Posts Tagged ‘Wilbur Wood’

Greinke, Lincecum Win Cy Young, But Not Cy Falkenberg!

December 6, 2009

 The silken seasons spun by those (Cy) Young Gunslingers Zack Greinke of the Royals and Tim Lincecum of the Giants may indeed have been well deserving of the handsome hardware that handful of select scriveners deigned to hand them, despite the two twirlers’ respective victory totals of 16 and 15.

 Certainly, in the interest of fueling hot stove interest, as with Hall of Fame and MVP honors, the shared wealth of ever-newer statistical subjectivity is not (despite the attempted hypnotism) injurious to the health of our little “pastime past Time.”  But lost in baseball’s bustle of nouveau numbering designed to completely discredit pitching win totals, it might be worth remembering that a game’s opposing pitchers are facing each other as well as opposing hitters — with individual and team victory going most often to the one starter allowing fewer runs than the other — and that a pitcher’s won-lost record is that one individual statistic perfectly mirroring team won-lost.

 Which brings me to 25-game winner Cy Falkenberg and his “Marichal Year” (MY) and today’s most salient questions:  who is the former and what is the latter?

 Chicago-born Cy Falkenberg, after going 23-10 with a 2.22 ERA in 1913 for the Indians, jumped to a 25-16 year with Indianapolis of the Federal League in 1914, with another sparkling 2.22 ERA.  (The Chicago Federal League connection culminates with that historic ember of memory, i.e., Chicago sore spot, of the only major league championship won in Wrigley Field—by the 1915 Chicago Whales!)  That year, Cy paced the majors (yes, the Barry Code absolutely recognizes the Federal League as major league, further acknowledging 1900 as the first A.L. season) in both recorded outs (IP x 3) and strikeouts, with 1132 RO and 236 SO, edging Walter Johnson, who garnered 1115 RO and 225 SO.  The most forgotten of any pitcher accomplishing this previously unfeted feat, Cy Falkenberg most deserves the pub, hence the Cy Falkenberg Award, won but 27 times by 18 pitchers in baseball history.

 The most recent awardee is 2009 19-game winner Justin Verlander of the Tigers, out of the A.L., running for the less rare, but more coveted Cy Young award (remember the three Cy Young Awards in ’69 going to Tom Seaver, Mike Cuellar and Denny McLain, whose 1968 31-victory season is so aptly compared by the venerable Barry V. Codell to the Zach-Tim total of 31 in ’09?)  The comparative out and win declensions of Verlander (720, 19), Greinke (688, 16) and Lincecum (676, 15) indicate both Cy Young winners (and their teams) would ultimately be more relieved were they less relieved!

 Win totals of 25 or more like old Cy Falkenberg’s may be a thing of the past (Bob Welch’s 27 W in 1990 perhaps the last), and even the 20-game winning species endangered (although Brandon Webb’s and Cliff Lee’s 22 victories apiece in ‘08 may belie this), let’s give Greinke and Lincecum a real goal to attain, using additional traditional stats:  more than 20 wins, higher than .600 W/L, greater than 200 strikeouts and lower than 2.50 ERA–a combination cracked most miraculously by the “Juanderful” Juan Marichal, who had six such “surpassing seasons” (no Cy Youngs!) with “Li’l Tim’s” Giants!

 And who trailed most closely in Marichal years?  None other than The Big Train and Big Six immortals Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, with 5 and 4 similar campaigns, respectively, among the 31 hurlers who cumulatively “surpassed superiority” 56 times (sorry Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn, Lefty Grove and, yes, Cy Young!), including personal favorite Wilbur Wood (see Respect the Wood below).

 The lists of “Cy Falkenberg Awards” and “Juan Marichal Years” will be found on the Barry Code’s “Super Lists” link.  And a final word about these “scrolls unsung” (featuring a Ford not Whitey, and a Cy not Young):  the pitchers themselves voted with their own numbers to make the roll call.  Not to worry, baseball writers (and SABR righters), quite a few Cy Young Award winners are there, too–so keep pitching!



Respect the Wood – Going beyond the Marichal Years by lowering the ERA component to less than 2.00 and adding a 1000 RO requirement shows only three lively ball era (1920-2009) pitchers left standing as “five star flingers.”  In order of ERA, they are:

Pitcher Year Wins Pct. SO ERA RO
Wilbur Wood 1971 22 .629 210 1.91 1002
Denny McLain 1968 31 .838 280 1.96 1008
Steve Carlton 1972 27 .730 310 1.97 1039


Further into the WoodsWith Wilbur Wood’s singular sensation of 1971 now established; the lefty went on to forge a three-year streak of seasons above both 20 wins and 1000 recorded outs, the first (and, so far, the last) lively ball moundsman to do so!  Now we can quickly reveal the uniqueness of two other Woods, Smoky Joe and Kerry.  In 1912, the great Joe Wood became (and remains) the only pitcher ever to attain an overall (regular season plus post-season) won-lost differential over 30 (37W, 6L).  And in 1998, Kerry Wood’s “super game” against the Astros is still the only one in history in which a pitcher struck out more than two-thirds of his batters faced (20 of 29, for a .690 KBF – see “Super List” link for all .300 pitchers)!  Knuckleballs, curveballs, fastballs – straight from the Woods and into baseball immortality . . . .