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7's vs. 10's

April 28, 2009

We’re getting close to Round 2. Here are the 7’s vs. 10’s in the ’38 Pitchers Bracket Challenge’ (with bracketlogist Kirk Minihane offering the commentary):

Cy Young Region
7. Catfish Hunter vs. 10. Tommy John

It’s sort of become fashionable to knock Catfish as an all-timer over the past couple of years. And while he pitched for championship teams and really only had a couple of great seasons there is no doubt that he belongs on this list. Okay, I’ll buy that five 20-win seasons with the A’s and Yankees in the 1970s isn’t staggering. Bert Blyleven would have won 25 games a year with those teams. But Hunter was still a top pitcher, leading the league in WHIP twice as well as ERA in his 1974 Cy Young season. And how about 30 complete games in 1975? No pitcher has reached 25 complete games since (Tim Wakefield has 32 CG’s in his career). I count three seasons from Hunter that I would term “great” — 1972 (21 wins, 2.96 ERA), 1974 (25-12, 2.49 ERA, .986 WHIP) and 1975 (23-14, 2.58 ERA). Not enough to be among the top 25 pitchers of the last 50 years, but easily fits in the top 64. Tommy John is a medical marvel and did win 288 games, but I’m not sure he was ever one of the top five pitchers in baseball. He did win 20 games three times, but did so for some terrific Dodgers and Yankees teams in the late 70s-early 80s (the three teams that he won 20 games for (1977 Dodgers and 1979 and 1980 Yankees) averaged 97 wins a year). But he did stick around forever, pitching until he was 46. At his peak Hunter was a better pitcher, and by a fairly decent spread. Does 64 extra wins (over 11 seasons) give John an argument?

[poll id=25]

Walter Johnson Bracket
7. Don Drysdale vs. 10. Orel Hershiser

I know people don’t want to hear this, but Drysdale was largely a product of where he pitched. At home in his career? 114-74 with a 2.53 ERA in 261 starts. On the road? 95-92 with a 3.41 ERA in 257 starts (this is all in a pitcher’s era, remember). It’s the Jim Rice argument. Can anyone who was average for HALF of his career really be viewed as an all-time great? This matchup is a tough one to call. Hershiser pitched in the same ballpark as Drysdale for the majority of his career. His splits are also significant (3.17 ERA at home in 256 games, 3.81 ERA in 254 road games), but not as glaring as Drysdale. Both have a Cy Young Award. Career records are pretty much a push (Hershiser 204-160, Drysdale 209-166). Of course Hershiser broke Drysdale’s shutout innings streak. Both guys were superb in the playoffs (2.95 ERA for Drysdale, 2.59 ERA for Hershiser). Pretty close to a coin flip, but here’s why I’d vote for Hershiser: His two best seasons (1985, 19-3 with a 2.03 ERA and 1988, 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA) are better than any season in Drysdale’s career. Throw in a slight postseason edge and you’ve got an upset.

[poll id=26]

Lefty Grove Bracket
7. Johan Santana vs. 10. Dwight Gooden

And the battle to be the second-best pitcher in Mets history is pretty much down to these two, right? Santana is in the middle of his prime, and I fully expect another two or three Cy Young Awards before his career is done. In career adjusted ERA+, only Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove and Walter Johnson are ahead of Santana. He’s also top 10 all time in Ks per nine innings (9.3, fifth) and winning percentage (.681, eighth). He is easily the strongest of the seven seeds and is, in reality, a lot closer to a four or five. Today Gooden is remembered as potential wasted, but if you look past that and just focus on his numbers he had a nice career. In the Non-Pedro department I would count Gooden’s 1985 season as the best in my lifetime (24-4, 1.53 ERA, 16 complete games, eight shutouts and 268 Ks). That was as a 20-year-old, and followed a 1984 season that may be the best ever produced by a rookie pitcher (17-9, 2.60 ERA and 276 Ks in 218.0 innings). If you had asked me to guess after those two seasons how many career wins Gooden would finish with I would have gone with about 330 or so. Well, he didn’t get to 200 (he ended up with 194). But he won 19 games in 1990, 18 in 1988 and 17 in 1986. He was a victim of his own early greatness (and the drugs, of course). Probably he was one of the top 10-15 pitchers in the majors from 1986-1991, but that wasn’t nearly enough for Mets fans. I’m not sure there is a comparison that fits today. Tom Brady was Super Bowl MVP (not really, but he won it) in his first year as a starter and led the league in TDs in his second. If he has five or six seasons with 17 TDs and 12 picks you’d be pretty close.

