The 15 Greatest 1-2 Pitching Combos in MLB History
With the 2012 postseason fast approaching, one can’t help but think about baseball history and how we are on the doorstep of it being made all over again.
September is a fine month for baseball. The division races are insane.
In the AL East, the Yankees have but a one-game lead over the Orioles. The Rays, despite being five games out in the division, still have a chance to creep into October.
In the AL Central, the Tigers and White Sox are slugging it out for a postseason slot, while Oakland could still very well win it out west.
The NL shows a bit more distance in its division races. The Nationals and Reds have their respective divisions locked up, as do the Giants.
But the Wild Card races are truly important in the NL.
The Cardinals, Dodgers, Brewers and Pirates are all alive and kicking.
What it all will boil down to is pitching. It always does.
That thought prompted me to think about the great pitching duos we see today in baseball and, more so, historically, baseball’s best one-two punches.
That said, here is a trip through baseball history with the 15 greatest one-two punches of all time (in no particular order).
Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale
Photo Credit: Fanzooloo.com
In 1965, the Los Angeles Dodgers had arguably the most dynamic duo pitching for them in Major League Baseball history.
Sandy Koufax, the "Left Hand of God," would post a league-leading 25 wins that year with just five losses. His 1.88 ERA and 0.875 WHIP would help him win the National League Cy Young that season, the first of three he would win in his career.
In addition, Koufax racked up 306 strikeouts with 11 shutouts and a 6.2 H/9 ratio, both also league-leading figures in 311 innings of work. All of this while making an All-Star appearance and finishing second in the NL MVP race.
Don Drysdale, "Big D," would add a 23-12 record that season with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.090 WHIP in a league-leading 42 starts.
Drysdale added seven shutouts of his own with a save to his credit that season as well. He pitched 308.1 innings and struck out 237 batters.
He would be named an All-Star and finish fifth overall in the NL MVP race that season.
Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine
Photo Credit: JayBusbee.com
With so many great years under their belts together, it is hard to point out just one that best exemplified this duo.
However, 1998 was arguably when the tandem was at their best.
Greg Maddux would post a 18-9 record in 34 games with an NL-best 2.22 ERA and 0.980 WHIP. He would also lead the National League in shutouts with five in 251 innings of work.
Maddux struck out 204 batters while throwing nine complete games. In addition, he was an All-Star, won a Gold Glove and finished fourth overall in the NL Cy Young race.
Tom Glavine would lead the NL in wins that season with a 20-6 record.
He added a 2.47 ERA and a 1.203 WHIP in 229.1 innings of work while striking out 157 batters of his own.
Glavine would win the 1998 NL Cy Young, finish 21st overall in the NL MVP race, be named to the All-Star team and took home a Silver Slugger award.
Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling
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In 1985, at just 20 years old, Dwight "Doc" Gooden was the most phenomenal, must-see pitcher in all of Major League Baseball.
He posted a 24-4 record, which naturally led the National League, with an NL-best 1.53 ERA and a 0.965 WHIP.
Gooden would pitch 16 complete games, throw 276.2 innings and strike out 268 batters—all league-leading statistics.
Through his 35 starts, he would impress enough to win the NL Cy Young, be named to the All-Star team and finish fourth among NL MVP vote recipients.
As for Ron Darling, if you have an ace like Doc, it didn't take all that much to make waves behind him.
Darling posted a 16-6 record that season with a 2.90 ERA and 1.323 WHIP. He was a workhorse like Gooden, and he threw for 248 innings, striking out 167 batters of his own.
Like Gooden, Darling was also an All-Star that season.
Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez
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In 2004, Curt Schilling vowed to help break an 86-year-old curse.
And he did.
That season, Schilling led the American League with 21 wins and just six losses, giving him the best winning percentage in the league at .778. He owned a 3.26 ERA and a 1.063 WHIP that year, having started 32 games for the Red Sox.
"Big Schill" would throw 226.2 innings, striking out 203 batters along the way.
He would be named to the AL All-Star team, be the runner-up for the AL Cy Young and finish 11th overall for the AL MVP Award, but hey, he won another World Series.
