Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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The 1968 Season as seen through the Prism of Player Won-Lost Records



Next in my continuing series of looking at individual seasons through the prism of Player won-lost records is the year I was born: 1968, also known as the Year of the Pitcher. Denny McLain won 31 games, Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA, Carl Yastrzemski won a batting title by hitting .301. And the last season before expansion, divisions, and multiple playoff rounds.

How does the 1968 season look through the prism of Player won-lost records?

The Best of 1968

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.

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
1Bob Gibson22.314.54.8
6.2
1Bob Gibson22.314.54.8
6.2
2Denny McLain23.115.84.6
6.1
2Denny McLain23.115.84.6
6.1
3Luis Tiant19.213.03.8
5.1
3Carl Yastrzemski25.916.83.5
5.2
4Dave McNally19.813.93.8
5.1
4Dave McNally19.813.93.8
5.1
5Carl Yastrzemski25.916.83.5
5.2
5Luis Tiant19.213.03.8
5.1
6Bill Freehan19.513.03.4
4.7
6Hank Aaron27.820.12.9
4.8
7Jim Northrup23.716.32.9
4.5
7Bill Freehan19.513.03.4
4.7
8Hank Aaron27.820.12.9
4.8
8Jim Northrup23.716.32.9
4.5
9Juan Marichal20.316.62.8
4.3
9Dick Allen25.117.92.6
4.4
10Ray Culp15.711.12.8
3.9
10Willie Horton22.014.62.8
4.3


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
1Bob Gibson19.913.44.1
5.4
1Bob Gibson19.913.44.1
5.4
2Carl Yastrzemski26.717.53.5
5.4
2Carl Yastrzemski26.717.53.5
5.4
3Luis Tiant16.712.82.6
3.8
3Denny McLain21.718.82.4
4.0
4Dave McNally17.914.32.6
3.8
4Ron Santo22.417.32.4
4.0
5Bill Freehan18.513.72.5
3.9
5Jimmy Wynn24.818.82.1
3.9
6Denny McLain21.718.82.4
4.0
6Bill Freehan18.513.72.5
3.9
7Ron Santo22.417.32.4
4.0
7Dave McNally17.914.32.6
3.8
8Tom Seaver17.714.82.2
3.5
8Luis Tiant16.712.82.6
3.8
9Willie McCovey19.613.22.2
3.6
9Dick McAuliffe19.515.92.2
3.7
10Dick McAuliffe19.515.92.2
3.7
10Felipe Alou24.919.81.8
3.6


Year of the Pitcher
To most baseball fans, 1968 is probably most famous as the "Year of the Pitcher". The ERA for the American League as a whole in 1968 was 2.98. The AL league batting average was .230 and Carl Yastrzemski won the batting title with a .301 batting average.

Things were a bit less dramatic in the National League - league ERA of 3.43, league batting average of .243, Pete Rose won the batting title with a fairly reasonable-looking .335 batting average. Except, of course, when Bob Gibson was pitching and putting up a 1.12 ERA over 304.2 innings pitched.

I wrote an earlier article which compared the 1968 AL to the 2000 AL, looking at how the overall run environment of a league affects the win value of various events. That article can be found here. The key results from that article, net win values for various offensive events, are presented next, just to give a general sense of how different 1968 was from both average and, especially, from the more recent "sillyball" era with which many of you might be more familiar.

Net Offensive Wins
Runs/Game HR T D S/ROE W/HBP IW Out
1930 - 20164.680.14380.08120.06060.03650.03100.0058-0.0234
1968 AL 3.41 0.17310.09880.07390.04210.03330.0038-0.0233
2000 AL 5.31 0.12710.06950.05080.03510.03080.0072-0.0246


Year of the Pitchers: Bob Gibson and Denny McLain
The Year of the Pitcher saw pitchers win the MVP award in both leagues for the first (and, so far, last) time since 1924. Both of the MVP winners had eye-popping traditional stats: 31 pitcher wins for Denny McLain, 1.12 ERA for Bob Gibson.

