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The Dave Stieb Era

February 27, 2019

The Dave Stieb Era

            After the Tom Seaver era, in which the streets were full of Hall of Fame pitchers, there was an era in which everybody who looked like he was that good just somehow didn’t make it to the top.  I guess that era started with Steve Busby, who looked like a Hall of Fame pitcher from his late-season callup in 1972 until the end of June, 1975, but then invented the Rotator Cuff surgery.  Mark Fidrych in ’76, Frank Tanana, Guidry, Mike Norris, Ed Figueroa, Randy Jones, Andy Messersmith, Wayne Garland, J. R. Richard, Pat Zachary, Dennis Leonard, Bob Welch, Britt Burns, Mario Soto. . .they were all fantastic for a year or two years or three years, but none of them adorn the Halls of Cooperstown.  Dennis Eckersley was great for two or three years as a starter, then lost it as a starter, became a Hall of Fame reliever.  This led to a period in the 1980s when the Cy Young Award became the Lucky Bastard of the Year Award.   There were a series of really terrible Cy Young Awards, because there just wasn’t anybody who was at a Cy Young level.  Dave Stieb was the best starting pitcher of that era, never got recognized for it, but that’s getting ahead of the story.  This period ended in the mid-1980s with the emergence of Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen, Orel Hershiser and Roger Clemens.   Should mention Fernando there somewhere.


            1978 AL—Ron Guidry (both systems and Cy Young Award)

            1978 NL—Phil Niekro (both systems)

            Cy Young Award—Gaylord Perry

            Gaylord Perry, the Cy Young Award winner, is not rated as one of the ten best starting pitchers in the National League, either in my analysis or in Baseball Reference.


            1979 AL—Dennis Eckersley (D-WAR) Vs. Jerry Koosman (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—Mike Flanagan

            Another three-way split.   Let’s chart the candidates again.  Eckersley was pitching for the Red Sox, Koosman for the Twins, Flanagan for the Orioles. 















Total WAR















































            Both Fangraphs and the Cy Young voters think that Flanagan was the best pitcher of the three.  I can’t really understand how Fangraphs gets such a low WAR for Eckersley, who led the league in ERA+,  but

a)     Eckersley and Koosman are in a virtual tie in Baseball Reference WAR, and

b)     Out of the respect for the lack of consensus, I will regard the contest as too close to call. 



            1979 NL—J. R. Richard (D-WAR) Vs. Phil Niekro (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—Bruce Sutter

            The Braves in 1979 had no other pitchers, so Bobby Cox would run Phil Niekro out to the mound any time he could.  Niekro pitched 342 innings and gave up 41 homers.   His WAR (Baseball Reference) was 7.4, but his Wins Above Average were only 4.6.   J.R. Richard was the opposite of Niekro, an intimidating pitcher.  He was only 18-13 but led the league in ERA (2.71) and strikeouts (313).                                          

            I have Richard as the #1 pitcher in the league, Niekro second, Steve Carlton third.  Baseball Reference has Niekro first, Rick Reuschel second, J.R. Richard third.  I have tremendous respect for what Niekro was able to do at the age of 40, but I am also certain that, if you polled the 12 managers in the league, all 12 of them would rather have had J. R. Richard on the mound for a critical game than Phil Niekro. 


            1980 AL—Mike Norris (D-WAR) Vs. Britt Burns (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—Steve Stone

            Steve Stone, riding great offensive support, went 25-7 despite otherwise modest numbers—a strikeout to walk ratio of 149-101, an ERA of 3.23, an ERA+ of 123.  I have always assumed—and I would bet that you have, too, if you were around then--that the rightful Cy Young winner would have been Mike Norris, who was 22-9 but with a much better strikeout to walk ratio (180 to 83), ERA (2.53) and ERA+ (149).   He also pitched 30 more innings than Stone.

            Baseball Reference, however, now throws Britt Burns into the conversation.  Britt Burns?  Bit of a wild hair, isn’t it, B-R?   Burns was 15-13; his other numbers are better than Stone’s but less sterling than Norris’.  He pitched fewer innings than Stone (238), 46 fewer than Norris, with a strikeout to walk ratio of 133 to 63, ERA of 2.84, ERA+ of 143.   Fangraphs has Norris at 6.0, Burns at 4.5.   Nobody except the Cy Young voters thinks that Stone is in this conversation. 

