Intimidation on the Mound

Every generation has a hand full of pitchers who are intimidating when they are on the mound.  Names like Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, Juan Marichal…the list goes on.  These pitchers were intimidating because they were nearly impossible to hit.  However, one pitcher on this list combined the two types of intimidation, unhittable stuff and a willingness to throw a brushback pitch whenever necessary, to perfection.  That pitcher is Bob Gibson.

Today, in honor of Bob Gibson’s 80th Birthday, let’s take a look at his brilliance on the diamond.

Bob Gibson, intimidation personafied. (www.espn.go.com)

Bob Gibson, pure intimidation. (www.espn.go.com)

Pitching

Bob Gibson pitched 17 seasons in the Majors, all with the St. Louis Cardinals.  He started 482 games, winning 251 and losing 174.  He pitched 255 Complete Games.  Gibson had 13 consecutive seasons with at least 10 Complete games, 7 of those 13 seasons he pitched at least 20 Complete Games.  He pitched 56 career shutouts and won 20 or more games five times.  Gibson pitched 3,884.1 innings with a career 2.91 ERA, 1.188 WHIP, striking out 3,117, and walking 1,336.

Hitting

Bob Gibson’s intimidation was not limited to the pitcher’s mound.  He was a serviceable Major League hitter, sometimes used to pinch-hit for the Cardinals.  Gibson holds a career .206 BA, .243 OBP, .301 SLG, .545 OPS, with 274 Hits, 44 Doubles, 5 Triples, 24 HR, 144 RBI, 132 R, 13 SB, 63 BB, and 415 SO.  His ability with the bat meant added depth for the Cardinals lineup.

Bob Gibson threw two pitches, fastball and slider, and batters could not hit either. (www.sportsthenandnow.com)

Bob Gibson threw two pitches, fastball and slider, and batters could not hit either. (www.sportsthenandnow.com)

World Series

Gibson pitched in three World Series (1964, 1967, and 1968).  He helped to bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to St. Louis twice (1964 and 1967).  In nine career World Series games, Gibson holds a record of 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA, and 0.889 WHIP.  He pitched eight Complete Games in the World Series.  Game 2 of the 1964 World Series was the only non-Complete Game Gibson pitched; he went eight innings.  Gibson made up for this short outing by pitching a 10 inning Complete Game in Game 5 of the 1964 World Series.  In total, Gibson pitched 81 innings in the World Series (27 innings in each), allowed 55 hits, 19 R, 17 ER, 6 HR, 17 BB, with 92 SO.  He won at least two games in each World Series in which he pitched, while never losing more than one game.

Accolades

Gibson achieved nearly everything possible during his career.  He was selected to nine All Star Teams.  He helped the Cardinals win the World Series in 1964 and 1967, winning the Most Valuable Player Award both times.  Gibson won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1968.  He won the National League Cy Young Award twice, in 1968 (unanimous) and 1970.  Gibson won nine consecutive Gold Gloves from 1965 to 1973.  He also pitched a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 14, 1971.

The St. Louis Cardinals have retired Gibson’s #45 and have inducted him into the Cardinals Hall of Fame.  In 1981, Gibson was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Bob Gibson celebrating the Cardinals 1967 World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox. (www.interactive.wpri.com)

Bob Gibson celebrating the Cardinals 1967 World Series victory over the Boston Red Sox. (www.interactive.wpri.com)

1968: The Year of the Pitcher

1968 was a terrible season to be a hitter in the Major Leagues, so much so that the pitcher’s mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches before the start of the 1969 season.  Seven pitchers finished the season with an ERA below 2.00 and nine pitchers had a WHIP below 1.000.  Tom Seaver finished 10th in Major League Baseball with 205 SO. The top five pitchers had a minimum 260 SO.

Leading the charge for all of baseball during the Year of the Pitcher was Bob Gibson.  He made 34 starts, with a 22-9 record.  Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA, 0.853 WHIP, while pitching 304.2 innings, allowing 198 Hits, 49 R, 38 ER, 11 HR, 62 BB, and 268 SO. Opponents hit .184 off Gibson for the entire season.  He pitched 28 Complete Games, including 13 Shutouts.  Gibson was the unanimous National League Cy Young Award winner, and easily won National League Most Valuable Player award.

The dominance of Gibson in 1968 is shown in how his single season ERA and WHIP rank all-time.  Gibson’s 1.12 ERA remains the fourth lowest single season ERA in baseball history. Gibson’s ERA during the 1968 season was 0.41 lower than Dwight Gooden’s 1.53 ERA in 1985, and 0.44 lower than Greg Maddux’s 1.56 ERA in 1994.  Gibson, Gooden, and Maddux are the only three pitchers in the live ball era (since 1920) to break the top 50 for best single season ERA’s.  At the time, Gibson’s 1968 WHIP was the second lowest since 1913.  Gibson still has the 17th best single season WHIP ever.

Happy 80th Birthday Bob Gibson. (www.rayonsports.com)

Happy 80th Birthday Bob Gibson. (www.rayonsports.com)

Bob Gibson was a dominant and intimidating pitcher.  Dominant pitchers like Sandy Koufax too often burn brightly for just a few years before they flare out.  Baseball was lucky to have Bob Gibson burn as brightly as a Sandy Koufax and remain healthy enough to have a long, successful career. Bob Gibson was the perfect combination of intimidation on the mound.  His accomplishments on the field have withstood the test of time.  Few players have ever dominated baseball in any manner like Gibson.  Comparing players across eras is difficult, as the game evolves over time.  However, players as dominant as Gibson are elite regardless of the era in which they played.  Legends are not contained by the era in which they play.

Happy 80th Birthday Bob Gibson.

DJ

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