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Winningest pitchers of decades that happened to touch the 1980s

Dec 22, 2010, 1:25 PM EDT

Mr. T

This morning I noted how random and misleading it was to give credit to Jack Morris for being the winningest pitcher of the 1980s.  After reading it, my friend Ethan suggested that I try to figure out who the winningest pitchers were for decades that happened to intersect with the 1980s. So I did.  Here are the results with names and win totals (UPDATE: and here’s a fun graph of it all):

1971-1980: Steve Carlton  192
1972-1981: Steve Carlton  185
1973-1982: Steve Carlton 181
1974-1983: Steve Carlton 183
1975-1984: Steve Carlton 180
1976-1985: Steve Carlton 166
1977-1986: Ron Guidry 163
1978-1987: Jack Morris 161
1979-1988: Jack Morris 173
1980-1989: Jack Morris 162
1981-1990: Jack Morris 161
1982-1991: Jack Morris 165
1983-1992: Jack Morris 169
1984-1993: Roger Clemens 163
1985-1994: Roger Clemens 163
1986-1995: Roger Clemens 166
1987-1996: Greg Maddux 163
1988-1997: Greg Maddux 176
1989-1998: Greg Maddux 176

Poor Ron Guidry. Born too early! If he had simply started his excellent ten-year run in a year ending in zero, he’d be in the Hall of Fame discussion too!

UPDATE:  Because this is fun and easy, I went five more years in each direction:

66-75:  Gaylord Perry 192
67-76:  Fergie Jenkins 195
68-77:  Tom Seaver 187
69-78:  Jim Palmer 192
70-79:   Jim Palmer 186

90-99:  Greg Maddux  176
91-00:  Greg Maddux 180
92-01:  Greg Maddux 182
93-02:  Greg Maddux 178
94-03:  Greg Maddux 174

If baseball was a video game, Greg Maddux would be the Final Boss.

  1. joshv02 - Dec 22, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    Much better picture.

  2. fquaye149 - Dec 22, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    That is actually some pretty rarified air. If anything this bolsters Morris’s case. If anything. What it probably actually does is nothing though

    • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 22, 2010 at 1:56 PM

      I think it does nothing. Wins, as we’ve all realized in the past few years, are fairly meaningless measures of pitcher performance. This exercise is just to meet the “wins per decade” people on their own terms. In all seriousness, however, I reject their terms.

      Mostly though, it’s just for fun.

      • fquaye149 - Dec 22, 2010 at 2:23 PM

        Fun? This isn’t fun. This is baseball. It’s serious business for people who were THERE only!

      • PanchoHerreraFanClub - Dec 22, 2010 at 3:11 PM

        Actually, wins are very important. That is why we keep score. I guess wins are also fairly meaningless in measures of overall team performance, so the Pirates are a much better performing team than the Phillies if we toss out wins.

        Craig, let’s say this correctly. Wins are fairly meaningless in determining a pitchers value in fanasty league baseball. Real baseball is another story. Here is one more shock. Fanasty league baseball success is not the same as real baseball success.

        All that said, I don’t think Morris is a HOFer. If he had a couple more 20+ wins seasons he would be a HOFer. Let’s not forget that he played in the AL which was clearly the inferior league during most of his career.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Dec 22, 2010 at 3:17 PM

        You are totally wrong about that. Most fantasy leagues actually place a pretty high value on wins. At least traditional fantasy leagues do.

        Wins are meaningless for the purposes of determining which pitcher was a more effective pitcher. Who was better able to prevent the other team from scoring runs separate and apart from how much run support that pitcher receives from his offense (which is totally out of the pitcher’s control).

        That is an important thing to consider in real baseball, not fantasy baseball. GMs need to figure it out when they make a trade for one or draft one. Managers need to figure it out when they decide who makes their rotation. Finally, for our purposes, voters need to figure it out to determine if a pitcher is worthy of a postseason award or election to the Hall of Fame.

      • Reflex - Dec 22, 2010 at 3:43 PM

        Pancho – Congrats, you always find new and unique ways to demonstrate how little you know about the sport.

        The Pitcher controls very little of the equation when it comes to Wins. Its been that way since pitchers stopped throwing complete games on a regular basis. Especially true in the AL where they can’t even hit thier way to a Win if necessary.

        Wins are a team stat. A pitcher contributes at best, one third of that stat. The other two thirds are contributed by the defense and the hitting lineup. I’ll buy into Wins as a stat when it can be seperated in such a way that it makes sense that only a third of the Win or Loss is attributable to the pitching.

      • Roger Moore - Dec 22, 2010 at 3:52 PM

        I think the best way of explaining this is to say that wins are a team stat, not an individual stat. They tell you more about the quality of a team’s hitting and fielding than they do about its pitching. Pitcher wins are better than nothing, but they’re fairly meaningless as long as we have good statistics for separating the pitcher’s performance from his teammates’.