            Baseball Reference, however, values Burns at 7.0 WAR, Norris at 5.9.   Huh? 

            It’s not un-earned runs; those were even at 8 apiece (Norris and Burns).  A little of it would be Park Effects (86 for Oakland vs. 94 for Chicago; Norris was with Oakland and Burns with Chicago.)  The Park Effects difference, however, would not begin to offset both the 46 inning advantage of Norris and the ERA advantage.  

            Ahhh.  . .it’s that fielding support thing.   B-R says that Norris defensive support was outstanding (0.56 runs per nine innings, or 18 runs for the season) whereas Burns’ was poor (-.07 runs per nine innings, or negative a run and a half.)  They thus give Burns a 20-win push for dealing with them lousy fielders, and this puts Burns in front. 

            Well, here’s what I think.   First, I don’t think there is any real doubt that Norris should be ahead of Burns, although I agree that Norris and Burns are the 1 and 2 pitchers in the league.   What I think has happened is that ballparks and fielders sometimes have very similar statistical signatures.   The Oakland Coliseum, with large foul territory and cool, damp air, was a tough place to hit.  The A’s as a team hit .251 at home in 1980, .267 on the road, with a slugging percentage 42 points higher on the road.  Their opponents hit .234 at home, .254 on the road, with a slugging percentage 65 points higher on the road. 

            The park reduces the in-play average and the other run elements—but good defensive play also reduces the in-play average and the other run elements.   This creates the possibility of confusion between the two.  What I THINK has happened here is that the park’s run-suppressing characteristics are being double-counted as if they were also evidence of superior defense, thus adjusting twice for the park.

            Whatever the cause, I am confident that my answer is the right one. 


            1980 NL—Steve Carlton (Both Systems and Cy Young Award)


            1981 AL—Steve McCatty (D-WAR) Vs. Bert Blyleven (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—Rollie Fingers

            This is a reprise of the 1980 divide between Mike Norris and Britt Burns.   Baseball Reference thinks that the defensive support for McCatty (with Oakland) was outstanding (0.50 runs per 9 innings), while that for Blyleven (with Cleveland) was terrible (negative 0.50 runs per nine innings.)   Odd symmetry, but those are the numbers; I didn’t make them up, Baseball Reference did.  They thus take 10 runs away from McCatty, and give 10 runs to Blyleven.

            I’m skeptical of the method, but the proposition that Blyleven was better than McCatty is more reasonable than the proposition that Burns was better than Norris.  Blyleven had more strikeouts than McCatty and fewer walks. Cleveland, based on 1981 data, reads as an even better pitcher’s park than Oakland, but based on multi-year data reads as a hitter’s park, so that is open to a different interpretation.   By my method McCatty looks better than Blyleven in 1981, but Blyleven was a great pitcher and McCatty was not; he was a guy who had the at ‘em ball working for one season.  Can we call this one a draw? 


            1981 NL—Fernando Valenzuela Vs. Steve Carlton (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award--Fernando

            For those of you not old enough to remember or too old to remember from day to day, 1981 was the season of Fernando Mania.   Fernando Valenzuela, a rookie, pitched a string of shutouts and outstanding games early in the season, attracting huge crowds to Dodger Stadium and becoming the biggest story in baseball.  He was fun to watch, a heavy-set guy who looked kind of like Babe Ruth, with an odd habit of rolling his eyes to the sky as he delivered the pitch.  The season was interrupted by a strike, which cost us a third of a season. By season’s end Fernando and Steve Carlton, the 1980 Cy Young Award winner, were the two obvious Cy Young candidates, although Tom Seaver had a better won-lost record (14-2) and Nolan Ryan had a better ERA (1.69).  Fernando and Carlton were 1-2 in innings pitched and strikeouts, and tied for second in wins, one behind Seaver.  Fernando was 13-7 with a 2.48 ERA; Carlton was 13-4 with a 2.42 ERA.   Fernando also threw 8 shutouts (!!) and hit .250; Carlton threw one shutout and hit .134.   My system likes Fernando a little bit better (7.8 to 7.2); Baseball Reference likes Carlton a little better (5.6 to 4.8), but I wouldn’t argue the point either way.   Both systems agree that they were the 1 and 2 pitchers in the league.



