Since 1970 we have seen some dominant pitching seasons. We are starting this off in the 1960s because it’s not fair to compare pitchers before 1960 with the more modern game; the game was much different in the first half of the twentieth century.
Greg Maddux’ minuscule ERA might be enough for some to rank his ’95 season much higher on the list. So why rank him this low? Maddux’s performance may hold the second-lowest ERA on the list, but it also has the fewest innings pitched, wins, appearances and strikeouts.
Roger Clemens won a record seven Cy Young awards during his career, though strangely enough not for his best season in terms of ERA; Bob Welch took home that award despite having given up on average one more run a game, and Clemens having nearly 100 more strikeouts, five more complete games and twice as many shutouts than Welch had recorded.
Seaver completed 21 complete games and tossed four shutouts during one of his most remarkable seasons ever and should have received this honor of winning the Cy Young instead of Fergie Jenkins, who had an ERA that was much higher than Seavers was.
Randy Johnson’s 2002 season was an example of why generations past revered their pitchers so highly: His 260 innings pitched were by far the highest total since 1990 on this list, while 334 strikeouts placed him seventh among active pitchers in the live ball era.
Denny McClain remains the last pitcher to win 30 games in one season. While his performance at this level appeared promising, trouble would quickly arise and derail his career after this impressive achievement. McClain navigated regular and post-season play before winning the World Series with the Detroit Tigers.
1995 to 2005 should be seen as the superball era. Batters were hitting home runs at an alarming rate until Major League Baseball finally did something about it – though Pedro Martinez continued his dominance despite this with an even lower ERA (1.74) but fewer wins and strikeouts and more losses the following season. In the juiced player era Martinez was still dominant.
He allowed just a.201 average, with left-handed batters having lower OPS than right-handers against him. As the Mets battled the Cardinals for the division title in September, he went 4-0 in six starts with 0.34 ERA — striking out 8.7 times per nine which is 58% better than average today! Did I mention he was all of twenty years old!
Guidry threw 16 complete games and nine shutouts en route to finishing second to Red Sox Jim Rice in MVP voting. Guidry didn’t lose until July, while in September, as the Yankees and Red Sox battled for AL East dominance, Guidry went 6-1 with a 1.19 ERA while going 3-0 against Boston Red Sox! Guidry should have been the MVP.
Steve Carlton was one of the premier pitchers in baseball for 18 seasons, yet not many could surpass 1972 in terms of dominance. He led all league statistics, including wins, ERA, games started, complete games pitched, innings pitched, hits allowed, strikeouts/to-walk ratio, and no one else receiving first-place votes in Cy Young races.
Sandy Koufax was unquestionably one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and in 1966 was in stunning form. He completely overshadowed opponents with hard fastballs and curveballs that sent them reeling backwards. Koufax struck out 317 batters–even fewer than in 1965 when he managed 382 strikes outs! From 1965-66 alone, Koufax pitched almost 660 innings while pitching 54 complete games!
Koufax’s best season was also his last, as his left arm became so weak it could no longer even lift to comb his hair afterwards – and he never pitched again after that season ended.
Bob Gibson should be featured prominently when searching the dictionary for “dominance.” St. Louis had such an anaemic offense during this 1968 campaign that Gibson somehow lost nine games; with only Curt Flood (.301) hitting over.300 and Orlando Cepeda (16 home runs) leading the home runs, it is hard not to think that St. Louis was led into the World Series by Gibson’s dominance alone.
Still, Gibson brought his team to Game 7 of the World Series. In a matchup of MVPs, Gibson outpitched 30-game winner Denny McClain with a complete game shutout in Game 1. In Game 7, however, Gibson proved himself human by losing and conceding defeat – further confirming this notion. Gibson’s ERA for the season was 1.12!
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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