      • halfthemoney - Dec 22, 2010 at 9:23 PM

        Concerning the whole win thing, I agree with Reflex that attributing wins to a pitcher is less valid as complete games has gone out the window (don’t get me started on the DH). But I have to disagree that they are meaningless as a measure of performance. Otherwise the term “quality start” wouldn’t exist. For that matter, it’s almost placing a baseball pitcher in the category of softball pitcher; get it up to the plate and allow the team to do the rest. However, if wins are meaningless, why is the WAR stat the “go to” stat as of late? Or for that matter, UZR? If one player i.e. the pitcher can’t get credited with the win how can we assign a value to each individual player?

        I’m not trying to start anything. I’m not a sabermetrician but I Love stats. The best thing about collecting cards as a kid was looking at the backs and evaluating talent and looking beyond some of the obvious numbers. I do think, however, that we’ve started taking some of the number deciphering a bit too far.

        Oh well, I guess I’m old and still value a CG, or at least 8 innings from a pitcher. Ask my son who is a fairly decent pitcher what is most important and he’ll tell you knowing the hitters, establishing his strike zone, know when to pitch to contact based on who’s behind him and ultimately when to go for the strikeout….and hit one out of the park when he bats. Earl Weaver knew what he was talking about.

      • halfthemoney - Dec 22, 2010 at 9:38 PM

        I guess I do want to make one more pitch for the wins’ importance. I think the pitcher gets more credit than the others since each at bat begins and starts with him, kind of like the quarterback in football. I’ve played organized ball in some form for almost 40 yrs, primarily as a 3B and pitcher. Nobody on the field has as much control of the rhythm, emotion and morale as the pitcher. Before anyone jumps on me I realize it takes 9, unless the pitcher throws a perfect game and does so by throwing 81 strikes but even then the catcher could be given the same amount of credit. Sorry, I just can’t totally let go of the win as an important stat given a good ERA (but the CY award was right this year.

      • PanchoHerreraFanClub - Dec 22, 2010 at 9:52 PM

        As always Reflex, you stay classy and start with a personal insult. Something that Craig never does.

        I don’t see many GMs trading 20 game winners for 10 game winners. I wonder why? I don’t recall many 10 game winners getting $100 million plus contracts. Again I wonder why if wins don’t matter.

        Craig, I don’t agree with you that the decisions managers make on a day to day basis, the ones GMs make on month to month basis, and the one voters make when looking at a entire career should use the same criteria. It’s a little like saying if I invest my money on what gives me the best return today that will be my best return over 20 years. Careers need to be evaluated as whole careers and compared to those who were playing during their time.

      • Reflex - Dec 23, 2010 at 2:42 PM

        halfthemoney – The stat you quote, WAR, actually attempts to satisfy the requirements I laid down above. It attempts to seperate each player’s individual contribution to a team Win, and then compare it to the ‘average’ in their league among thier peers. This is a logical approach to Wins, and one I fully support. My point about Wins is that how the general public and most of the press calculate them is ridiculous, putting the win and the loss on the starting pitching even though they have only a fraction of the responsbility for it. Stats like the various versions of WAR actually break it down into its component parts and assign the proper value to each player. Thats a good thing.

        Pancho – Perhaps one day you’ll realize that I’m not Craig, and I don’t have to be nice. If your going to spout off inanities I am not going to be any nicer to you about them then you have been to Craig and others. You challenge people continually on thier ethics. That is not nice. In fact its pretty low. I feel no obligation to you to be nice in my replies when you are not respectful of others to begin with.

        And as for Wins, I’m pretty sure on the open market right now Felix would command more money than any 20 game winner in baseball. The Yanks would give him far more money than CC, or Lee. That is because they realize what you don’t: Wins are a function of the team, not the pitcher.

    • Detroit Michael - Dec 22, 2010 at 2:22 PM

      Agreed. The chart bolsters Morris’ case.

      We’re better off to say that pitching wins itself is a poor barometer of quality (his ERA+ isn’t that far above average for example) than to say the “most wins in the eighties” claim was misleading.

  3. BC - Dec 22, 2010 at 1:56 PM

    Longevity and win total hurts Guidry. His career numbers are actually REALLY good. Not Koufax-good, but if he tacked on another 4 or 5 good years, he’d be in the HOF discussion.

    • alfreddigs - Dec 22, 2010 at 3:18 PM

      For what it’s worth, Guidry’s career WAR actually beats Morris’s by about 5.

  4. Jonny 5 - Dec 22, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    For Carlton to win that much, with that team… jeez… What a man. Were batters fearing for their lives or something?

    • Detroit Michael - Dec 22, 2010 at 3:53 PM

      1972 run support for games started by Steve Carlton: 3.8 runs per game
      1972 run support in all other Phillies games: 3.0 runs per game

      Measuring one pitcher’s season by wins is a poor barometer because so much more can affect it then just how well the pitcher performs.

      • Detroit Michael - Dec 22, 2010 at 3:54 PM

        Should be “than”

        Also, hat tip to for the data.

      • clydeserra - Dec 22, 2010 at 5:33 PM

        conclusion: Steve Carlton was worth .8 runs a game with the bat in 1972

      • halfthemoney - Dec 22, 2010 at 9:42 PM

        Or Carlton being on the mound was one of those “intangibles” that made his team feel better, hence looser, thus performing better at the plate…..

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