            1982 AL—Dave Stieb (both systems)

            Cy Young Award—Pete Vuckovich.

            Vuckovich was perhaps the worst Cy Young selection of all time.  Baseball Reference has Stieb with 7.7 WAR, Vuckovich with 2.8.  I have it 8.3 to 3.7. 

            At that time Jack Etkin covered the Royals for the Kansas City Star; Jack and I were good friends.  I remember talking to him about the Cy Young candidates in the press box at Royals Stadium in the closing days of the season.  I think Jack had a Cy Young vote, although I wouldn’t swear to that.   Anyway, I remember saying that I thought Stieb was clearly the best pitcher in the league, to which Jack replied, "Yeah, but are we ready to give the Cy Young Award to a 17-14 pitcher?"  To which the answer was "No, they weren’t ready."   Stieb certainly would win it now, the way we think about things now. 


            1982 NL—Mario Soto (D-WAR) vs. Steve Rogers (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—Steve Carlton

            Carlton’s won-lost record got him the Cy Young Award, although he was still an outstanding pitcher.  Soto struck out 274 batters, walked 71 and had a 2.78 ERA, but had a 14-13 won-lost record pitching for a 101-loss team (Cincinnati).  Rogers was 19-8 with a 2.40 ERA pitching for Montreal, fewer strikeouts.  Baseball Reference has Rogers just a hair ahead of Soto (7.7 to 7.5), so you couldn’t describe it as a real conflict in the methods.   I have it Soto-Carlton-Rogers, but reasonably close.

            I worked Soto’s arbitration case following either the 1982 or 1983 season, don’t remember which, and got to spend a few hours with him helping to prepare the case.  He was an intelligent, dignified man who dressed extremely well and seemed very composed, although he had a reputation as a hothead due to a couple of on-field incidents.  As a pitcher he was like Pedro, Marichal and Santana, in that he combined an outstanding fastball with a devastating changeup, and probably got most of his strikeouts with the changeup.   He could knock you down with that changeup, would get guys falling forward trying to hold up their swings.  This is from memory, but I think he was Juan Marichal’s son-in-law, or maybe that was Juan Rijo.   Doesn’t seem to be a SABR biography of him.  Similar career path to Rijo—among the best pitchers in baseball for a short period of time, never got the recognition for it that he deserved. 


            1983 AL—Dave Stieb (Both)

            Cy Young Award—Lamarr Hoyt.

            Another bad Cy Young vote, based entirely on the won-lost record.  Stieb (17-12) wasn’t even mentioned in the Cy Young voting, whereas he had finished fourth in the voting the year before, when he was 17-14. 


            1983 NL—Mario Soto (D-WAR) Vs. John Denny (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—John Denny

            Very, very similar to the 1982 season.   Carlton, given a season of poor run support, dropped off from 23-11 to 15-16, but remained in my judgment the #2 starting pitcher in the league; I have it Soto-Carlton-Denny, whereas in 1982 it was Soto-Carlton-Rogers.   The Reds improved to 74-88, and Soto’s won-lost record improved to 17-13.  He finished second to John Denny in the Cy Young voting, and second in Baseball Reference WAR, with Carlton third. 


            1984 AL—Dave Stieb (Both)

            Cy Young Award and MVP—Willie Hernandez (reliever)

            Stieb is the third pitcher to be identified by both systems as the best pitcher in the league three straight seasons, the previous two being Lefty Grove (1930-1932) and Robin Roberts (1952-1954).  That Stieb did this without ever finishing higher than fourth in the Cy Young voting is kind of amazing. 


            1984 NL—Dwight Gooden (Both)

            Cy Young Award—Rick Sutcliffe

            Sutcliffe, traded from Cleveland to the Cubs in mid-season, went 16-1 for the Cubs and won the Cy Young Award, with the 19-year-old Gooden second in the voting. 


