June 2, 2010
BASEBALL: Throwing Zeros
If the season ended today, Ubaldo Jimenez would qualify for the ERA title with an 0.78 ERA. Pitching in Coors Field. Only three men in baseball history have thrown more innings in a season than Jimenez has already thrown (80.1) and finished with an ERA below 1.00: Dutch Leonard (0.96 ERA in 224.2 IP in 1914), Hall of Famer Tim Keefe (0.86 ERA in 105 innings as a rookie in 1880), and the immortal Ferdie Schupp (0.90 ERA in 140.1 innings as a swing man in 1916; more on the 1916 Giants here).
That's impressive, even with the caveat that one bad outing could double his ERA in a hurry. But even more impressive is the fact that Jimenez hasn't allowed an unearned run this season. Which puts him on pace for an even more exclusive club: if the season ended today, he'd be the only man ever to qualify for an ERA title allowing less than 1 run per 9 innings. Indeed, Rob Murphy in 1986 (50.1 IP, 0.72 ERA, no unearned runs) holds the current record for most innings in a season with a RA (ERA, but including unearned runs) below 1.00.
Here's the complete list of guys who qualified for an ERA title with an RA below 2.00, including at present both Jimenez and Jaime Garcia:
|Smoky Joe Wood||1915||25||1.49||1.83||157.3||6.86||0.06||2.52||3.60|
When you look at the RA column, it really underlines how historically amazing Leonard, Gibson and Walter Johnson were in their peak seasons. (Henry Thomas, in his excellent bio of Johnson, notes that Johnson got beat up the last day of the season in what was then a common practice of playing essentially a 'joke' game with guys playing out of position and whatnot). Gooden and Maddux, too. And of course, Pedro in 2000 and Maddux in 1994-95 are especially impressive when you consider the context they pitched in. (Fun facts about Pedro in 2000: one, the league allowed 5.28 runs/game; two, he had an 0.99 ERA through June 14; three, he was only 6-5 at home despite a 1.84 home ERA; four, 23 of the 44 runs scored off him were on home runs - he allowed 9.95 runs/9 on homers and 0.87 runs/9 otherwise). But if by some stroke of good fortune Jimenez was able to keep this up all year, he'd go straight to the head of the class for the best-pitched season ever (setting aside the debate over how heavily to weight workloads compared to a guy like Johnson).
The guy with Jimenez in our league also had Braden during his perfect game and is STILL middle of the pack in ERA and WHIP.
That's what Trevor Hoffman can do to a staff in '10.
Gibson's '68 season is still in a class by itself. Go to baseball-reference.com and check out his stats for June & July - 12 starts, 12 9-inning complete games, 12 wins, 8 SOs, 6 ER. He had actually lost 4 consecutive starts before starting this streak. He ended up winning 15 straight decisions to go from 3-5 to 18-5. As late as Sep 2, he was 20-6 with an ERA of 0.99.
Gibson's season was terrific, but given the context of 2000 being in a real hitter's era (and not forgetting the steroid usage), Pedro's numbers n 2000 are incredible. He dominates the list for K/9 over some incredible strikeout pitchers.
Pedro's years in 1999 and 2000 are ludicrous.
I think you can easily make an argument that Pedro's 2000 was the most impressive season of any baseball player ever, with the exception of Ruth in the early 20s and perhaps Wagner in 1908. Pedro's ERA was 1.74. Clemens was second in the AL and his ERA was 3.70. Pedro was two runs better than the second best pitcher in the league. During the height of the steroid era, Pedro's WHIP was 0.7.
That 2000 season, according to adjusted ERA+, was the best in the modern ERA. The only one better was Tim Keefe in 1880.
If you look at adjusted pitching runs, he's one of only two people in the top 10 who pitched in the 1900's (Cy Young, 1901, was the other).
In fact, if you look at almost any of the adjusted pitching statistics, Pedro's 2000 comes out on top and, if he's not on top, the only people ahead of him are from the 1800's or the first two decades of the 1900's.
Thank you for publishing this it was essential for a paper I am currently writing for my finals. Thanks