posted on Apr, 26 2006 @ 12:34 AM
Yeah, sure Plank rings a bell. How does that tie in to Bags?
Plank, b.t.w., is probably my choice for the #8 best lefty of the 20th Century. He is CERTAINLY no higher than that. These guys I would ALL take
ahead of him:
1. Lefty Grove---You probably read what I wrote about him the other night. There are some really great pitchers listed below, but there's no case to
be made for any of them as #1. Grove was to MLB pitchers what Ruth was to MLB hitters. Stats that would blow up a computer.
2. Warren Spahn---A good case can be made for rating The Big Unit ahead of Spahn. Coming into this season, Johnson's career W-L % is 62 points
higher than Spahn's, and while Johnson's been on some damn good teams, Spahn had Aaron, Eddie Mathews (who was better than Aaron through 1960 or so)
and a gigantic and awesome HR hitter named Joe Adcock whose HR feats I could tell you a lot about, and who once got 18 bases in a single game--4 HR's
and a double that banged high off of Ebbetts Fields' Fenwayesque fence in right field (Ebbetts, like League Park in Cleveland, was Fenway in reverse).
However, Johnson has 263 career wins; SPAHN HAD 363, easily the most since the Dead Ball Era, AND SPAHN DIDN'T WIN HIS FIRST UNTIL HE WAS 25. Prior
to that, he was a World War II hero, and in a big big way. I'm not giving him points here for his heroism, but I am giving him points for winning 363
games starting at age 25, in the LIVE Ball Era, AND for all the games he could have won from ages 22 through 24, had he been allowed to pitch from
1943 to 1945, rather than heroically putting his life in harm's way repeatedly.
Spahn lost the second most famouse regular season 1-0 game of the century. #1 would have to be career ERA leader Ed Walsh's 1-0 loss to future Hall
of Famer Addie Joss's perfect game, on 10/2/08, during the final Saturday of an intense 3-way pennant drive. That perfect game--baseball's all-time
greatest clutch pithing performance--played a huge role in the Veterans' Committee's waiving the 10 years of play requirement and opening the Hall of
Fame's doors to Joss, who died tragically young from tubercular meningitis after a spectacular 9-year career. And, oh yes, he is #2 on the career ERA
Anyway, Spahn's famous 1-0 loss, which may have finally caused the gradual demise of his career, came when he was 42 and on his way to a 23-7 (!)
season. He and young Juan Marichal, the man with 100 release points and speeds, both pitched 16-inning complete games. It ended in the bottom of the
16th when a certain Giant hit a HR. If you don't know who it was, I'll tell that it wasn't McCovey or Cepeda, and that the guy was worth both of them
combined and multiplied times 2, and leave it to you to guess.
3. Randy Johnson--'Nuff said, except for this: If he had learned to control and coordinate that giant body of his when he was 20, I might be talking
about whether he or Lefty Grove is the greatest PITCHER in the history of baseball, and whether Pedro has a shot at overtaking them.
4. Carl Hubbell---Very tough for me to decide whether to rate Hubbell ahead of Carlton (#5), or behind him. If Carlton had not hung on 3 horrible
years too long, I'd almost certainly put Carlton at #4, if not #3. They were both GREAT pitchers. Hubbell was for sure the N.L.'s greatest sustained
pitcher (i.e., taking Dizzy Dean out of the picture) in the 1920-1940 era, but was far overshadowed by his contemporary in the A.L., Grove. Bill
James has written that Tim Raines is the #2 greatest leadoff hitter of all time, but gets not nearly enough credit because his career coincided with
that of #1, Rickey Henderson--just as the great Hank Greenberg gets not enough credit at first because of Gehrig and Foxx.
I have often wondered if the same isn't true of Carl Hubbell. He and Grove were almost exact contemporaries, and he was a finesse pitcher whose
legendary screwball was his bread-and-butter pitch. How'd you like to be HIM, and have to compete with the man who won 9 E.R.A. title in 17 seasons,
all of which were spent in bad parks for lefties, and who did all the other incredible things I've detailed? Kind of a big shadow, no?
5. Steve Carlton---The first--and for several years, only--guy to win four Cy Young Awards. His 1973 season, with a perfectly execrable Phillie
team--he was 27-10, with a 1.97 ERA and a 182 Adjusted ERA; the Phillies' record as a team was 71-91, thus 44-81, without him--is legendary. In the
Live Ball Era, that may be the record for the highest % of one's team's wins. The problem was, Carlton had a lot of great years, but quite a few
lousy ones. He was 13-20 the year after he was 27-10. He won his second Cy Young in 1977, going 23-10, but was 16-13 the next year. At his
best--and his was OFTEN at his best--he was better than Hubbell could ever dream of being. But....
