Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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The 1965 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records


This is the fifth article in my occasional series looking at various Major-League seasons through the prism of Player won-lost records. Previous seasons for which I've written articles are 1951, 1954, 1977, and 2012.

This article looks at the 1965 season.

The Best of 1965

The top 10 players in pWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.

pWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Players
          pWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Players
Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL           Player pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
1Sandy Koufax25.514.96.3
8.2
1Sandy Koufax25.514.96.3
8.2
2Juan Marichal22.415.54.4
6.1
2Juan Marichal22.415.54.4
6.1
3Don Drysdale23.117.93.9
5.7
3Don Drysdale23.117.93.9
5.7
4Zoilo Versalles23.317.53.5
5.1
4Willie Mays26.217.83.4
5.2
5Willie Mays26.217.83.4
5.2
5Zoilo Versalles23.317.53.5
5.1
6Jim Bunning19.514.53.3
4.9
6Jim Bunning19.514.53.3
4.9
7Mel Stottlemyre Sr.19.615.13.1
4.7
7Mel Stottlemyre Sr.19.615.13.1
4.7
8Jim Maloney17.913.63.1
4.4
8Mudcat Grant18.414.03.0
4.5
9Willie McCovey21.213.23.0
4.4
9Tony Oliva22.615.02.9
4.4
10Mudcat Grant18.414.03.0
4.5
10Willie McCovey21.213.23.0
4.4


The top 10 players in eWins above Positional Average and Replacement Level were as follows.

eWins over Positional Average
Top 10 Players
          eWins over Replacement Level
Top 10 Players
Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL           Player eWins eLosses eWOPA eWORL
1Sandy Koufax22.615.44.6
6.3
1Sandy Koufax22.615.44.6
6.3
2Juan Marichal19.314.73.2
4.8
2Willie Mays24.416.73.2
4.9
3Willie Mays24.416.73.2
4.9
3Juan Marichal19.314.73.2
4.8
4Don Drysdale21.818.62.8
4.6
4Don Drysdale21.818.62.8
4.6
5Jim Bunning19.716.22.6
4.3
5Jim Bunning19.716.22.6
4.3
6Jim Maloney17.814.72.5
3.9
6Zoilo Versalles22.719.02.4
4.1
7Zoilo Versalles22.719.02.4
4.1
7Hank Aaron24.217.72.3
4.0
8Sam McDowell18.315.02.4
3.9
8Ron Santo23.317.72.3
4.0
9Hank Aaron24.217.72.3
4.0
9Sam McDowell18.315.02.4
3.9
10Ron Santo23.317.72.3
4.0
10Jim Maloney17.814.72.5
3.9


Sandy Koufax's 1965 season ranks first in pWOPA and pWORL among all seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records. His eWOPA and eWORL totals are both in the top 10 single-season totals for those.

The 1965 MVP awards went to Willie Mays and Zoilo Versalles, while the Cy Young Award (there was only one across both leagues through 1966) went to Sandy Koufax. I would have voted for Koufax as NL MVP as well as Cy Young winner, but taking for granted the "pitcher shouldn't win the MVP because he has his own award" school of thought, this is a pretty solid set of choices: Versalles is the top American League player on all four of the above tables, Koufax is the top pitcher (and top player, period) on all four tables, and Mays is the top National League non-pitcher on all four tables.

Almost certainly the second-best pitcher in the National League (and major leagues) in 1965 - and arguably the second-best player in the major leagues - was Juan Marichal. From 1963 - 1969, Marichal's rank among National League pitchers in pWORL was as follows: 2nd (behind Koufax), 2nd (behind Larry Jackson, 2nd (in 1965 as seen above), 1st (with the 7th-best single-season pWORL since 1930), unranked (he only started 26 games in 1967), 3rd (behind Bob Gibson and Fergie Jenkins), and 2nd (behind Tom Seaver).

For all of that - 1 1st, 4 2nds, and 1 3rd in 7 seasons - Juan Marichal received exactly zero Cy Young votes. Not entirely because he was underrated (although I think he was better than the actual Cy Young winner in 1966), but because Cy Young ballots only listed one pitcher - and through 1966, they only listed one pitcher in both leagues. Sandy Koufax was a unanimous choice for the 1965 Cy Young Award, and looking at the above tables, it's pretty hard to argue with that. But because of the timing of his career, the only Cy Young vote that Juan Marichal ever got was a single third-place vote in 1971 (when I have him 7th in pWORL among National League pitchers).

