6's vs. 11's
We’re back with more from our Pitchers Bracket Challenge, voting on the best pitchers of the post World War II Era. Comments are once again brought to you by Bracketologist Kirk Minihane:
Cy Young Region
6. Jim Kaat vs. 11. Vida Blue
Kaat won at least 10 games in 15 straight seasons (1962-76) and won 20 three times, including a league-best 25 in 1966. 283 wins and 16 Gold Gloves, but Kaat seems largely forgotten today. Maybe it’s because he stuck around too long at the end of his career (he was a long reliever for his last five years). Blue, of course, is best known for his remarkable 1972 season (24 wins, 1.82 ERA, 301 Ks) that landed him both the CY Young and MVP. The truth is that he had a pretty solid career, finishing in the top 10 in ERA six times and strikeouts seven times. His win totals from 1973-1980? 20, 17, 22, 18, 14, 18, 14 and 14. If you look at the prime of their careers Blue was a slightly better pitcher than Kaat. I guess the question is how much value do you place on the eight or nine average seasons Kaat tacked on.
Lefty Grove Region
6. Mike Mussina vs. 11. Mel Stottlemyre
Teacher vs. pupil. To me, Mussina is a Hall of Famer. Forget 300 wins as a standard, in the five-man rotation era 250 wins is the new 300. Mussina finished up with 270, and his career .638 won/loss mark is 38th all time. He never won the CY Young, but finished in the top five six times. (And just to show you how caught up Cy Young voters can get when it comes to wins, look at 2002. Clemens won it, he finished 20-3. Mussina finished fifth, his record was 17-11. ERA? Clemens 3.51, Mussina 3.15. Innings pitched? Clemens 220.1, Mussina 228.0. Walks? Clemens 72, Mussina 42. Complete games? Clemens zero, Mussina four. Shutouts? Clemens zero, Mussina three. First Place Cy Young votes? Clemens 21, Mussina zero. Shameful.) And how about 11 top tens in ERA for the Moose? Final Four sleeper. Stottlemyre pitched on some terrible Yankees teams in his short (11 year) career. A shame, because he was a terrific pitcher, retiring after the 1974 season with a 2.97 career ERA. Three 20-win seasons, twice led the league in complete games. Nine really good seasons isn’t enough to get past Mussina, however.
Walter Johnson Region
6. Curt Schilling vs. 11. Roy Halladay
I’m not sure how to handle this one, so I’ll just present this in defense of Schilling:
Here are the pitchers in Major League history with at least 200 wins, 3,100 strikeouts and a winning percentage of .590
The other seven guys are slam-dunk first-ballot Hall of Famers, right (not taking in the Misremember Factor)? Throw in the postseason stuff (11-2, 2.23 ERA) and it’s impossible to doubt Schilling’s credentials as an all-timer. If we do this again in 10 years I wouldn’t be surprised if Halladay was a top-six seed. Four top five Cy Young finishes (with a win in 2003) and two 20-win seasons (and a 19-win season). And his .668 career winning percentage (13th all-time) is even more impressive when you consider that he has never pitched for a playoff team. Halladay did not really begin his career until he was 25, so he’s not going to finish with monster numbers, but he could get to 220 wins or so (he’s 32 years old and has 133 career wins). Tough first rounder for Schilling but he should move on.
Christy Mathewson Region
6. Jack Morris vs. 11. Dave Stieb
There is a case for an upset here. Morris had the benefit of pitching for some great teams, which makes it a lot easier to gain a reputation as a “winner”. Stieb was stuck with some lousy Toronto teams for the first four or five years of his career (though they improved greatly in the mid 1980s) and had some seasons that were ignored simply because his won-loss record wasn’t eye-catching. Take 1983. Morris wins 20 games with a 3.34 ERA and finishes third in the Cy Young voting. Stieb wins 17 games (and loses 12) with a 3.04 ERA and doesn’t receive a single Cy Young vote. Career seasons with an ERA 3.25 or under? Morris one, Stieb seven. Morris was more durable (finished with 254 wins in 18 seasons vs. 176 in 16 seasons for Stieb) and is the author of the best big-game performance of the last half-century. But I think Stieb was a better pitcher.