            1985 AL—Dave Stieb (D-WAR) Vs. Bret Saberhagen (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—Saberhagen

            Dave Stieb is basically a 1980s version of Jim Bunning in the following ways:

1)     That he was probably the best pitcher in his league in his prime,

2)     That he deserved more than one Cy Young Award, but never won one,

3)     That his run support was relatively poor over the course of his career, and

4)     That he was a super-competitive person who did, sometimes, annoy his teammates. 

            Some people, including me, have drawn a line between Bunning and Stieb’s intensity/proclivity to irritate teammates. . .some people have drawn a line between that and the lack of run support.   While that may be true or may be false, I don’t know in retrospect that I would make that connection.  The two things can both be true without being related. 

            By 1985 the Blue Jays had become the best team in the American League in the regular season (99-63), although the Royals beat them in the playoffs and won the World Series.  Stieb for the Blue Jays pitched more innings than Saberhagen for the Royals (265-235) with a better ERA (2.48 to 2.87) but somehow finished just 14-13 despite pitching for a team that won almost 100 games.  He left the mound after six innings with a 7-2 lead on April 13; the bullpen blew the game.  He pitched 7 shutout innings in Minnesota on May 17, left the game leading 6-0; the bullpen blew it again.  He pitched into the 9th inning against the Yankees on June 12, gave up two runs, one of those un-earned; the Blue Jays won it after he was out of the game.   He pitched 9 innings giving up 2 runs, again against the Yankees, on July 3; again, the Blue Jays won it after he had left the game, by the same score—3-2 in 10 innings.  Through July 8 he had a 1.84 ERA.  He gave California two runs in 7.1 innings on July 13, leaving the game tied 2-2.   On August 25 he pitched into the eighth inning at Minnesota, left the game leading 5-2; the bullpen blew it.  On September 12 he pitched into the seventh inning against the Yankees, left the mound leading 4-1; the bullpen blew it, although in that case we should note that he left the bases loaded with no one out.   

            In the minds of sportswriters of that era, these events confirmed the image of Stieb built up over the previous four seasons:  that he was a highly effective pitcher, but just couldn’t win the close games.  Still, Baseball-Reference sees Saberhagen as legitimately better than Stieb in 1985, and I wouldn’t argue the point.  Saberhagen had far better control than Stieb, walking easily less than half as many and less than half as many per inning.  Saberhagen had a better component ERA, and Saberhagen allowed only 4 earned runs, while Stieb allowed 16.   Royals Stadium, as it was called then, was a little tougher place to pitch, a little better place to hit.  I can see an argument for either one as the best pitcher in the league.             


            1985 NL—Dwight Gooden (Both Systems and Cy Young Award)

            Gooden went 24-4, 1.53 ERA, working with just two pitches—a fastball and a curve.



            1986 AL—Roger Clemens (D-WAR) Vs. Teddy Higuera (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—Roger Clemens

            Roger Clemens, unknown to most of the public before 1986, struck out 20 batters in a game early in the season and rolled to a 24-4 mark, leading the league in ERA (2.48), ERA+ (169), WHIP (0.97), Wins (24), Winning Percentage (.857); Mark Langston edged him in strikeouts and Blyleven edged him in strikeout/walk ratio, although he was close to leading in those things as well. 

            Higuera, a tremendous pitcher, was 20-11 with 207 strikeouts, but led the league in. . .well, nothing, really, except Baseball Reference WAR.    Clemens had more strikeouts, fewer walks, fewer home runs allowed, a better WHIP.  Same number of un-earned runs, 7 each.  Higuera just seems like a goofy choice, frankly. 



            1986 NL—Mike Scott (Both Systems and Cy Young Award)

            1987 AL—Roger Clemens (Both Systems and Cy Young Award)


            1987 NL—Nolan Ryan (D-WAR) Vs. Bob Welch (R-WAR)

            Cy Young Award—Steve Bedrosian

            1987 was the year in which the 40-year-old Nolan Ryan went 8-16 despite leading the National League in strikeouts, ERA, and ERA+.   He struck out 270 men in 211 innings, which was a more phenomenal thing then than it would be now.  His season was scored by me as the second unluckiest season in my data, with a "luck score" of negative 18.0.   His deserved won-lost record was 18-8. 