Pedro Martinez, while not the same pitcher that he was in 1999, was still impressive that season for the Sox.
He would post a 16-9 record with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.171 WHIP through 33 starts and 217 innings of work.
He would strike out 227 batters that season, and despite missing the All-Star game, Martinez would still finish fourth overall in the AL Cy Young voting.
Early Wynn and Bob Lemon
Photo Credit: SI.com
First things first, the 1954 Cleveland Indians (and well, the 1951 Indians) had one of the greatest starting rotations in Major League Baseball history.
That said, there were two gems that had just a bit more luster on them that year.
Early Wynn led the American League with a 23-11 record that season, compiling a 2.73 ERA and a 1.128 WHIP.
He threw the most innings for any AL pitcher that season with 270.2 in a league-best 36 starts. Additionally, he had two saves and three shutouts for the Indians.
Wynn struck out 155 batters while finishing sixth overall for the AL MVP race.
Bob Lemon tied Wynn for the most wins in 1954 with 23, ultimately going 23-7 in 33 starts. However, Lemon led the American League with 21 complete games.
He would post a 2.73 ERA and a 1.128 WHIP in 258.1 innings of work, striking out 110 batters.
Wynn would be named to the All-Star team and finish fifth in the AL MVP race.
Jim Palmer and Mike Cuellar
Photo Credit: YahooSam.com (L to R Palmer, McNalley,Cuellar, Dobson)
The 1970 and 1971 Baltimore Orioles were outstanding in terms of pitching.
To say that the team had a one-two punch is a bit of an understatement. However, the front end of the rotation was quite impressive, especially in 1970.
Jim Palmer posted a 20-10 record that season with a 2.71 ERA and a 1.190 WHIP.
He would lead the American League in innings pitched with 305 as well as shutouts with five. Palmer pitched 17 complete games in his 39 starts, racking up 199 strikeouts.
He would close out the season as an All-Star, finishing 25th overall in the AL MVP race and fifth in the AL Cy Young race.
Mike Cuellar would lead the American League in wins, winning percentage, games started and complete games that season.
He owned a 24-8 record for a .750 winning percentage, adding a 3.48 ERA and 1.149 WHIP in his 40 starts and 297.2 innings of work.
Cuellar totalled 21 complete games with four shutouts on his way to being an All-Star, finishing 11th in the AL MVP race and fourth in the Cy Young race.
Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee
Photo Credit: FantasyPhenoms.com
In the modern era of baseball, there are few combinations scarier to face than Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
In 2011, the duo laid the National League to waste.
Roy Halladay would post a 19-6 record with a 2.35 ERA, the lowest of his career. He added a 1.040 WHIP in 32 starts.
Per the usual, Halladay was an innings-eater, going 233.2 and striking out 220 batters.
In addition, Halladay was an All-Star, finishing as the 2011 NL Cy Young runner-up and ninth overall in the MVP race.
Cliff Lee posted a 17-8 record with a 2.40 ERA, the second lowest of his career. He would add a 1.027 WHIP in his 32 starts.
Lee was also an innings-eater, going 232.2 and striking out 238 batters of his own.
He would also be a member of the National League All-Star team while finishing third in the NL Cy Young race and 15th overall in the MVP voting.
Johnny Antonelli and Ruben Gomez
Johnny Antonelli and Willie Mays (Photo: RIT.Edu)
In 1954, the Giants had the pitching and hitting to inevitably win the World Series.
Thanks belongs in no small part to the roles played by Johnny Antonelli and Ruben Gomez.
Antonelli would go 21-7 that season, giving him the NL's best winning percentage at .750. He also led the league with his 2.30 ERA and a cool 1.171 WHIP to boot.
He would pitch in 39 games that season, starting 37 and leading the league with six shutouts in 258.2 innings of work.
Antonelli struck out 158 batters on his way to an All-Star appearance and a third-place finish in the NL MVP race.
Ruben Gomez, on the other hand, would go 17-9 for the Giants.
He would post a 2.88 ERA and a 1.403 WHIP with 106 strikeouts and four shutouts of his own.