Looking at pWOPA and pWORL, it looks like the MVP voters got it right. The next table compares Bob Gibson and Denny McLain in and out of context.

Games pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL eWins eLosses eWin Pct. eWOPA eWORL
Bob Gibson
35
22.314.50.6054.8
6.2
19.913.40.5984.15.4
Denny McLain
43
23.115.80.5944.6
6.1
21.718.80.5362.44.0


A 1.12 ERA looks good in or out of context. And, sure enough, Gibson crushes McLain in context-neutral wins over either positional average or replacement level.

I've always been surprised, though, at Bob Gibson's (traditional) won-lost record, 22-9. How do you lose 9 games when you're only giving up 1 run a game? Okay, two of them were 1-0 losses, one was a 2-0 loss, and he lost three more games where he only gave up 3 runs (3-1 and two 3-2's). And the 1.12 ERA is a bit misleading. He allowed 11 unearned runs: his RA was 1.45 (which is still pretty damn outstanding, obviously). But still, somehow the Cardinals lost 10 games that Gibson started (he left one game with the Cardinals trailing 5-4 in the 11th inning; the Cardinals came back to tie the game in the 11th only to go on to lose 6-5 in 13).

Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers went 33-8 in McLain's starts. Part of that was that the Tigers were a somewhat better team offensively than the Cardinals so McLain got very good run support (5.23 runs per 27 outs in McLain starts, which is remarkable for 1968). But the Tigers also went 9-4 in one-run games started by McLain with McLain going 7-2 in such games. Whether it was good clutch pitching, pitching to the score, or sheer dumb luck, it resulted in real victories for the Tigers. Whether repeatable or predictable or not, it resulted in real value and in an accounting system such as pWins, where all value is credited to the players on the field when it accrues, that translated into a lot of pWins for Denny McLain in 1968.

Bill Freehan
Arguably the best non-pitcher in the Year of the Pitcher was Detroit Tigers' catcher Bill Freehan. Bill Freehan made 11 All-Star teams, which I believe gives him the most All-Star appearances for any player who retired before 2000 and is eligible for the Hall of Fame who has not been elected to the Hall of Fame. He was, however, elected to the Hall of Merit in his 4th year of eligibility.

The 1968 season was Freehan's best but he was the best catcher in the American League by Player won-lost records at least four times between 1964 and 1971.

I thought that Bill Freehan's career was interesting enough that I wrote an article about it.

1968 Postseason

The 1968 season was the last year when the World Series was the only postseason game in town. It featured the third World Series appearance in five seasons by the St. Louis Cardinals, who faced off against the Detroit Tigers in a classic seven-game series.

The top performers in the 1968 World Series, as measured by Player won-lost records, are shown in the next table.

1968 World Series: Top Player Performances
pWins pLosses pWORL
Mickey LolichDET2.11.00.7
Tim McCarverSLN1.50.40.7
Bob GibsonSLN1.70.90.5


Bob Gibson's performance in a losing effort in the 1968 World Series was no surprise. Overall, I show Gibson as arguably the best World Series performer ever for his career as measured by pWins over positional average.

Top World Series Performances, career
(measured by pWOPA)
pWins pLosses pWOPA
Bob Gibson5.53.51.2
Red Ruffing6.44.41.2
Madison Bumgarner3.11.11.1
Mariano Rivera3.71.51.0
Frankie Crosetti5.03.21.0


The 1968 Tigers got a real Jekyll-and-Hyde performance out of their top two pitchers. Mickey Lolich's performance ranks as one of the top 10 World Series performances ever measured by pWins, pWOPA, or pWORL. Denny McLain's performance, on the other hand, ranks as one of the top 10 World Series performances in pLosses and in the bottom 10 all-time in both pWOPA and pWORL. (see here)



Best of 1968 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 1968 in eWOPA by factor were as follows.