            Bedrosian, a reliever having not a sensational season, won the Cy Young Award because he was clearly the best reliever, whereas no one was clearly the best starting pitcher.  The starting pitchers split the vote, and the reliever won the Award, as relievers often did in that era.   There were eight pitchers mentioned in the Cy Young voting—seven starters, and Bedrosian.   Bedrosian won the Award although he got only 9 out of 24 first-place votes, and only a 48% vote share.  It may be the most widely split Cy Young vote of all time, I don’t know.  I would guess that it was.  I don’t know if anybody else has ever won it with a 48% vote share.

            Anyway, Ryan was 8-16, 2.76 ERA.  His teammate Mike Scott was 16-13 with a 3.23 ERA, and Bob Welch was 15-9 with a 3.22 ERA.  My system makes the three best pitchers in the league Ryan, Scott and Welch, whereas Baseball Reference has Welch followed by another Dodger, Orel Hershiser, then Rick Sutcliffe, then Scott and then Ryan.  The one-year Park Factors were 81 for Dodger Stadium, where Welch and Hershiser pitched, and 83 for the Astrodome, where Ryan and Scott worked.  The data suggests that Baseball Reference is reading the parks differently than I am.  Hershiser allowed 15 un-earned runs, Nolan Ryan 10, so that’s not it.   Apparently it’s that "fielding support" thing again.  Anyway. ..pretty comfortable with my choice, Nolan Ryan, as the best starting pitcher in the league. 


The Unluckiest Pitchers of All Time (Career List)

            Nolan Ryan also scores, by my method, as the unluckiest pitcher in the study.   His career won-lost record (as a starting pitcher) was just 318-291, 27 games over .500.   My method thinks that he should have been more like 384-220. 



Actual W

Actual L






















































































            I don’t seriously think that Ryan could as easily as not have been 384-220.  I’m sure that the method over-rates him at least somewhat.  As I acknowledged in the comments about the 1977 American League best pitcher competition, Nolan Ryan is so much an outlier from the norms, so far away from the usual case, that it is difficult to say whether his value is or is not accurately reflected in the output.   By any method—this method, Baseball Reference WAR, Fangraphs WAR, whatever; it is just nearly impossible to know whether you have Nolan Ryan right or wrong.

            The system over-values strikeouts at least a little bit.  The method shows Ryan as being twice as unlucky as any other pitcher.  I don’t believe that, but somebody has to be the unluckiest pitcher of all time, in his won-lost record, and I would accept that Ryan might well be the man.  And let me make this argument.

            You have to remember that throughout most of baseball history, people didn’t think of pitchers who had bad luck as being unlucky.   They thought of them as being unable to win.  The belief in won-lost records, through most of baseball history, was nearly absolute.   Because that was true, a pitcher who had a losing record would drop out of the major leagues after just a year or two—even if he was, in reality, a good pitcher.  To have bad luck and stay in the majors required a great pitcher—like Ryan or Blyleven.  Therefore, the number one tough-luck pitcher in baseball history would HAVE to be an outstanding pitcher.   



COMMENTS (28 Comments, most recent shown first)

I appreciate Bill James recognizing Stieb. I judge Stieb to probably be the best of his cohort--i.e., the 1980s era of the generation of starting pitchers born in the 1950s. This is somewhat surprising because of Stieb's relatively short career (under 3000 IP) and 176-137 W-L record. You'd think that there would be at least one, if not several, starters with better stats and in a substantially longer career.

The fact that Stieb might be the best starter of his generational cohort shows what an underwhelming cohort this was. Thus, Stieb was very good for his cohort but would have ranked much lower in another historical cohort, such as starters born in the 1930s, 1940s, or 1960s.