[poll id=27]

Christy Mathewson Bracket
7. Luis Tiant vs. 10. Ron Guidry
Will there ever be a pitcher like Tiant again? I feel as if he’s totally forgotten, which really is a shame. I’d put his two best seasons (1968, 21 wins with a 1.60 ERA and 1972, 15-6 with a 1.91 ERA) up against the two best seasons by any other pitcher in history. Throw in three more 20-win seasons and you’ve got a really tough seven seed. And if Catfish Hunter is a Hall of Famer so is Tiant. 224-126 with a 3.26 ERA for Hunter, 229-172 3.30 for Tiant. Shows how much won-loss really means. It really is all about what team you are on. In 1969, Tiant had a 3.71 ERA. His record? 9-20 (the Indians lost 99 games). In 1970, Hunter had a 3.81 ERA. His record? 18-14 (The A’s won 89 games). Guidry didn’t pitch long enough to put up huge career numbers (just 11 full seasons as a starter), but his peak value is among the top 25 or so on this list. His 1978 Cy Young season (25-3, 1.74 ERA, 248 Ks) might be one of the 10 best of all time. Two more 20-win seasons (and three more top five Cy Young finishes) and a career .681 winning percentage (26 all-time) and you can put together a decent case for an upset. But I count 14 seasons from Tiant that can be considered at least good. I count nine from Guidry. That’s enough for El Tiante to move on.
[poll id=28]
6 Comments leave one →
  1. Jason permalink
    April 29, 2009 3:24 pm

    Hi Curt, an old AZ Dbacks fan. I ran across thius very interesting article about Ben Davis, I know, painful memories…..

    Ben Davis, rhp, Reds. Yes, you read that correctly. That’s Ben Davis, righthanded pitcher. The Padres 1995 first-round pick hung up his catcher’s mitt last summer, then worked at making a comeback as a pitcher in the Atlantic League. The Reds signed him this offseason, and he’s now working on learning the trade as a pitcher, striking out one in one inning in his high Class A Sarasota debut. Davis is joined in Sarasota’s bullpen by a fellow former big league position player Jerry Gil.

    Best to you and your family!

  2. April 29, 2009 10:13 pm

    Hey Curt, who are your 4 number 1 seeds? Mulholland, T The Greene, DJ, and Gentle Ben?

  3. Chris permalink
    April 30, 2009 7:41 am

    Hey Curt,

    Just wanted to throw a thank you out to ya. I recently sent you a few things to sign for a charity fundraiser for a friend with ALS. Again i really appreciate it, as does the family.

  4. John Lamb permalink
    April 30, 2009 8:20 am


    Your comments on Little League hit me like a sledge hammer this morning. My LL will not listen to me but I hope they are listening to you.

    I resigned from the BOD of our Little League for some of the reasons you highlited this MORNING ON d & c. LITTLE lEAGUE HAS BECOME ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER, NOT THE KIDS. While I appreciate and respect the volunteer aspect of LL, coaching, BOD positions, are handed out in many cases through, manipulation of BOD members, intimidation and the size of the volunteer’s check book. I have seen very qualified candidates passed over for the wrong reasons. It wasn’t always this way, though the personal agenda’s become apparant sooner or later. I always try to make decisions based on what is best for the kids. That is a simple formula that I follow to keep my focus on what is important, the Kids. I am not perfect but I do stick to this best for the kids process.

    I hope you get involved with the governing body of LL and trickle down your vision of what LL should be all about. THE KIDS. I am in my 8th year and enjoy teaching the kids how to play. Along with that comes life lessons that the game provides. I do my best to help the kids learn from the process of playing the game.

    I have wonderful relationships that continue as the kids go through High School. It has been a rewarding and fulfilling period of my life that I will always cherish. The time I spend with my own son’s has been the greatest part of the LL experience. I remember my first LL coach, the Dad who took time to teach me how to play a position or hit, not what our record was that season. I hope the players I coach feel the same 35 years down the road when they think about me. I hope every Youth coach feels that some day.

    Best wishes with your journey


  5. May 12, 2009 10:34 pm

    Hunter easily dispatches an overrated Tommy John. The Catfish was a bog game pitcher; John had his moments, but for me, I go with the flamethrowers over the softtossers.

    Tiant is definitely underappreciated and in many ways, unloved. Tiant won more games, but the reason why Hunter is more appreciated is that he was 98 games over .500, whilt El Tiante was 57 over.

    To me, games over .500 is the most important stat in pitchers numbers. It is this reason why I think Mike Mussina will somday make the HOF. He was 270-153, an astounding 117 games over .500. That’s dominance.

    Curt Schiiling will be an intersting HOF case. At 216-146, that’s an impressive 70 games over .500, but like his win totals, perhaps the 70 is not far enough .500 to be an automatic. It will be a great debate, but my gut tells me that someday, Schilling makes the HOF.

    But, Mussina deserves enshrnement as well. Mussina never won a WS, but Ernie Banks never made the playoffs. I’m not a Yankee or Oriole fan, but I have to advocate for Moose.

    Curt, remember Howdie and WCMF, Rochester? Good times.

  6. John permalink
    June 25, 2009 8:53 am

    Curt, Rick Langford had 28 CG in 1980. Eventually hurt his arm from all the overwork (Billy Martin struck again), but he’s actually the last guy to have 25 or more complete games in a season.

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