Sandy Koufax's and Juan Marichal's careers overlapped for seven seasons, from 1960 through 1966. Here's how they compare in pWins for those seasons.

Sandy Koufax Juan Marichal
Season Games pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
1960
3710.712.80.456-0.6
0.4
115.23.50.6001.11.5
1961
4218.016.00.5291.6
3.1
3012.911.70.5241.02.1
1962
2811.89.40.5561.7
2.6
3818.215.80.5342.03.5
1963
4022.913.50.6295.5
7.2
4223.016.30.5844.36.0
1964
2915.811.40.5822.8
4.2
3318.712.90.5933.75.3
1965
4325.514.90.6316.3
8.2
3922.415.50.5914.46.1
1966
4123.416.50.5864.1
5.9
3723.114.40.6175.26.8
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS
(Regular Season)
260128.094.40.57621.5
31.6
230123.690.20.57821.831.4
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------


This is not to take anything away from Sandy Koufax. As I said, his 1965 season is perhaps the best player season of the past 65+ years, and his 1963 season also ranks in the all-time top 10 seasons in pWOPA and pWORL. But Juan Marichal matched his value over those seven seasons and then went out and followed that up with seven more full seasons, at least three of which were excellent (1968, 1969, 1971).

I calculate Player won-lost records two ways: pWins, which tie to team wins and eWins, which control for context and the ability of one's teammates. For players with more pWins than eWins, their Player wins contributed to more team wins than one might expect; for players with more eWins than pWins, just the opposite is true: their Player wins translated into fewer team wins than expected. Or more briefly: a player with more pWins than eWins was better in context, a player with more eWins than pWins was worse in context.

Worse in Context: Ron Santo
One player who shows up on the top 10 lists for eWOPA and eWORL but not on the pWOPA/pWORL lists is Ron Santo. The 1965 season was fairly typical of Ron Santo's career in this regard and helps, I think, to explain part of why he had so much trouble getting elected to the Hall of Fame.

Controlling for context, Ron Santo ranked in the top 5 in the major-leagues in net batting wins in 1965. Defensively, he finished second in the 1965 National League in net fielding wins at third base. Oh, and if you're wondering if maybe playing time was issue: no, Santo actually played 164 games in 1965. That's obviously a heck of a combination. It is not a big surprise, then, that we see Santo's name among the top 5 players in both eWOPA and eWORL.

So what did all of that translate into in terms of Santo's team, the Chicago Cubs? Not much. The 1965 Cubs finished in 8th place in the 10-team NL, with a final record of 72-90 (and 2 ties - hence, Santo's 164 games played). Obviously, this wasn't Santo's fault. It was the fault of the situation he found himself in. Billy Williams was in his Hall-of-Fame prime, Ernie Banks was past his Hall-of-Fame prime, but was still a pretty good hitter. Moving beyond Hall-of-Famers, Larry Jackson wasn't a bad starting pitcher, although 1964 had been his peak season. And Ted Abernathy was a pretty good relief pitcher. And that was about it.

If you try to tie player performances to team results, inevitably, you end up reducing the value of good players on bad teams, because so much of their good results end up going for naught. The next table shows how Ron Santo's 1965 season looks both ways, in pWins and eWins.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
Ron Santo
164
23.318.70.5541.7
3.4
23.317.70.5692.34.0


For his career, Ron Santo earned 41.7 eWins over replacement level (eWORL). This ranks in the top 40 among all players for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records. Ron Santo's career pWORL, however, is a fair bit lower, only 35.0, outside of the top 80. This is the statistical representation of the argument that was sometimes made against Ron Santo's Hall-of-Fame case: "How great could Santo have been if he Cubs never won anything?" Just to be clear: I don't think this is a fair criticism of Ron Santo, and I would have elected him to the Hall of Fame while he was still alive. I just think my Player won-lost records help to clarify the disconnect in Ron Santo's perceived value.

The 1965 Postseason

The World Series came to Minnesota for the first time ever in 1965 with the Twins losing a 7-game series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The top player performance in the 1965 World Series, as measured by Player won-lost records, should surprise no one who's familiar with the '65 Series. Player won-lost records like two complete-game shutouts in the final three games of the series as much as you would expect them to.

