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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Grantland: The Pitching Championship Belt, Part 1

• The goal is to identify the pitcher the majority of baseball fans would have picked as the best pitcher on the planet at the end of the season. You know, Family Feud style. Imagine a poll in the back of Baseball Digest or Sporting News where only people who really cared about baseball responded.

• That means we have to measure it in statistics that most fans use. Yes, I think pitcher wins are basically a useless statistic, just like you do. But we’re in the minority. So wins, ERA, strikeouts, and innings pitched are the four numbers I’m relying upon most heavily.

Happy Jack, take a bow.

Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 02, 2014 at 01:46 PM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, lists, pitchers

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   1. AROM Posted: July 02, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4742140)
I like this. Before he posts part 2 I'll give my take:

1990-1992 - Roger Clemens
1993-1995 - Greg Maddux
1996 - John Smoltz (consider Kevin Brown and his 1.89 ERA, a full run better than Smoltz, but if I ignore 24 wins then I'm drawn into SABR land. And once there, I can't unsee that Smoltz with his 276 strikeouts had a better FIP than Brown).
1997-1998 - Clemens
1999-2000 - Pedro Martinez
2001-2002 - Randy Johnson
2003 - Pedro Martinez (Halladay won Cy and pitched 80 more innings, but allowed 59 more runs in the process)
2004-2006 Johan Santana
2007 - Jake Peavy
2008 - Cliff Lee
2009 - Zack Greinke
2010 - Roy Halladay
2011-2012 - Justin Verlander
2013 - Clayton Kershaw
   2. Sweatpants Posted: July 02, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4742156)
I agree with that list except for 2007-08. I'd probably give Sabathia the belt both years. I could also see an argument for Santana's reign stretching from '04 to '08 or for Lincecum getting a one-year reign in 2008.
   3. Rennie's Tenet Posted: July 02, 2014 at 04:58 PM (#4742161)
So wins, ERA, strikeouts, and innings pitched are the four numbers I’m relying upon most heavily.


I think shutouts were a big deal in the early days, obviously bigger than today but also bigger than 1960s-70s. I always thought that the best way to get Blyleven into the Hall was just to keep hammering on 60 shutouts. Complete games, too - maybe bigger than innings pitched?
   4. Eddo Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:00 PM (#4742164)
Barnwell's turned into a good NFL writer. Every time I read his takes on anything else, though, it sounds like someone who was given a crash course in the material, then tries to write from a position of authority.
   5. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:05 PM (#4742168)
In other words, like pretty much everyone else on the internet?
   6. Eddo Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:06 PM (#4742169)
In other words, like pretty much everyone else on the internet?

Pretty much. Yet Grantland has other, really good MLB and soccer writers, for example, so I don't see why Barnwell is asked (or allowed?) to write non-NFL pieces.
   7. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:09 PM (#4742170)
Probably something to do with there's nothing NFL-related to write about this time of year and Grantland figures they may as well get something for their money. That, and/or Barnwell agitating, as people in similar positions to his frequently do (and as I probably would, too), that he wants to broaden his scope and doesn't want to be strictly an NFL writer his whole life.
   8. cardsfanboy Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:14 PM (#4742176)
I think shutouts were a big deal in the early days, obviously bigger than today but also bigger than 1960s-70s. I always thought that the best way to get Blyleven into the Hall was just to keep hammering on 60 shutouts. Complete games, too - maybe bigger than innings pitched?


Outside of Blyleven's shutout total, is there generally much disparity in complete games between the primary contenders for each slice of year?
   9. Eddo Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:30 PM (#4742195)
Zeth, that's all probably true. And I wouldn't say either side is wrong, necessarily.

I'm just disappointed in Barnwell's non-NFL writing, is all. I never cared for him much at Football Outsiders, but he's been excellent at Grantland. He often writes with nuance and contextualizes his quantitative analysis when writing about the NFL now, but doesn't seem to at all when writing about other sports. I was hoping he'd grown across the board.
   10. PreservedFish Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:44 PM (#4742209)
Re: the list in #1, I think that the names change too quickly. I would bet that the average reign for "best pitcher" is several years. Santana probably hands his crown directly to Halladay at some point in 2007-2009.
   11. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:47 PM (#4742214)
Barnwell's a good writer; I'm not sure he's a better writer than 25 BTF posters I could list. Like many who manage to achieve a full-time job writing on the internet (or, really, doing anything else that isn't highly technical), he got there through a combination of drive* and luck.

Success in any nontechnical field requires enough talent to stick, but the pool of people talented enough is many times larger than the number of available jobs; who gets them is mostly based on drive and luck.

I would liken Barnwell writing about anything non-NFL to Simmons writing about anything non-NBA: a good writer and an expert in a narrow field writing outside his field. Doesn't know enough about it to qualify as an expert, but knows enough about it and is a good enough writer to write things at least intermittently worth reading.

