October 21, 2014

Bob Gibson’s 1968 Season Is Overrated

June 11, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

The 1968 MLB season featured the greatest pitching statistics in the live ball era (since 1920).  However, thanks to the Factor12 (F12) Rating on 60ft6in.com, baseball fans can delve deeper into the statistical minutia and uncover the real truth.

Bob Gibson 1968 F12:   22-9 / 1.12 ERA/ 0.85 WHIP / 28 CG / 13 SHO / 304.67 IP / 268 SO / 62 BB

Is it possible that Bob Gibson’s season is overrated considering the elements favoring pitchers…. 15-inch mound, no DH, the strike zone increased from the top of the batter’s shoulders to the bottom of his knees, and 4-team expansion a season later?

The breakdown of every MLB pitcher during the 1968 season:

Year

Teams

#Pitchers

ERA

IP

AVG IP

1968

20

287

2.98

29233.67

101.86

As shown above, the 1968 season produced the only season in the live ball era with a sub-3.00 MLB ERA.  In fact, of the 76 qualifying pitchers, 7 pitchers produced a sub-2.00 ERA, 49 posted a sub-3.00 ERA, and only 2 posted an ERA above 4.00!

Year

Teams

#Pitchers

ERA

IP

AVG IP

2000

30

606

4.77

43244.33

71.36

In contrast, the 2000 season produced the second highest ERA since 1920 and the legendary Pedro Martinez season.  Of the 88 qualifying pitchers, only 4 posted a sub-3.00 ERA, 46 posted an plus-4.00 ERA and 20 posted a plus-5.00 ERA.

During the 1960s, there were 14 sub-2.00 ERA seasons.  Meanwhile, in the subsequent 44 years, there have been only 18 sub-2.00 ERA campaigns

There’s no denying that Bob Gibson had a great season in 1968.  However, considering all of the factors aiding pitchers, his season compared to the league average pitching performance rates only 39th best since 1960.  Believe it or not, ’68 Gibson is overrated.

Comments

4 Responses to “Bob Gibson’s 1968 Season Is Overrated”
  1. George Tummolo says:

    Not only that, but umpires were giving Gibson almost everything ( same with Drysdale ) in 1968. Gibson’s “image” from the 1967 World Series seemed to have influenced them a lot. I was a HUGE Gibson fan until I saw him not only getting all borderline calls, but intimidating the umpires left and right. His surly demeanor to fans really didn’t leave a pleasant taste in anyone’s mouth, either. At least Don Drysdale was nice to the fans…….

  2. I don’t see it. Gibson had the same mound, same umpires, same everything that pitchers had going back to 1920 and suddenly we have to discount 1968? It seems that a better case could be asserted that statistical comparisons can only be made between eras when the underlying conditions were the same. So, Gibson’s 1968 season is the best of that era using ERA as an indicator.

    I have heard pitchers say that the baseball in 1968 was different, that it had a slightly looser cover and was easier to get a grip on the ball. But again, it is a subjective analysis, no better–well at least it comes from players–and has no more authenticity, than saying the umpires gave Gibson or Tom Glavine a wider strike zone than anyone else. Which deserves as much consideration as my mother liked my brother better.

  3. Mike Lynch says:

    I see both sides of the coin, but I have to agree with Ted. On the surface, Gibson’s ERA is mind-boggling and it’s not until you compare it to the league average that you see it’s not as impressive as, say, Pedro Martinez’s ERA vs. LG in 2000. But he was still almost a full run (0.87) better than the NL runner-up, and that’s saying something. In terms of WAR, he ranks fifth from 1920-2011 (seventh if you discount his offense). I’m not sure overrated is the best word to describe his ’68 season, but I see where you’re coming from.

  4. I appreciate F12 as an alternative approach, but to use it to declare Gibson’s ’68 season as overrated is to act like the formula is some sort of “end all be all” for evaluating starting pitchers. I don’t think any interpretive baseball statistic has that type of power.

    When I used my own measure of evaluating starting pitchers (based on Win Expectancy, which takes into account scoring environment), Gibson’s ’68 ranks in my all-time top five whether we’re comparing it to his ’68 peers or to history. Gibson didn’t throw one clunker all year, which is extremely rare even for the great seasons. He averaged 8.96 innings per outing, so he often went the distance while keeping the opposition for the most part off the scoreboard. There’s not much else that can be asked from a starting pitcher. Then there was that incredible 11-game stretch from June 6th to July 30th, where he completed and won all 11 games while throwing eight shutouts and recording an ERA of 0.27.

    If anything, I think Gibson’s next season, 1969, is one of the most underrated pitching seasons of all time.

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