Batting
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Carl Yastrzemski16.810.23.1
Willie McCovey16.19.92.9
Frank Howard17.411.12.9

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Baserunning
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Carl Yastrzemski2.21.10.5
Lou Brock3.01.90.5
Cesar Tovar2.71.80.4
Bert Campaneris3.32.50.4

Positional Average excludes pitcher offense



Carl Yastrzemski led the major leagues in both batting and baserunning wins over non-pitcher average. That is an extremely rare feat to pull off. The list of all players who have done so (since 1947) is shown in the next table.

Major-League Leaders in Batting & Baserunning in the same season
Batting Baserunning
Player Season eWins eLosses eWOPA eWins eLosses eWOPA
Mickey Mantle
1958
16.910.0
3.2
1.90.80.5
Hank Aaron
1963
18.912.0
3.2
2.31.20.5
Carl Yastrzemski
1968
16.810.2
3.1
2.21.10.5


Pitching
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Bob Gibson16.111.15.0
Luis Tiant14.410.14.3


Fielding, P
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Dooley Womack1.30.11.1


Fielding, C
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Jim French1.30.80.5


Fielding, 1B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Tony Horton2.21.70.5


Fielding, 2B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Felix Millan5.74.71.0


Fielding, 3B
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Brooks Robinson4.83.71.1


Fielding, SS
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Hal Lanier6.65.21.4


Fielding, LF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Bubba Morton1.50.21.3


Fielding, CF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Mickey Stanley5.23.81.4


Fielding, RF
eWins eLosses Net Wins
Tony Oliva6.65.11.4


Best by Position
Next, we look at 1968 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
Bill Freehan16.011.92.3


First Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Willie McCovey19.513.32.1


Second Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Dick McAuliffe19.115.72.0


Third Base
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Ron Santo22.417.52.3


Shortstop
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Bert Campaneris21.920.61.7


Left Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Carl Yastrzemski26.017.53.1


Center Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Willie Mays20.515.61.9


Right Field
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Tony Oliva20.015.41.6


Starting Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Bob Gibson16.411.32.7


Relief Pitcher
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Hoyt Wilhelm5.43.80.6


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 1968 in context, in terms of pWins and pWOPA.

Top Relief Pitchers of 1968, based on pWORL
Player pWins pLosses pWin Pct. pWOPA pWORL
Wilbur Wood10.18.00.5560.81.9
Phil Regan8.67.00.5520.71.6
Jim Brewer5.53.30.6230.91.5
Clay Carroll7.25.90.5510.61.4
Vicente Romo4.83.10.6080.81.3


It's interesting that adding context into the mix, Hoyt Wilhelm drops off the table entirely. In fact, Wilhelm was actually slightly more valuable in context-neutral eWins over positional replacement level (eWORL) than in context (pWORL): 0.9 - 0.7.

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
Earl Wilson2.11.50.9


The 1968 season was the third consecutive season in which Earl Wilson led all major-league pitchers in offensive wins over positional average. For his career, Wilson ranks second in career pitcher offense wins over positional average among pitchers for whom I have calculated Player won-lost records, and his 1968 season is one of two of his seasons (1966 being the other) that ranks among the top ten in single-season pitcher offense wins over positional average for all player-seasons for which I have calculated Player won-lost records.

Pinch Hitter
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Gates Brown1.90.70.6


Pinch Runner
eWins eLosses eWOPA
Dave Nelson0.60.30.2


Noteworthy Players of 1968

Finally, let's take a look at some players who had noteworthy 1968 seasons.

Notable Debuts


The 1968 season saw the major-league debut of one player who would go on to be elected to the Hall of Fame and another player who has not been elected to the Hall of Fame (yet), but has been elected to the Hall of Merit: Rollie Fingers and Ted Simmons.

Fingers is most remembered as a mustachioed member of the Oakland A's and Simmon's best years were as a St. Louis Cardinal. But Fingers and Simmons ended up spending five years together as teammates with the Milwaukee Brewers, helping them to their only World Series appearance in 1982.