*"Drive" meaning how badly you want it.
   12. Eddo Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:48 PM (#4742216)
100% agree, Zeth.
   13. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 02, 2014 at 05:54 PM (#4742224)
Agree with #10. When I think of "best pitcher in baseball," it's over a several year period. A guy who had one great year (even if a good pitcher overall) doesn't quality.
   14. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 02, 2014 at 06:03 PM (#4742235)
Yeah, that struck me thinking about the 1980s and 1990s--the logical progression of "this is who is generally perceived as the Best Pitcher in the World" goes from Carlton (1980-1983) to Gooden (1984-1985) to Clemens (1986-1992) to Maddux (1993-1996) back to Clemens and then to Pedro, etc.

It's awfully hard to deny Orel Hershiser, so I suppose you make him champion for 1988, but... Clemens was awesome in 1988, too. Hershiser had the hottest hot stretch in all the history of pitching in late 1988 and it carried through the postseason, but on the whole, even in 1988, Clemens was just as good. I think "Clemens 1986-1992" is the most logical and defensible position.
   15. cardsfanboy Posted: July 02, 2014 at 06:07 PM (#4742239)
Re: the list in #1, I think that the names change too quickly. I would bet that the average reign for "best pitcher" is several years. Santana probably hands his crown directly to Halladay at some point in 2007-2009.


That is what I was thinking when I was reading his list. It shouldn't be "who was the best perceived player among this years Cy Young winners." (Of course my Cardinal glasses colored this perception... I really doubt that when 1969 was over there were many people thinking Tom Seaver was better than Bob Gibson, just that he had the better year and his team was the miracle Mets)

   16. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: July 02, 2014 at 06:32 PM (#4742262)
The Hickok Belt, of course, was an alligator-skin belt handed out to the premier sportsman of the year by a group of sportswriters during their annual winter banquet in Rochester, New York. If that sounds like the most 1960s sports thing you can possibly imagine, you’re not alone.


This article was worth it if only for informing me of this award. We need to bring it back.

Oh snap, it's back: http://hickokbelt.com/!
   17. Jose Canusee Posted: July 02, 2014 at 07:11 PM (#4742300)
Hadn't heard of Ray Kremer, who was a late starter like Vance, except after a PCL career rather than bouncing around. Good SABR article at http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/139cb5e01
   18. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: July 02, 2014 at 07:59 PM (#4742326)
Barnwell's a good writer; I'm not sure he's a better writer than 25 BTF posters I could list.

Who are the other 24, besides me?
   19. Arbitol Dijaler Posted: July 02, 2014 at 08:47 PM (#4742343)
It's awfully hard to deny Orel Hershiser, so I suppose you make him champion for 1988, but... Clemens was awesome in 1988, too. Hershiser had the hottest hot stretch in all the history of pitching in late 1988 and it carried through the postseason, but on the whole, even in 1988, Clemens was just as good. I think "Clemens 1986-1992" is the most logical and defensible position.


I don't think there's any question but that the typical fan would have said Hershiser in '88. He was the story of the season until the Gibson HR.
   20. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 02, 2014 at 08:53 PM (#4742346)
If you made a list titled "Players who are inextricably linked in fans' minds with one specific season", Orel Hershiser and 1988 would be pretty far up there, right? Mention Hershiser to a middle-aged baseball fan (or younger history enthusiast) and he'll instantly think of 1988; mention 1988 to him and he'll instantly think of Orel Hershiser.

What other entries would be on that list? Roger Maris and 1961 would probably be #1, right? Bob Gibson in 1968, Dwight Gooden in 1985, probably Babe Ruth in 1927 (though Ruth is probably sufficiently famous to transcend such a list)...
   21. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: July 02, 2014 at 09:05 PM (#4742348)
What other entries would be on that list? Roger Maris and 1961 would probably be #1, right? Bob Gibson in 1968, Dwight Gooden in 1985, probably Babe Ruth in 1927 (though Ruth is probably sufficiently famous to transcend such a list)...


McGwire/Sosa 1998.
   22. Greg K Posted: July 02, 2014 at 09:12 PM (#4742349)
What other entries would be on that list? Roger Maris and 1961 would probably be #1, right? Bob Gibson in 1968, Dwight Gooden in 1985, probably Babe Ruth in 1927 (though Ruth is probably sufficiently famous to transcend such a list)...

It's funny, but I'm more familiar with the years/players that I've read about more than seen. I actually don't remember what year Cabrera won the triple crown, except that it was two years ago. Once that gets beyond five years ago, the precise year will be forever lost to my memory without looking it up.

Big ones that I can think of off the top of my head, though I'm unsure of what the dates are:

Cliff Lee's appearance as an ace out of nowhere
Joe Mauer's slash line triple crown
Mike Trout's unbelievable rookie season

I can hazard a guess for all of those, but I don't know.
   23. PreservedFish Posted: July 02, 2014 at 10:48 PM (#4742394)
It's funny, but I'm more familiar with the years/players that I've read about more than seen.