1965 World Series: Top Player Performances
pWins pLosses pWORL
Sandy KoufaxLAN1.60.70.6
Mudcat GrantMIN1.71.40.4
Johnny RoseboroLAN1.10.70.3
Zoilo VersallesMIN1.20.90.3
Ron FairlyLAN1.10.70.3


Best of 1965 by Factor and Position

Next, let's look at the top players in (context-neutral, teammate-adjusted) eWins over Positional Average in various aspects of the game.
Best by Factor: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, Fielding
There are four basic factors for which players earn Player won-lost records: Batting, Baserunning, Pitching, and Fielding. The top players in 1965 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.

Batting
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Willie Mays17.310.03.4

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Baserunning
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Tommy Harper2.51.10.6

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Pitching
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Sandy Koufax18.313.15.3


Next, we look at the major-league leaders in net fielding wins in 1965 by fielding position.

Fielding, P
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Larry Jackson0.60.30.3
Fred Newman0.70.40.3


Fielding, C
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Chris Cannizzaro1.61.00.7


Fielding, 1B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Wes Parker2.11.60.6


Fielding, 2B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Bill Mazeroski4.94.20.7


I discuss Bill Mazeroski a bit in an article where I compare my Fielding Player won-lost records to other fielding systems. I noted there that the play-by-play data for Pirates games (as well as those of several other teams) are somewhat sparse for several of the earliest years of Mazeroski's career. By 1965, these records have filled out somewhat and my system finds Mazeroski in the spot where I think most fans of the time would have expected to see him: at the top of the fielding leaderboards among secondbasemen.

Fielding, 3B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Don Wert4.63.31.3


Fielding, SS
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Ron Hansen7.06.10.9


Fielding, LF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Lou Brock6.75.61.2


Lou Brock is the historical player who has taken perhaps the biggest hit in perceived value from the increasing popularity ofsabermetrics: the value of his stolen bases is largely offset by the cost of his caught stealings, his on-base-percentage was relatively low for a leadoff hitter, and he is generally regarded by most sabermetric measures to have been a poor fielding leftfielder.

Brock actually looks a good bit better as a fielder in my Player won-lost records and, in fact, rates as a very good leftfielder from 1965 - 1968 (best in the majors in 1965 and 1967, top 3 in MLB the other two seasons).

Fielding, CF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Vic Davalillo5.03.91.1


Fielding, RF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Tony Oliva5.74.51.2


Best by Position
Next, we look at 1965 Major-League leaders in eWOPA by position. The figures shown here only include Player decisions earned while playing this particular position, and include no contextual adjustments (expected or actual).

Catcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Joe Torre11.38.71.6


First Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Willie McCovey18.312.61.9


Second Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Pete Rose Sr.22.520.51.5


Third Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Ron Santo23.218.02.1


Shortstop
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Zoilo Versalles22.619.42.2


Zoilo Versalles might well have had the worst non-MVP portion of his major-league career among any MVP award winner, or at least among those who deserved their award.

As I noted above, Versalles rates as the best player in the American League in 1965 by Player won-lost records and the best shortstop in the major leagues. Versalles' career record is shown in the next table.

Zoilo Versalles
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1959WS119
29
1.52.30.383-0.4
-0.3
1.82.10.453-0.2-0.0
1960WS120
15
0.91.50.357-0.3
-0.2
1.01.40.405-0.2-0.1
1961MIN21
129
15.016.60.474-0.3
1.1
14.715.40.4890.11.5
1962MIN22
160
19.417.60.5241.4
2.8
17.922.40.444-1.7-0.2
1963MIN23
159
18.719.00.4960.3
1.8
19.119.20.4980.41.9
1964MIN24
160
19.218.90.5040.2
1.8
20.218.80.5180.82.3
1965MIN25
160
23.317.50.5713.5
5.1
22.719.00.5442.44.1
1966MIN26
137
16.717.50.4890.1
1.4
16.117.50.480-0.21.1
1967MIN27
160
17.220.60.455-1.0
0.7
16.520.40.446-1.30.4
1968LAN28
122
12.615.10.455-0.7
0.5
11.614.50.444-0.90.2
29
103
7.49.00.451-0.7
0.0
8.49.20.479-0.30.5
1971ATL31
65
5.35.70.484-0.1
0.3
5.26.40.449-0.5-0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
1,399
157.1161.30.4932.0
15.1
155.2166.50.482-1.611.6
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
7
1.20.90.584 0.31.00.80.561 0.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
1,406
158.3162.20.493
15.3
156.2167.30.482 11.8


His 1965 season didn't completely come out of nowhere. He became a regular major-league shortstop - and roughly a league-average one - at age 21 in 1961 in the Twins first season in Minnesota. He was above positional average the next three seasons before his huge breakthrough season in 1965 at age 25.

