Friday, February 06, 2009

Best Pitching Years Since 1956

There was a discussion on about which pitchers have had the best years of all time. Several websites have done the same thing (in fact, it seemed as if one of the MLB analysts searched such a site for his observations). One site is here. And here is another. While both sites make good arguments, the Fan wasn't quite satisfied.

First of all, baseball has changed too much since 1900 and how can you compare a year when pitchers were starting 40 plus games a year compared to the 30 they start now? It just seems too difficult to compare. The sites mentioned base their arguments on how the pitchers fared compared to league averages. That seems fair and logical, but it still feels like apples and oranges.

There are other problems with making such a list. For example, Pedro Martinez was a seven inning pitcher. He rarely finished his games in this age of setup men and closers. Can you compare his great years with Sandy Koufax, for example, who finished at least half his games? Or conversely, can you compare Martinez facing teams with a DH compared to Koufax who only faced eight hitters each game? How do you account for Koufax and Gibson and a much higher pitching mound?

The Fan supposes that the Win Share logic and other logistical opinions such as the two sites listed above account for such anomalies by comparing the stats to those of their present year. Which makes sense and seems to alleviate the Fans concerns. But is it still apples and oranges to compare a year like Guidry had in 1978 when his year helped turn a Yankee team around and took them to the World Series compared to Steve Carlton, whose team did not even contend. And that comparison can go either way. For example, Carlton's season could compare more favorably BECAUSE his team was terrible.

Saying all that, it's always fun to make lists so what follows is the Fan's List of the best pitching years since 1956. Win Share data copped from an old Rob Neyer piece:

  • 1. Steve Carlton - 1972: 40 Win Shares. 27-10 (on a team that lost 91 games!). 1.97 ERA. 30 complete games! 8 Shutouts. 310 strikeouts. 0.99 WHIP.
  • 2. Gaylord Perry - 1972: 39 Win Shares. 24-16 (his team lost 84 games). 1.92 ERA. 29 complete games. 5 shutouts. 0.98 WHIP.
  • 3. Bob Gibson - 1968: 36 Win Shares. 22-9. 1.12 ERA! 28 complete games. 13 shutouts! 0.85 WHIP
  • 4. Fergie Jenkins - 1971: 35 Win Shares. 24-13. 2.77 ERA. 30 complete games. 1.05 WHIP. Only 37 walks compared to 263 strikeouts.
  • 4. Sandy Koufax - 1966: 35 Win Shares. 27-9. 1.73 ERA. 27 complete games. 0.98 WHIP. 317 strikeouts.
  • 5. Sandy Koufax - 1965: 33 Win Shares. 26-8. 2.04 ERA. 27 complete games. 0.86 WHIP. 382 strikeouts.
  • 5. Denny McLain - 1968: 33 Win Shares. 31-6. 1.96 ERA. 28 complete games. 0.90 WHIP.
  • 5. Wilbur Wood - 1971: 33 Win Shares. 22-13. 1.91 ERA. 22 complete games. 7 shutouts. 1.00 WHIP.
  • 5. Dwight Gooden - 1985: 33 Win Shares, 24-4. 1.53 ERA. 16 complete games. 8 shutouts. 0.97 WHIP.
32 Win Shares: Koufax and Dick Ellsworth (1963), Dean Chance (1964), Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson (1969), Roger Clemens (1997).

31 Win Shares: John Hiller (1973), Jim Palmer (1975), Ron Guidry (1978),

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

I dig the list.