6. Whitey Ford---The Rodney Dangerfield of pitchers. He has the highest career W-L % of any 200-game winner. HE broke Babe Ruth's record for
consecutive scoreless innings pitched in World Series play. And the teams he pitched on, despite having Mantle and Berra, weren't NEARLY as good as
people seem to think.
7. Sandy Koufax---I'm going to make this my moment to do some myth-busting. From 1962-1966, Koufax did what nobody else has ever done: won 5
straight ERA titles. And ON PAPER, only Lefty Grove, among Live Ball pitchers, has had a better five-year run. But Sandy's incredible five-year run
was only part-truth and part-illusion, as I will now take the time to explain. I'd been wanting to save this, but Hootie's remark below made this too
perfect a time:
Koufax is basically judged on 5 seasons, while many of his earlier seasons were mediocre. His home park aided him ridiculously in those 5 years, as
you'll quickly learn if you study his home and away E.R.A. figures for those years (an absurd difference amounting to almost exactly ONE FULL RUN).
He was a modern Walter Johnson--a pitcher with a terrific fastball, pitching in a great pitchers' era, with a huge park and very fast outfielders.
So, yes he's on my Top 7 lefties despite a very abbreviated career (he was 30 when he quit), and yes, that 5-year run was tremendous, but there are
reasons why it wasn't nearly as great as people make it out to have been. To understand that, all you need to do is find the all-time Top 100
single-season Adjusted ERA list. And I will save you the trouble of that:
Including seasons prior to 1900, and thus rating the 1880 season of Tim Keefe as #1--which I sure as hell wouldn't do--here are the rankings, numbers
and seasons of the top 100 PARK-ADJUSTED ERA seasons of all time by certain pitchers. Those pitchers are: Koufax, Clemens, Maddux and Pedro:
Koufax: Two seasons: #60 in 1966 (190); and #70 (187) in 1964;
Clemens: Three: #27 in 1990 (211); #16 (221) in 2005 [and yes, that bothers me]; and #12 in 1997 (226).
Maddux: Four--#53 in 1998 (191); #52 in 1997 (191); #6 in 1995 (259); and #4 in 1994 (273).
Pedro: Five--#40 in 2002 (196); #26 in 2003 (212); #17 in 1997 (332); #9 in 1999 (245); and "#2" (really #1) in 2000 (285!).
In case you are interested, Grove had FOUR of his nine ERA-title-winning seasons in the top 100, with the highest being #18 (219) in 1931, the year he
was 31-4 and led the universe in everything. If you eliminate 19th Century pitchers from the list (which I would, with the exceptions of Cy Young and
maybe Kid Nicholls), Pedro has the #1 and #6 seasons; Maddux has #2 and #4; and Gibson's 1968 season is #5.
Hootie has made the point, below, that Koufax is overrated. He's right. I'm not overrating him by making him the #7 lefty of all time. He was that
much, even with his retirement at age 30. But if you study the above list, you'll see the idea Koufax had this unparalleled bunch of peak years is
just rubbish, as was the garbage of the talking-head idiots at ESPN who ranked him as the #1 pitcher of the century (lololololololol).
We have FOUR pitchers active right now--the three listed above, plus the Big Unit--who have unquestionably had better careers than Koufax did. And
you can see for yourself that Pedro and Maddux had far greater peak seasons than Koufax did, once his paradise ballpark was taken out of the picture.
Not even close.
So, does Koufax belong in the Hall? Certainly. Is he among the top 50% of pitchers in the Hall? Again, certainly, in light of all the bad jokes in
the Hall. But is he the pitcher he's been made out to be ever since 1962? Absolutely not... not even close. He is to pitchers what Pie Traynor was
to third basemen, and in another generation or so, when the blind passion of those who loved those Dodger teams has passed into another world, the
unavoidable statistical truths will be there for all to see and, like Pie Traynor at 3B, people will wonder why anyone ever got the notion Koufax was
8. Eddie Plank
It would be hard to talk me into rating anyone else higher than Koufax, but I'm willing to listen. You might well talk me into rating someone higher
than Plank, though I cannot think of whom, offhand.
[Edited on 5/10/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]