It is the post-1965 portion of his career that seems perplexing to me. It's not unusual for 25-year-old players to have "break-through" seasons that see them rise to a new level of performance. Robin Yount, Barry Larkin, Derek Jeter, and Ozzie Smith are examples of shortstops who took a step up from good to great in their mid-to-late 20s and proceeded to play at that higher level for several years. But not Versalles. Not only did he never come close to matching his 1965 season, he was never even able to match his league-average rookie season again, playing so badly in his age 29 season that he couldn't find a major-league job at age 30, just five years after his MVP season.

Versalles' Wikipedia article mentions a back injury in 1966 and documents a sad and ultimately tragic post-baseball life. A real shame.

Left Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Bob Allison18.414.01.5


Center Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Willie Mays23.116.42.7


Right Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Hank Aaron24.018.12.0


Starting Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Sandy Koufax18.713.13.1


Relief Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Stu Miller7.04.21.1


For relief pitchers, context-neutral records may not be the best measure of how good they are, as context can matter a great deal, depending on how a pitcher is used. Here are the top relief pitchers of 1965 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.

Top Relief Pitchers of 1965, based on pWORL
Player pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Stu Miller10.14.60.6862.63.5
Eddie Fisher10.66.90.6041.62.7
Bob Lee10.98.20.5721.22.4
Frank Linzy7.64.40.6351.62.3
Dick Hall6.94.00.6301.32.0


The numbers that are most striking to me in that table are the 10 wins earned by Miller, Fisher, and Lee. As the use of relief pitchers in general has expanded over the past 40+ years, the use of individual relief pitchers has declined. Miller, Fisher, and Lee all pitched at least 119 innings in 1965 and Fisher actually qualified for the ERA title (165.1 IP) without starting a single game. In contrast, the last relief pitcher to throw even 100 innings in a season was Scott Proctor in 2006.

The last pitcher to earn at least 10 pWins without starting a single game was Frankie Rodriguez in 2008. Overall, since 1990, there have been only 3 pitchers to earn 10 pWins in a season without starting a game.

It is less clear, however, that this lack of raw pWins has actually reduced the value of top relief pitchers. For example, since 1990, there have been 21 relief pitchers to earn at least 3.0 pWORL in a season.

Finally, here are the best at three oft-forgotten positions that can nevertheless matter: pitcher offense, pinch hitting, and pinch running.

Pitcher Offense
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Don Drysdale2.92.31.1


Don Drysdale's 1965 season is the best season - vs. positional average - for a pitcher's offense since (at least) 1930. For his career, Drysdale ranks as one of the top 10 hitting pitchers of the same time period.

Pinch Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Smoky Burgess2.11.40.5


Smoky Burgess's 1965 season ranks in the top 10 all-time (since 1930) in pinch-hitter wins. For his career, Burgess ranks in the top 5 in both total pinch-hitter wins as well as pinch-hitter wins above average.

Pinch Runner
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Al Weis0.40.10.2


Comings and Goings

Exit: Stage Left
One Hall-of-Famer made his final major-league appearance in 1965: Yogi Berra. The 3-time AL MVP rates as the career leader in pWins over positional average as well as replacement level among players who accumulated at least 50% of their career wins as a catcher.

The top 5 catchers in career pWORL:

Top Players with Majority of Career Wins at Catcher
(ranked by pWORL)
pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Yogi Berra245.4181.70.57533.050.8
Johnny Bench246.5196.00.55725.443.4
Carlton Fisk249.4219.40.53221.139.9
Mike Piazza213.3174.10.55122.538.3
Bill Dickey147.0109.80.57220.732.1


And Yogi Berra's full career record.

