaking curve ball he advanced through the A's system. By mid 1979 he was in the A's rotation and made 17 starts with an 8-7 record, and a 4.31 ERA in 112 innings.
Kingman's 1980 season would shape the rest of his life. He was the A's number five starter for what amounted to a .500 team (83-79) and although his rate stats were not terrible with a 3.83 ERA (98 ERA+) and 1.377 WHIP, he lost 20 games with just 8 wins. The A's scored more than three runs for him in just nine of his 30 starts and were shutout five times. Compare his stats to those of teammate Steve McCatty:
ERA IP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
Kingman 3.83 211 1.377 8.9 0.9 3.5 4.9
McCatty 3.86 221 1.358 8.2 1.1 4.0 4.6
Kingman gave up a few more hits but was otherwise better than McCatty in the other rate stats. These look more like the numbers of a .500 pitcher and at 14-14 that's what McCatty was. The A's scored 5.04 runs per game for McCatty but screwed Kingman over by plating just 2.87. Kingman was the fall guy and lived with the 20 loss tag the rest of his career.
Kingman wasn't bad in '81 but he couldn't buy a win either. He was yanked from the rotation in August and finished the year 3-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 100 innings. He started the '82 season in the minors and was recalled in June. He wasn't fooling hitters much as their hits became more frequent and the strikeouts waned. If nothing else he was determined to earn a win, twice working into extra innings and facing more than 40 batters. He finished the year at 4-12 with a 4.48 ERA, bringing his career mark to 23-45.
He was sold to Boston in the offseason but cut in spring training. The Giants picked him up and he pitched poorly and appeared in just three games. He spent the rest of the year in the minors and retired from pro ball after the season.
Flipside: Those 10 complete games jump out and seem impressive until looking at the team stats and seeing that he was fifth on the team in complete games.
Oddball: Starting in 2000, Kingman would travel to a pitcher's game if he was on the verge of losing 20 games. He even brought a voodoo doll to help ward off a loss. It "worked" four consecutive times for three different pitchers. Kingman was out of the country and not able to attend when Mike Maroth lost his 20th game for a terrible Tiger team in 2003.
History: Kingman was long known as the last pitcher to lose 20 games and it was an albatross he carried as a player. However he embraced it in retirement, thankful that he was remembered for something.
His could have benefited from a move to the bullpen. He didn't have the stamina that A's manager Billy Martin pushed for and that the other A's pitchers possessed. In his 20 loss season in 1980 he had a .196 opponent batting average with no home runs allowed in the first inning. In his career he only pitched 12 games in relief and those stats are skewed by his three bad outings for the Giants at the end of his career. Perhaps he could have been an effective one or two inning reliever, but we'll never know.
Kingman retired with a 23-45 record, 4.13 ERA, and a 92 ERA+ in 551 innings.