Thursday, April 2, 2009

# 93 & 94 -- Pitching (Wins) Leaders

NL Wins Leaders

Ferguson Jenkins 24
Steve Carlton 20
Al Downing 20
Tom Seaver 20

For some reason the category of "wins" becomes "Pitching Leaders." I suppose the real reason the games are played is to win them, not just hold the other team down on runs or strike out the other batters. Ferguson Jenkins put together another banner year in Wrigley Field and was rewarded with his Cy Young award. He'd finished 2nd and 3rd before despite this being his 5th of 6 consecutive 20 win seasons. The rest of his numbers may not have been the best around, but what Fergie did was just win. He only had 2 no-decisions in 1971 and left trailing in both of those.

This is the only leader card with more than 3 leaders on it because there was a logjam at 20 wins. There were some pretty big names there, too. This was Steve Carlton's first really big year, actually surpassing Bob Gibson in wins. As a St. Louis Cardinal fan, I don't have much else to say, because Carlton would become a fixture on the leaderboard.

We've already mentioned Tom Terrific. Let me say a little more. In the 20 games he won, the most runs he allowed in any of them was 2. He had 8 other starts where he allowed 2 earned runs or less and 5 of those were losses. Therefore, if he'd won all of his starts where he allowed 2 earned runs or less -- not exactly asking a lot from the Mets' lumber -- he'd have been 28-5.

When I say "Al Downing" you say _________. Let's hear it. "715" However, he was more than that. He'd been a fireballing lefty with the Yanks, but had arm trouble, bounced around a couple of years and finished up 1970 going 2-10 with the Brewers. Looked like he was headed for retirement. The Dodgers picked him up and he won 20. His stats neutralized to 16-11 and he never again won 10 games, but he finished 3rd in the Cy Young in 1971. He had a little more run support than Seaver.

AL Wins Leaders

Mickey Lolich 25
Vida Blue 24
Wilbur Wood 22

There were 10 different pitchers winning 20 games in 1971, 4 of them from the Orioles. We don't see as many 20 game winners anymore because (1) the best pitchers only start 34-36 games now and (2) pitchers don't stay around long enough in the game and the decision goes to the bullpen. In 1971, we had guys posting some big win numbers, but let's look at their numbers.

Mickey Lolich finished 2nd to Blue in the Cy Young. He started 45 games, completed 29 and threw 376 innings, finishing 25-14. That means he had more decisions than pitchers have starts now...and he still had 6 no-decisions. 1971 was Mickey's biggest year in terms of wins, innings and strikeouts. He could have really had a big year, because he lost his last 3 starts and still finished with 25 wins. It's not like he was out of gas, either, because threw complete games losing 3-2, 3-2 and 2-1. With a little luck here and there, we could be talking about Lolich instead of Denny McLain as the last 30 game winner.

Vida Blue did kind of run out of gas at the end of the year. That's to be expected, however, because this was his rookie year and he threw over 300 innings. He entered September 23-6, but his last 6 starts had 1 win, 2 losses and 3 no-decisions. In fairness, he didn't go long in most of those games, so the A's could have been trying to cut down on his innings late in a year they won the pennant by 16 games over the Royals.

Here's workhorse Wilbur Wood again. He only had 42 starts and didn't get his first win until May and went into the All-Star break 9-5. He had less run support than Tom Seaver and didn't get wins in 10 starts where he gave 2 earned runs or less.

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