Yogi Berra
Basic Player Won-Lost Records
Value Decomposition
Season Team Age Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1946NYA21
7
0.70.50.6160.2
0.2
0.70.50.5850.10.2
1947NYA22
83
9.17.20.5581.0
1.7
8.57.40.5350.61.2
1948NYA23
125
13.911.70.5431.1
2.1
13.412.40.5190.51.5
1949NYA24
116
12.08.70.5811.8
2.6
11.09.50.5390.91.7
1950NYA25
151
18.111.90.6043.2
4.4
16.513.30.5531.72.9
1951NYA26
141
16.412.70.5642.0
3.2
15.612.60.5531.62.8
1952NYA27
142
18.011.70.6053.2
4.5
16.512.30.5742.23.4
1953NYA28
137
17.311.20.6083.3
4.6
14.811.80.5561.72.9
1954NYA29
151
19.012.50.6033.3
4.7
16.712.50.5722.23.4
1955NYA30
147
18.312.90.5863.0
4.3
15.214.00.5210.92.1
1956NYA31
140
18.212.40.5952.9
4.2
16.311.90.5792.23.4
1957NYA32
134
15.412.60.5501.6
2.8
13.412.30.5220.71.8
1958NYA33
122
13.211.00.5451.0
2.0
12.110.90.5280.61.5
1959NYA34
131
15.612.10.5632.1
3.2
13.611.60.5391.32.3
1960NYA35
120
11.79.30.5581.2
2.1
10.89.60.5280.61.4
1961NYA36
119
14.411.90.5480.9
2.1
13.212.00.5250.31.5
1962NYA37
85
8.57.30.5380.5
1.1
6.97.20.492-0.20.3
1963NYA38
64
5.44.00.5770.8
1.2
4.13.50.5370.30.7
1965NYN40
4
0.10.30.278-0.1
-0.1
0.10.30.288-0.1-0.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER (reg. season)
2,119
245.4181.70.57533.0
50.8
219.6185.50.54218.235.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------
PostSeason (career)
75
8.67.30.539 1.38.37.60.522 1.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
COMBINED
2,194
254.0189.10.575
52.1
227.9193.00.542 36.1


Debut: Stage Right
The 1965 season saw the major-league debut of four pitchers each of whom would go on to win 20 or more games at least five times, win at least one Cy Young Award in the 1970s, win at least 220 games in their careers, and end up being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the BBWAA in the 1980s or 1990s.

Here's how their careers compare in Player won-lost records.

Steve Carlton Jim Palmer Fergie Jenkins Catfish Hunter
Season pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL pWins pLosses pWOPA pWORL
1965
0.91.0-0.0
0.1
4.24.7-0.2
0.3
0.70.8-0.1
0.0
7.59.7-0.80.0
1966
3.33.30.1
0.4
14.614.00.8
2.0
9.79.90.1
1.2
11.713.8-0.60.6
1967
13.311.31.5
2.5
2.53.1-0.2
0.1
20.517.62.2
3.8
17.717.01.12.6
1968
14.514.30.7
1.9
 
21.718.32.6
4.2
14.514.60.71.8
1969
16.615.31.4
2.9
13.07.93.0
4.0
22.417.63.3
5.2
16.317.00.41.9
1970
16.718.00.0
1.5
20.815.73.3
4.8
22.217.23.4
5.0
16.216.00.82.2
1971
19.016.32.2
3.7
20.114.83.5
5.1
24.317.74.5
6.3
20.815.53.75.2
1972
25.715.26.2
8.0
19.313.83.6
5.0
18.916.52.1
3.6
19.613.93.75.1
1973
19.421.6-0.2
1.5
18.311.53.6
5.0
16.218.6-0.5
0.9
14.212.11.22.4
1974
18.416.31.8
3.2
9.510.4-0.3
0.6
23.014.64.6
6.2
18.013.52.53.9
1975
17.016.50.9
2.4
20.612.44.2
5.8
16.915.21.0
2.5
19.514.62.64.2
1976
17.512.83.1
4.3
19.613.63.1
4.6
11.311.50.0
1.0
15.415.60.01.4
1977
20.615.83.3
4.9
19.113.53.0
4.6
10.410.20.2
1.3
8.09.2-0.50.4
1978
16.015.60.9
2.2
17.913.52.3
3.8
15.010.62.3
3.5
8.67.20.71.5
1979
17.215.11.9
3.2
8.66.21.3
1.9
15.214.40.6
1.9
5.07.0-0.9-0.4
1980
20.313.34.2
5.5
11.911.30.4
1.4
12.812.10.5
1.6
1981
11.78.52.2
3.1
6.67.9-0.5
0.2
6.77.2-0.2
0.6
1982
21.915.54.2
5.7
15.010.32.6
3.7
13.914.70.3
1.4
1983
18.217.01.5
2.9
4.24.10.1
0.5
9.111.0-0.5
0.4
1984
13.012.11.2
2.2
0.81.6-0.4
-0.3
 