That makes a lot of sense, really. It's only in retrospect that the name/number of the year becomes important.
   24. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: July 02, 2014 at 10:51 PM (#4742396)
Hadn't heard of Ray Kremer, who was a late starter like Vance, except after a PCL career rather than bouncing around. Good SABR article at http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/139cb5e01

"At the time, the PCL played about 200 games during its six-month season (except in the war-shortened season of 1918) and was considered a pitcher’s league given the warm weather and conditions."
?
   25. Bhaakon Posted: July 03, 2014 at 01:50 AM (#4742462)
"At the time, the PCL played about 200 games during its six-month season (except in the war-shortened season of 1918) and was considered a pitcher’s league given the warm weather and conditions."


Maybe it's easier to throw spitters when it's hot out.
   26. AndrewJ Posted: July 03, 2014 at 06:36 AM (#4742470)
What other entries would be on that list? Roger Maris and 1961 would probably be #1, right? Bob Gibson in 1968, Dwight Gooden in 1985, probably Babe Ruth in 1927 (though Ruth is probably sufficiently famous to transcend such a list)...

Fernando in 1981, Fidrych in 1976, maybe Pete Rose in 1978.
   27. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 03, 2014 at 10:12 AM (#4742537)
What other entries would be on that list? Roger Maris and 1961 would probably be #1, right? Bob Gibson in 1968,

Gibby might have to share 68 with McLain
   28. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 03, 2014 at 10:24 AM (#4742542)
Tug McGraw, 1980
   29. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 03, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4742556)
I don't associate Rose with 1978. Or at least it isn't nearly as strong as Maris/1961, Gibson/1968, etc.
   30. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 03, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4742571)
Maz 1960
Frank Robinson 1966
Yaz 67
Fisk 75
   31. Random Transaction Generator Posted: July 03, 2014 at 11:05 AM (#4742581)
Bonds 2001
   32. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 03, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4742584)
Mazeroski/1960 is a good one.
   33. AROM Posted: July 03, 2014 at 11:33 AM (#4742607)
Maybe Rickey 1982?

It's not even one of Rickey's better seasons, probably something like the 15th best season of his career, but a record is a record.

I didn't pay any attention to Rose's hitting streak in 1978 (I was seven). Other than that, 1978 is probably the year Pete came closest to hitting his exact career averages.

.302, 7 HR, 52 RBI, 198 hits, 119 OPS+, 103 runs
.303, 7 HR, 60 RBI, 194 hits, 118 OPS+, 98 runs

Without looking, which line represents his per 162 game average, and which line is his actual 1978 stats?
   34. Tom Nawrocki Posted: July 03, 2014 at 12:15 PM (#4742648)
Tug McGraw, 1980


George Brett gets 1980.

Jackie Robinson 1947
   35. McCoy Posted: July 03, 2014 at 12:52 PM (#4742684)
Ryne Sandberg in 1984.
   36. PreservedFish Posted: July 03, 2014 at 12:58 PM (#4742696)
Without looking, which line represents his per 162 game average, and which line is his actual 1978 stats?


I would guess that the first line represents his average stats. The only difference I see is the ratio of Runs:RBI, and I will make a guess that Pete was batting lower in the order as he got older.
   37. Flack42 Posted: July 03, 2014 at 01:03 PM (#4742703)
What other entries would be on that list?

My friends still talk about my 1978, just so you know.
   38. thetailor Posted: July 03, 2014 at 02:36 PM (#4742773)
Having the belt change every year is no fun at all. I'd say it needs to be at least a two year stretch - in fact, I'd love to see the belt pass in two-year segments at least. Nobody's mind is changing about "best pitcher in baseball" on a year to year basis.

I love Lincecum, but from 2009-2010 Felix had already begun his run... not to mention that Lincecum didn't lead the league in IP, or ERA, or WHIP in 2009 (although he did lead in WAR). I see 2008 as his only standout season, and one season shouldn't pass the crown.

Sabathia won the AL Cy in 2007 and the in 2008 pulled off his incredible run with the Brewers in the second half - I think you get to hand the crown like this:

Clemens (1997-1998)
Pedro and Randy Johnson (tie)(1999-2003)-- this one is tough, because Johnson was so good in 2002 but not in 2003. I'm comfortable with co-title holders.
Santana (2004-2006)
Sabathia (2007-2008)
Felix (2009-2010)
   39. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 03, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4742784)
I would give Santana 2004-2008, Verlander and Halladay 2008-2012, and Kershaw 2012-present.
   40. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 03, 2014 at 02:53 PM (#4742785)
Part II is here.

#1 as modified by #2 got pretty close.
   41. Nasty Nate Posted: July 03, 2014 at 04:40 PM (#4742840)
If one wanted to go all out with this concept, the belt wouldn't necessarily be transferred in between seasons. E.G. Pedro was still PEDRO! for the first 2 months of 2001, so he didn't really lose the belt until June.

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