A random blog on Bob Gibson

Bill James has one of his fun studies up on BillJamesonline.com, where he asks: How often does a team's Opening Day starter turn out to be actually the best pitcher on the team?

Anyway, it's behind the pay wall so I don't want to give the entire article away (it's less than 50 percent), but there was a tidbit I found interesting. He mentions that Gibson was the best starter on his team only eight times. Bill's study goes back to 1960 and while eight seasons as an ace is a high total, it doesn't meet the highest totals: Bert Blyleven 15; Tom Seaver and Phil Niekro 14; Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux 12; Steve Carlton 11; Mike Mussina and Rick Reuschel 10.

Bill doesn't mention what system he used to rate the pitchers, although I'm guessing it was Win Shares. He has Gibson as the best pitcher on the Cardinals in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1972. Now, the Cardinals were competitive most of those years, but it's still a little surprising Gibson didn't have more seasons as the team's ace. Let's check.

  • 1959-1960: Still developing, wasn't a full-time starter.

  • 1961: 13-12, 3.24 ERA in 211.1 IP. Baseball-Reference actually has Gibson as No. 1 at 4.4 WAR, with Ray Sadecki at 4.0 and Larry Jackson at 3.7.

  • 1963: 18-9, 3.39 ERA in 254.2 IP. Curt Simmons went 15-9 with a 2.48 ERA. Ernie Broglio (2.99) also had a lower ERA.

  • 1967: 13-7, 2.98 ERA in 175.1 IP. Gibson missed two months with a broken leg (Roberto Clemente hit him with a line drive) but recovered to win three games in the World Series. Dick Hughes led Cardinals pitchers with 4.2 WAR (Gibson was fourth).

  • 1971: 16-13, 3.04 ERA in 245.2 IP. Baseball-Reference rates Gibson at 4.9 WAR and Steve Carlton (20-9, 3.56 in 275 IP) at 4.1 WAR, so Win Shares must have disagreed.

  • 1973: 12-10, 2.77 ERA in 195 IP. B-R again says Gibson was the most valuable pitcher on the team. Rick Wise (16-12, 3.37), Reggie Cleveland (14-10, 3.01) and Alan Foster (13-9, 3.14) were good and all pitched more innings.

  • 1974: 11-13, 3.83 ERA in 240 IP. Lynn McGlothen (5.0 WAR) had a big year.

  • 1975: 3-10, 5.04 ERA. His final season.

OK, Baseball-Reference WAR gives us different results than whatever method Bill used, making this post a lot less interesting than I anticipated. But how about that Bert Blyleven!