1985
4.86.9-0.8
-0.2
 
 
1986
10.414.0-1.2
-0.2
 
 
1987
7.812.5-2.2
-1.2
 
 
1988
0.51.5-0.5
-0.4
 
 
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS
(Regular Season)
344.7309.532.5
60.1
246.4190.233.3
53.3
290.9255.826.4
50.6
212.9196.614.632.9
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
Postseason7.16.60.6
1.1
7.95.51.4
2.0
0.00.00.0
0.0
8.17.80.31.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS351.8316.133.1
61.2
254.3195.734.7
55.3
290.9255.826.4
50.6
221.1204.415.033.9


In The New Bill James Historical Abstract, James observed that "[a] list of the most innings pitched in a season since 1920 has three types of pitchers: 1. Bob Feller. 2. Robin Roberts. 3. Pitchers from the 1970-1975 era." This is a bit of an oversimplification, but only by a bit.

Since 1940, there have been 46 seasons in which a pitcher pitched at least 315 innings. From 1940 - 1962, there were 8 such seasons (all of which actually happened between 1940 and 1954): 3 by Bob Feller, 4 by Robin Roberts, and 1 by Dizzy Trout in 1944.

From 1963 - 1968, there were 7 such seasons, pitched by four pitchers: Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, and Denny McLain.

From 1969 - 1979, there were 31 seasons in which a pitcher threw 315 innings or more, with 15 different pitchers doing it, including all four of the Hall-of-Fame starters who debuted in 1965. There have been no seasons in which a pitcher threw 315 innings since 1979 (Phil Niekro was the last pitcher to do it in 1978 and 1979; prior to those two years, it was done 29 times from 1969 - 1977 by 15 pitchers, including Niekro).

James argues that "there is surprisingly little evidence that pitching 320 to 350 innings did much to shorten any of these pitchers' careers, except maybe Mickey Lolich." (p. 871, this is in James's discussion of Bert Blyleven, who he rates as the 39th-best pitcher in major-league history)

Going back to the pitchers who pitched 315 innings in a season prior to 1969, there actually is pretty strong evidence of shortened careers. Koufax retired at the age of 30 because of arm problems. Drysdale's last season was at age 32, and his last good season was at age 31. McLain's last season was at age 28; his last good season was at age 25. Marichal is the only exception, and even he only pitched regularly until he was 35 (he then pitched 13 more games at ages 36 and 37).

Moving to the 1970s, there are still examples of pitchers who pitched 315 innings in a season and had shortened careers: Bill Singer (last season at 33, last good season at 32, with a couple of poor seasons already in his 20s), Randy Jones (last season at 32, last good season at 29), Andy Messersmith (last season at 33, last good season at 30).

But it is undoubtedly true that several other pitchers pitched massive innings within some seasons and yet had long and productive careers, including three of the four Hall-of-Famers who debuted in 1965 (Catfish Hunter's last season was at age 33, his last good season was at age 30).

My hypothesis as to why so many of these pitchers were able to survive these extraordinary workloads is because the pitchers who were pitching these extraordinary workloads in the 1970s spent their formative years pitching in the mini-deadball era of the 1960s (1963 - 68) which saw historically low offense. The low run-scoring environment in which these pitchers spent their formative years enabled them to avoid putting too much stress on their arms as they were developing. Their arms reached maturity with less stress and less mileage and were thereby better able to handle the insane inning totals of the 1970s even as offensive levels rose somewhat.

In contrast, pitchers who debuted after offensive levels had risen were less able to handle these kinds of workloads. Randy Jones, for example, debuted in 1973. Mark Fidrych was out of baseball by age 25 after pitching 24 complete games at age 21 in 1976 (although "only" 250.1 innings).

The one exception to this is Bert Blyleven, who didn't actually debut until 1970, pitched 325 innings as a 22-year-old in 1973, and was nevertheless able to pitch until he was 41 years old (and pitch very well until he was 38).

Anyway, whatever the reason for their success, that was a heckuva foursome to debut in 1965.



All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.

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