Pitching
(John McCoy/Daily News)

The Greatest Starting Pitching Seasons Of The Last 60 Years

In a season in which offense is down across the board and strikeouts are up considerably, I find it necessary to explore the other side of the issue: pitching. Starting pitching plays an interesting role in baseball, as starters only appear every four or five days but take on the biggest workload of anyone once that date arrives.

Through the years, many amazing pitchers have blessed baseball with indescribable talent, but we should explore the outlier seasons using criteria like wins, earned run average, walks and hits per innings pitched, strikeouts, and fielding independent pitching. No Deadball era seasons will be included (different workloads).

Sandy Koufax’s 1963 Season: 25-5, 1.88 ERA, 306 SO, 1.85 FIP, 0.875 WHIP, 10.7 WAR

If Koufax never endured career-ending injury, he would have broken all sorts of records. His 1963 season was one for the ages, as he led the Majors in wins, strikeouts, ERA, complete games, FIP, and WHIP. On top of an MVP and Cy Young nod, Koufax also helped the Dodgers sweep the powerhouse Yankees in that season’s fall classic.

Bob Gibson’s 1968 Season: 22-9, 1.12 ERA, 268 SO, 1.77 FIP, 0.853 WHIP, 11.2 WAR

Imagine being so good that the league has to change the field in order to make it fairer for batters. This was the case for fireballer Bob Gibson in 1968. The mound was literally lowered after the season. His 1.12 ERA was the lowest ERA in the modern era with no one coming close and he also took home the Cy Young and MVP that season.

Tom Seaver’s 1971 Season: 20-10, 1.76 ERA, 289 SO, 1.93 FIP, 0.946 WHIP, 10.2 WAR

The ’73 Mets were solid, but not great. Tom Seaver was at the forefront, pitching what was perhaps his greatest season on the mound. The worst part? He did not even win the Cy Young Award, despite leading the league in ERA, strikeouts, FIP, and WHIP.

Steve Carlton’s 1972 Season: 27-10, 1.97 ERA, 310 SO, 2.01 FIP, 0.993 WHIP, 12.1 WAR

The Phillies were not much of a threat at all in the first half of the 70s. They did have a few bright spots, however, and one was definitely Steve Carlton. The Hall of Fame lefthander quietly led the league in wins, ERA, strikeouts, and FIP. Naturally, he took home that year’s NL Cy Young award after his remarkable season. If the Phillies managed to have a winning record, he may have taken home MVP honors too, especially with his 12.1 WAR.

Ron Guidry’s 1978 Season: 25-3, 1.74 ERA, 248 SO, 2.19 FIP, 0.946 WHIP, 9.6 WAR

The juggernaut Yankees of the mid-to-late seventies had many legends. The ace of the team by far was Ron Guidry. His shining jewel was his 1978 season in which he led the league in wins, ERA, FIP, and WHIP. He easily took home the American League Cy Young award and narrowly missed out earning that year’s MVP.

Greg Maddux’s 1995 Season: 19-2, 1.63 ERA, 181 SO, 2.26 FIP, 0,811 WHIP, 9.7 WAR

The best of the Brave’s three-headed pitching monster of the mid-nineties was Greg Maddux. He was surgical with pitching and carved up the bats of steroid junkies. His 1995 season was one for the ages, as he led the Majors in wins, ERA, and WHIP. His ERA in particular was one of the lowest of the 20th century, approaching Gibson in ’68.

Pedro Martinez’s 2000 Season: 18-6, 1.74 ERA, 284 SO, 2.17 FIP, 0.737 WHIP, 9.7 WAR

Some consider Pedro’s run from 1999-2000 the greatest two pitching years of all time and for good reason too. The unassuming Red Sox righty made steroid users look like amateurs. He led the league in ERA, strikeouts, FIP, and WHIP. His WHIP alone in 2000 is a spectacle in itself as one of the lowest ever recorded.

Clayton Kershaw’s 2014 Season: 21-3, 1.77 ERA, 239 SO, 1.81 FIP, 0.857 WHIP, 7.7 WAR

The Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw set a new standard for pitching in the 2010s. He had many great seasons in the decade but his 2014 campaign was his baby. He dealt with an injury earlier sidelining him for a month, but this proved not to be an issue. Not only did he win Cy Young but also MVP. He led the league in wins, ERA, FIP, and WHIP.

Zack Greinke’s 2015 Season: 19-3, 1.66 ERA, 200 SO, 2.76 FIP, 0.844 WHIP, 8.9 WAR

Greinke pitched perhaps one of the best seasons ever to not win any major awards. He led the league only in ERA and WHIP, but only because the competition was incredibly difficult. Somehow, someway, the baseball world was blessed with someone just as good as him that year.

Jake Arrieta’s 2015 Season: 22-6, 1.77 ERA, 236 SO, 2.35 FIP, 0.865 WHIP, 8.3 WAR

Surprisingly, Arrieta only led the league in wins, yet he took home Cy Young honors. This was arguably his greatest season as a pitcher, and the race was tight between him and Greinke. His second half was so unhittable that he only allowed nine runs in 107 innings pitched. Unheard of.

Jacob deGrom’s 2018 Season: 10-9, 1.70 ERA, 269 SO, 1.98 FIP, 0.912 WHIP, 8.2 WAR

I am thankful that baseball writers do not give wins and losses as much water weight as before. They are not that important. Yes, a pitcher who wins 20 games is usually elite and amazing but a pitcher who wins only 10 can be an MVP too. Jacob deGrom is a shining example of this. His 2018 was epic for a bad Mets team. He only led the Majors in ERA and FIP but took home the NL Cy Young Award. Thanks again, baseball writers!

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