Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Will 20 win seasons go the way of the Dodo bird...?

                                          The baseball season is less than three weeks old, and already there have been a few almost no-hitters; Yu Darvish on opening day and Clay Buchholz last Sunday come to mind.  No-nos have been on the rise in the past few years.  In 2012, there were seven, two of them being perfect games.  On the other hand, there were only four twenty game winners last year-the two Cy Young winners, David Price and R.A. Dickey, along with Gio Gonzalez and Jared Weaver.  It used to be you almost had to have at least twenty wins to even be considered for the award.  In fact, it wasn't until the late '70s that a starter won the award with less than twenty: Tom Seaver.  Nowadays, you can have a guy go 13-12 and win the award (Felix Hernandez in 2011).  As the years go by, twenty game winners are becoming less and less frequent.  It didn't used to be that didn't used to be that way at all.

                  Back in 1971, something that only happened once before ( The 1920 White Sox )  and most likely will never happen again occurred; four pitchers won twenty-plus games.  The team was Earl Weaver's Baltimore Orioles.  A team built on pitching, defense, and the three run homer. ( it was not a good idea, btw, to ask Earl about his "team's speed" ) The four pitchers in question were former Cy Young winner Mike Cuellar, future multiple Cy Young winner (and underwear model ) Jim Palmer, Dave McNally (Famous as one of the first free agent holdouts in the mid '70s), and the newly acquired Pat Dobson.

               The quartet led the O's to their third consecutive pennant, although they would be upset by Clemente and the Pirates in the series. To show you how winning twenty back then wasn't that out of the ordinary, none of the four pitchers from Baltimore won the Cy Young award.  That honor went to Vida Blue of the Oakland Athletics, who had one of the greatest pitching performances ever, winning 27 games, with over 300 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.82.   He also won the MVP that year...all at the tender young age of 21.  Blue would never have a season like that again, although he did become the first pitcher to start All Star games in both the AL ('71 and '75 for the A's ) and the NL ('78 for the San Fransisco Giants ).

          Blue also had 24 complete games, which is about a third of the total all 30 teams had combined in 2012.  Having a good bullpen is almost as important as having quality starters.  Now as far as why there are more no-hitters than 20 game winners, I have a theory- strikeouts.  There have been an alarming amount of hitters striking out over 200 times.  For the longest time, Bobby Bonds had the record for strikeouts in a single season with 189.  That was back in 1969.  The record was broken by Adam Dunn in 2004...then Ryan Howard...then it was shattered by Mark Reynolds a few years back with 223.  In fact, Reynolds had more strikeouts in his first two full seasons than Joe Dimaggio did in his entire career.  The only flaw in this theory is that Mark has never played for the Rays, who get no-hit more than any other team for some reason, even when they're contenders.

               Maybe they're coddling pitchers...I know Nolan Ryan thinks so.  He threw more no-no's than anyone, back when they weren't so frequent.  I believe he's trying to turn the Rangers into a throwback team; starters throwing more innings, not depending on the bullpen unless it's necessary, etc.  You know, maybe Ryan should be the next commissioner.  Lord knows Selig has lost his grip on reality; pretty soon, every team but the Astros and Padres will make the playoffs.  So, maybe that's the solution...replace Stephen Hawking's stunt double with a man, who, at the age of 62, threw out the first ball in the 2010 World series that was clocked at 83 miles an hour.  He probably didn't even need an Advil afterwards...  



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