Here's a list of Hall of Fame starting pitchers with their birth years:

[CODE]Name Birth year # born in decade
Jim Bunning 1931 1
Bob Gibson 1935 2
Sandy Koufax 1935 3
Don Drysdale 1936 4
Juan Marichal 1937 5
Gaylord Perry 1938 6
Phil Niekro 1939 7

Fergie Jenkins 1942 1
Steve Carlton 1944 2
Tom Seaver 1944 3
Don Sutton 1945 4
Jim Palmer 1945 5
Catfish Hunter 1946 6
Nolan Ryan 1947 7

Bert Blyleven 1951 1
Jack Morris 1955 2

Randy Johnson 1963 1
Tom Glavine 1966 2
Greg Maddux 1966 3
John Smoltz 1967 4
Mike Mussina 1968 5

If ou'd like to discuss why the 1950s-born cohort of starting pitchers is such an outlier compared to surrounding decades, I've started a reader's post at:​#post175122

12:36 PM Mar 7th
Re: Nolan Ryan

Just throwing this out there ... maybe the issue is not that the Game Score system overvalues strikeouts: Maybe it undervalues (in a negative manner, if you know what I mean) walks.

Or maybe it does both (overvalues SOs and undervalues negatively BBs).
11:19 AM Mar 7th
Thank you for the Soto comment. He has become somewhat forgotten and it's a shame. As you show here, he may have been deserving two Cy Young Awards and is hardly noticed.

I met Soto at a Redsfest convention with my two teenage sons. My boys didn't like throwing change ups when pitching. Soto had a big smile on his face when I asked him which two pitches he used to strike out 274 batters. He said he didn't need more than two pitches--that's all it took. He was quite gracious and well dressed as you mentioned (clothes pressed?)

The Reds have never had a Cy Young winner. Here's Soto almost winning two in 1982 and 1983 and Tom Seaver was oh so close in 1981, and who knows what would would have happened with the other 1/3 of the season. Danny Jackson was second in 1988 (behind Hershiser's scoreless inning streak). Jose Rijo was close in a poor Reds' 1993 season.

It is interesting that Warren Spahn received the only NL votes in 1961 Cy Young year (one winner for all). Reds' Joey Jay finished 4th in MVP voting while Jim O'Toole and Spahn tied for 10th

I suppose since Bucky Walters was MVP in 1939 (and may be 1940) he would be the de facto Cy Young winner, may be Ewell Blackwell in 1947. and I suppose Dolf Luque in 1923?
3:11 PM Mar 6th
Just to get a taste of this era: good song and some baseball clips .....

What songs best describe some baseball eras? I think we've done this before ..... start of Rock kinda lines up with the end of the Stengel era.
4:38 PM Mar 1st
@bhalbleib In general, I agree with you and have seen all the evidence against Martin and his overworking of pitchers, but I would defend him in regard to his time in Oakland.

That's because none of those pitchers were prospects, I don't think. He took Norris, Langford and McCatty and made them All-Star level pitchers. Matt Keough was pretty good, too. He didn't ruin prospects or derail Hall of Fame careers and even hurt the fortunes of the Athletics over the next few seasons. If I am one of those pitchers, I would rather have two seasons that people are still taking about, because Martin and Art Fowler taught me to get by on junk (and spitters) than have a 10-year career and win 100 games, but no seasons that were memorable.

Now I know this is more of an philosophical argument than one about over-working pitchers, but then again, I have always been a Martin fan and a fan of those Athletics teams.
12:31 AM Mar 1st
Back in 1983 a colleague at work in Philadelphia complained a lot about Gene Mauch ruining Art Mahaffey. It looks like he had a point based on Mahaffey’s career record. The funny thing was that his favorite manager was Billy Martin.

I haven’t been there in years, but I bet there are still Philadelphians complaining about 1964.
3:12 PM Feb 28th
I never thought about your last comment but its clearly true, to be an unlucky pitcher over a period of time you have to be outstanding. I don't know why I didn't think of it before even with Roger Craig (IIRC) saying you have to be pretty good to lose 20 games.

