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Bob Gibson Statue Outside of Busch Stadium
No. 1: Bob Gibson
That was Bob Gibson’s ERA for the 1968 season. In 304 innings, Gibson only allowed 38 runs.
Not only did Gibson win 184 games with a 2.69 ERA in the regular season, but he was dominant in the postseason as well.
Gibson’s 7-2 record with a 1.89 record in nine starts in the World Series, not to mention a WHIP of 0.88 and K/9 of 10.2, combined with his incredible regular-season number and imposing demeanor on the mound is what vaults him above Koufax and Marichal for the No. 1 spot.
Fun fact: Before Gibson was a member of the Cardinals, he was a Harlem Globetrotter.
No. 2: Juan Marichal
Outside of the 1960s, you would be hard-pressed to find a better No. 2 pitcher for a decade. (Just wait for No. 3.) Juan Marichal’s 197 wins, winning percentage of .672 and 2711 innings were all the best marks in baseball for the 1960s.
His ERA of 2.71 was second-best to the aforementioned Bob Gibson, who had a 2.69 ERA. Marichal made the All-Star team eight-straight seasons from 1962-1969, and despite a somewhat low 6.3 K/9, he still struck out over 1,900 batters.
No. 3: Sandy Koufax
There is a reason Baseballreference.com lists “The Left Arm Of God” in parentheses next to Sandy Koufax’s name.
From 1963-1966 Koufax put together the best four-year period any starting pitcher ever has had in the history of Major League Baseball. He averaged 24 wins a season, throwing 298 innings with a 1.86 ERA, 307 strikeouts and a winning percentage of .782.
He won three Cy Youngs and an MVP award in those four years. In the one year he did not win the Cy Young, he finished third, and he managed to fit in two other second-place finishes in the MVP race as well.
So the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time finishes third in his own decade?
While he was incredible, he only did it for four years. He would have won the race if it were a sprint, but as the tortoise and the hare taught us, it was a marathon, and both Gibson and Marichal were dominant for the entire decade.
No. 4: Don Drysdale
From one Dodger to another, Don Drysdale was one of the most intimidating pitchers not only of the 1960s, but of anyone who ever took the mound. An imposing 6’5" on the mound, Drysdale’s power fastball helped him earn All-Star appearances every year from 1961-1968 except for 1966.
He averaged 14 wins a season, with a 2.83 ERA helping the Dodgers to World Series titles in both 1963 and 1965.
No. 5: Denny McLain
I was tempted to go with the relief ace Hoyt Wilhelm here, but I decided Denny McLain’s two Cy Young awards were too much to leave out.
Despite joining the decade late—his first full season as a starter was 1965—McLain made up for lost time and quickly. From 1965-1969 McLain averaged 22 wins a season, earning 31 wins in 1968 to help the Tigers win their first World Series title since 1945.
He won both the MVP and Cy Young that season and followed it up in 1969 with another Cy Young and nine shutouts.