Rollie Fingers's and Ted Simmons's career records, as measured by Player won-lost records, are presented in the table below.

Rollie Fingers Ted Simmons
Season Games pWins pLoss Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLoss Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
196810.00.10.257-0.0
-0.0
20.10.00.7620.00.0
1969607.08.20.461-0.6
0.3
50.60.40.5930.10.1
1970459.18.80.5080.3
1.2
826.06.90.468-0.40.2
1971487.47.20.5060.1
0.9
13313.911.60.5451.22.3
1972657.85.20.6021.2
2.0
15217.416.40.5150.51.9
1973628.36.10.5780.9
1.8
16119.316.80.5341.53.0
1974768.85.90.6001.1
2.1
15217.815.60.5331.32.6
1975769.25.70.6161.5
2.4
15718.115.00.5461.52.8
1976709.48.50.5270.2
1.4
15014.915.40.492-0.30.9
1977789.28.00.5370.4
1.5
15017.713.90.5611.73.0
1978679.56.50.5941.5
2.4
15216.616.00.5100.31.6
1979545.18.00.391-1.5
-0.8
12314.710.90.5751.92.9
1980667.76.60.5370.5
1.3
14516.615.10.5240.82.1
1981477.33.70.6621.5
2.2
10010.29.20.5280.71.6
1982508.04.10.6631.7
2.4
13713.712.60.5220.91.9
1983
 
15316.314.00.5391.22.6
1984335.02.50.6691.1
1.6
13210.013.20.430-1.9-0.8
1985474.14.60.470-0.4
0.2
14312.413.70.475-0.80.6
1986
 
764.54.90.478-0.30.2
1987
 
735.45.10.5140.00.5
1988
 
782.84.50.383-0.9-0.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS945122.999.50.5539.6
23.0
2,456249.1231.10.5199.229.4


Last Hurrahs
Finally, 1968 was the final season for two of the greatest players of the 1950s (and ever): Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews.

Mantle and Mathews played against each other in back-to-back classic 7-game World Series in 1957 and 1958.

The career records of Mickey Mantle and Eddie Mathews, as measured by Player won-lost records, are shown in the table below. Their performances in the 1957 and 1958 World Series are shown in the final row.

Mickey Mantle Eddie Mathews
Season Games pWins pLoss Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLoss Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
19519613.19.20.5861.7
2.6
195214222.115.10.5953.2
4.7
14516.015.90.502-0.11.2
195312720.013.10.6042.9
4.3
15724.216.10.6013.45.1
195414524.015.00.6153.6
5.3
13820.613.80.5992.74.2
195514724.614.10.6354.5
6.1
14120.914.00.6003.14.5
195615025.115.40.6204.1
5.8
15120.115.20.5692.23.6
195714425.212.80.6645.5
7.1
14720.514.40.5873.04.4
195815023.116.10.5902.8
4.2
14921.915.70.5833.04.4
195914420.514.80.5812.3
3.7
14822.815.40.5973.14.6
196015323.513.50.6354.2
5.7
15322.614.60.6073.65.0
196115326.015.40.6284.6
6.5
15219.414.60.5712.23.7
196212320.311.70.6353.8
5.0
15220.215.50.5662.23.6
1963659.25.20.6391.8
2.4
15822.617.10.5692.43.9
196414321.313.80.6063.2
4.6
14117.513.50.5641.73.0
196512213.412.80.512-0.2
0.9
15619.615.30.5631.83.2
196610812.611.80.515-0.1
0.9
13414.812.70.5390.81.9
196714416.012.00.5711.2
2.4
13714.413.70.513-0.21.0
196814414.610.80.5751.2
2.2
301.21.20.487-0.10.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS2,400354.5232.50.60450.4
74.7
2,389319.4238.70.57234.657.5
1957-58 World Series131.21.20.510-0.0
0.1
142.21.40.6080.40.5




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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