Lets say your system is incorrect and it overstates Ryans unluck by 0, so he deserved record would be around 351-256. That would complete change a lot of views about him, being almost 100 games over 0.500. I don't think its off by that much, but if it is that's still incredible.
1:00 PM Feb 28th
brewer09: Ed Figueroa. My comment might have been influenced by seeing 3 Martin guys in a row in Bill's list. (Guidry, Norris, Figueroa). HOwever, I think I could probably go through many Martin starters from the 70s and 80s and find burnout. All 5 of the A's starters from 80-81, of course. Figueroa for sure. I think he ended Catfish Hunter's career. (consider this, Martin managed the last 56 games of the 75 season for the Yankees, a season that Hunter started 39 games and completed 30 of them, under Martin Catfish's starts are CG, CG (gave up 8 runs), CG, CG, CG, CG, CG, SHO, SHO, CG, 7IP, CG, CG (10 innings), in 1976 he rode him almost as hard and then he never was the same). I am sure if I check the Tigers from the early 70s and maybe even the Rangers from short time he was there we can find him riding guys just as hard. I just looked, I would suggest he ended Lolich's effectiveness and Joe Coleman for sure for the Tigers. Ferguson Jenkins seems to have survived him OK, but Jim Bibby wasn't the same for a couple years until a revival with a manager that didn't abuse him (Chuck Tanner). And I don't think Martin was the only manager doing this, just the worst, although I might have to check Gene Mauch on that, he probably has similar results. In the short term, giving your best starters 40 starts and 300 IP worked out great, but it ruined a lot of arms in the 70s.​
8:49 AM Feb 28th
For brewer09: At the bottom of the articles shown on this site's home page, click "View All." That'll show you more articles, in reverse chronological order. Then the one you want is The Target Score, from Feb. 15. You'll also see other earlier articles in this series.
8:37 AM Feb 28th
The parallels that Bill draws between Stieb and Bunning are also true of Kevin Brown, except that he was probably not the best pitcher in his league during his prime (because of Maddux). But I think he might have been second best.
12:41 AM Feb 28th
I guess this D-WAR method is based largely on Games Scores, but I can't find the first article in this series, the one that might explain this ...

12:38 AM Feb 28th
@bhalbleib You said "many" pitchers were used too much by Billy Martin. What are the others on the list besides Norris and McCatty?

He also managed Guidry, but Guidry has a really good career.
12:35 AM Feb 28th
(little typo -- little risk of anyone failing to get it as it is, but to help make sure: that's actually about unearned runs for Saberhagen [4 of them] and Stieb [16] in 1985)
10:41 PM Feb 27th
Re: Ryan as an outlier. I wonder if the fact that he was such an extreme pitcher -- so many walks, so many strikeouts, so few balls in play -- changes the way park effects impact him -- in either sense. Could that make up part of the difference?
10:12 PM Feb 27th
I'll provide an anecdote on why I don't fully appreciate Nolan Ryan.

Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS. Houston leads 5 to 2 in the top of the eighth. Bowa leads off with a single. Boone hits an infield single off Ryan's glove. Gross gets a bunt single; Ryan doesn't move.

Rose works a deep count. He hits a foul grounder down the first base line. Rose and Ryan have a few words. Rose says something like "You can't get me out with a curve." Ryan takes the challenge. Rose takes a walk. The Phillies go on to win the series. As a Phillies fan I'm grateful.
8:53 PM Feb 27th
At a "Hey Bill" question I cited the 1983 Abstract's conclusion that Carlton deserved the 1982 Cy Young Award. I won't rehash the whole thing, but Carlton's ERA was misleading because Corrales left him in games when another pitcher would have been taken out. Carlton was compared to Rogers and Andujar; Soto was left out.

Carlton had no "cheap wins" that year. To avoid a cheap win the starter had to pitch at least 6 innings with a game ERA under 4.00. The pitcher got credit for his own runs scored and RBI.

Carlton was very streaky that year. His first 4 starts were below replacement level. He had a similar 3 game stretch in late summer. He had at least one "cheap no decision." Against Montreal he gave up 4 runs in the first inning. The Phillies came back to tie it. In the bottom of the seventh Carlton gave up 4 runs, 2 unearned. Carlton left with the Phillies training 8 to 4. The Phillies rallied to win 15 to 11. In the locker room Carlton told his teammates "I knew we'd come back if I kept it close."

OTOH, Carlton has some great hot streaks. In one West Coast trip the Phillies scored 2 runs in his 3 starts. Carlton won twice, losing the other one 2 to 0. Carlton had 4 starts where the Phillies scored 1 run. He won 3.

BTW, Jose Rijo was once Juan Marichal's son-in-law.
7:51 PM Feb 27th
Everything he's saying about these pitchers, strat-o-matic players knew back then.

