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Bob Bruce and Friends

August 6, 2021

Bob Bruce and Friends

         Bob Bruce in 1965 made 34 starts and pitched OK, but finished the season 9-18.   16 of his 34 starts were against #1 starters.  Nine of those were Hall of Famers—Sandy Koufax twice, Juan Marichal twice, Bob Gibson three times, Don Drysdale and Jim Bunning once each.  He also faced off against Bob Veale three times; Veale was 17-12 with 276 strikeouts and a 2.84 ERA.  He faced Chris Short twice; Short was 18-11, 2.82 ERA, 237 strikeouts, and he faced Jim Maloney and Vern Law once each.  Maloney was 20-9, 244 strikeouts, 2.62 ERA; Law didn’t strike people, probably because he was a devout Mormon and probably didn’t believe in striking people out, but he was 17-9 with a 2.15 ERA.

         Tony Cloninger was not a #1 starter that year, but he won 24 games, 24-11 with a 3.29 ERA.  Bruce faced him twice, and he faced Bob Shaw once.  Shaw was 16-9 with a 2.64 ERA, but he wasn’t a #1, either. That was the summer that Shaw taught Gaylord how to throw a spitball. 

         If we counted Cloninger and Shaw as number one starters, Bruce would have faced #1 starters 19 times that year, which would be a record.  It was actually 16, which is tied for the record.  Bruce was 4-10 with a 3.17 ERA when he faced a #1 starter.  He never faced a #6 starter that year, all year.  Sandy Koufax that season faced sixth starters nine times.  (Just relax and do your best, kid.  We weren’t going to beat Koufax anyway.)  Bruce’s teammate Dave Giusti, who made only 13 starts, faced sixth starters four times. 


The other pitchers who faced #1 starters 16 times in a season were Juan Marichal, 1963, Mickey Lolich, 1974, Jack Morris, 1980, and Trevor Cahill, 2011. 

Marichal posted a 1.83 ERA when facing an opposing #1, and went 9-6 in those games.  Marichal faced Koufax twice (1-1), Don Drysdale four times (3-1), Bob Friend twice (1-1), Larry Jackson four times (2-1), Jim Maloney once (0-1), Warren Spahn twice (1-1) and Joe Nuxhall once (1-0).  He was 25-8 that season, which means that he was 16-2 against everybody who wasn’t a #1.  The two pitchers who were not #1s, but who beat Marichal, were the two 18-game winners from the St. Louis Cardinals, Ernie Broglio and Bob Gibson, who were high-ranking #2s.   


Mickey Lolich in 1974 had the exact same ERA when facing a #1 starter as he did for the season, 4.15 both ways, but was 7-8 against the #1s, but 9-13 against everybody else.  The Tigers finished last, and Lolich (16-21) led the league in losses.


The list of #1 pitchers that Jack Morris faced in 1980 is not quite Koufax, Marichal, Gibson and Warren Spahn; the list included not a single Hall of Famer.   He did face seven 20-game winners that season (Scott McGregor, Steve Stone twice, Tommy John, and Dennis Leonard three times), and he did face two pitchers that year who are in the Hall of Fame, but neither one was a #1 starter that year.  The best pitcher he faced that year may have been Larry Gura, who pitched 283 innings with a 2.95 ERA, finished 18-10.  Morris was 16-15 with a 4.18 ERA, and was 7-7 against the #1 starters. 


Trevor Cahill in 2011 was the only pitcher other than the Dominican Dandy who faced off 16 times against #1 starters and was able to beat them, going 6-4 with a 2.78 ERA against a list that included Jered Weaver, CC Sabathia, James Shields, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, Josh Beckett, Felix Hernandez and David Price. But Cahill—who had been a #1 himself in 2010—had a bad year other than when he was facing the other team’s star. 


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