6:10 PM Feb 27th
@bhalbleib The four man rotation was in place in the 1960s and early 1970s with no issues. Many, many pitchers pitched under it without burnout.

@bjames Your next article is about to include a lulu of a team defensive evaluation: the 1991 Braves. It’s so bad an evaluation that it calls into question the defensive adjustment.
5:17 PM Feb 27th
Ryan is second (277) among all pitchers in wild pitches; 18 of the top 24 are 19th century guys; Phil Neikro is 2nd (226) among modern pitchers.

Ryan is, of course first in walks--900 ahead of Steve Carlton. Among the "modern" pitchers, he's he clear leader in BB/9:
Ryan: 4.7
Feller: 4.1
Newsom: 4.1
Hough: 3.9
Wynn: 3.5
Carlton: 3.2
Niekro: 3.1
Clemens: 2.9

He's the 20th century leader in errors with 90 and had a .895 FA. BBRef has RF/9 leaders down to #400. Mariano Rivera is 399th, with a RF/9 of 2.58 plays per 9 IP. Ryan is at 1.28.

4:56 PM Feb 27th
I've always been fascinated by Stieb's '85 season. Something I wrote a couple of years ago (prompted by Bill's bad-luck/good-luck series of articles at the time):
4:41 PM Feb 27th
Kind of interesting that both Tanana and Ryan are on that last list. Obviously they defined the Anaheim staff for almost the entire 1970s. I wonder if there's any other connection there.
4:15 PM Feb 27th
Ryan had a lot of bad peripherals I think... HBP, WP, PB, Balks, etc... not sure exactly which, but probably a couple of those.
3:44 PM Feb 27th
In regard to Ryan, some of the things common to him- making errors, wild pitches, allowing steals- are things not counted in game scores, except in the various runs that they aided to score. Trying to total these events into how many earned or unearned runs they may have added, a rough guesstimate is that they may account for an average of 1 game score point per start. That likely doesn't shave much of the unluckiness off of him, but some.
3:35 PM Feb 27th
Re your first paragraph, it seems to me that many of the pitchers on the list were run into the ground by one Billy Martin, which leads me to wonder if the reason for no great pitchers from that era is the 4 man rotation and too many managers like Martin who were willing to wring every single inning out of his starters that was humanly possible. Only a physical freak like Nolan Ryan or a knuckleballer like Phil Niekro can take that kind of abuse for more than a year or two
3:15 PM Feb 27th
You mention Jose Deleon. I remember that he always had good stats, but, not so good won/loss records.

My explanation for this at the time was that he was this big strong guy and his managers thought that he could pitch forever. In the games that I watched him we was almost always very good through 6, and then....not so good.
10:35 AM Feb 27th
You mention Jose Deleon. I remember that he always had good stats, but, not so good won/loss records.

My explanation for this at the time was that he was this big strong guy and his managers thought that he could pitch forever. In the games that I watched him we was almost always very good through 6, and then....not so good.
10:34 AM Feb 27th
Very interesting about Ryan being the unluckiest pitcher. And Blyleven being unlucky also. What are the common threads of the unlucky pitchers? Ryan, Blyleven, Tanana, several others were strikeout pitchers. And walks too. Maybe their teammates got tired waiting for something to happen defensively. Maybe these pitchers threw too many innings. I dunno. I agree that somebody has to be unlucky and only very good pitchers can overcome that tag and stay on the majors. In WW2 the Russians executed more of their own soldiers for retreating, running away, etc., than the US lost in WW2. Stalin told some US Generals that "It takes a brave man not to be a hero in the Soviet Army". It takes a hell of a pitcher to keep his job despite losing more games than expected, and you have to be strong mentally to keep going out there when the losses don't seem to be your (the pitchers) fault.
10:18 AM Feb 27th
Some of the 'almost' best seasons of all time occur when another pitcher has an all-time great season: Marichal in '65 and '68, Tudor in '85, Kevin Brown in '98, Schilling in Arizona. Gaylord Perry in '72 won the Cy Young Award with 24 wins and an ERA under 2.00 pitching for a bad team. Even though he won, Carlton is the guy we think of when we think of '72. His record was even better than Perry's, pitching for a team that was even worse.
8:52 AM Feb 27th
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