In 37 games, he started 32 and threw for 221.2 innings of work.
David Cone and Dwight Gooden
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The 1988 New York Mets once again had another formidable front of the rotation.
David Cone would post the first of only two 20-win seasons in his career, posting a 20-3 record for an NL-best .870 winning percentage.
Cone would put up a 2.22 ERA and a 1.115 WHIP in his 231.1 innings of work. He would start 28 games for the Mets, appearing in 35 total. In addition, he would strike out 213 batters.
That season, Cone was an All-Star while finishing third in the NL Cy Young race and 10th in the NL MVP voting.
Dwight Gooden, at the ripe-old age of 23, posted an 18-9 record with a 3.19 ERA and a 1.204 WHIP.
Gooden started 34 games that season and threw for 248.1 innings, striking out 175 batters along the way.
He would also be named to the 1988 NL All-Star team.
Waite Hoyt and Urban Shocker
Waite Hoyt (Photo Credit: Angelfire)
In 1927, the New York Yankees possessed one of the most impressive starting rotations in baseball history.
For the boys in pinstripes, Waite Hoyt was incredible that season. He posted a 22-7 record, which led the American League in both win totals and winning percentage at .759.
In addition, Hoyt owned a 2.63 ERA and a 1.155 WHIP.
He would start 32 games for the Yankees, appearing in 36 and throwing for 256.1 innings and an eye-popping 23 complete games. Not known as a strikeout pitcher, Hoyt only set down 86 batters via the K.
Urban Shocker put together a fine 18-6 record with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.240 WHIP.
He would pitch in 31 games for the Yankees, starting 27. Shocker threw for 200 innings that season, striking out just 35 batters.
He added 13 complete games of his own.
Catfish Hunter and Ken Holtzman
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The 1972 Oakland A's starting rotation is revered—and rightfully so.
Catfish Hunter went 21-7 that season, leading the American League in winning percentage at .750 with a 2.04 ERA and a 0.914 WHIP.
He threw 295.1 innings while appearing in 38 games, starting 37 of them.
Hunter would strike out 191 batters while pitching 16 complete games and five shutouts. He finished fourth in Cy Young voting and 11th in the AL MVP race; he was also a member of the AL All-Star team.
Ken Holtzman posted a 19-11 record with a 2.51 ERA and a 1.070 WHIP in his 39 games for the A's, 27 of which were starts.
He would also throw 16 complete games, adding four shutouts of his own.
Holtzman struck out 134 batters and was also a member of the 1972 American League All-Star team.
Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez
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Okay, so this one may be a bit premature. Yes, Strasburg got shut down early, but just think about what this duo has accomplished already this season.
Stephen Strasburg posted a 15-6 record with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.155 WHIP in 28 games this season.
He was only afforded 159.1 innings of work. That equates to just about 5.2 innings of work per outing. Still, he struck out 197 batters and leads the NL with an impressive 11.1 K/9 ratio.
Gio Gonzalez, on the other hand, leads the NL in wins to date with a 19-8 record.
He owns a 2.95 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP in his 30 starts and 186.1 innings of work. He has added 196 strikeouts of his own.
Gonzalez has managed two complete games and a shutout this season as well. Both he and Strasburg were members of the NL All-Star team.
Mordecai Brown and Jack Pfiester
Mordecai Brown (Photo Credit: bleedcubbieblue.com)
In 1906, the Chicago Cubs were incredible. The rotation was led by a man with three fingers.
Mordecai Brown posted an impressive 26-6 record with an unbelievable 1.04 ERA, which led the National League, as did his 0.934 WHIP.
He appeared in 36 games, 32 of which he started, while posting nine shutouts, which also led the NL. He would throw for 277.1 innings and strike out 144 batters along the way.
Additionally, he had 27 complete games that season.
Jack Pfiester complimented Brown with a 20-8 record with a 1.51 ERA and a 0.941 WHIP.
In his 31 games, he started 29 while compiling 250.2 innings and striking out 153 batters along the way. Pfiester would throw 20 complete games and four shutouts.
Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette
Photo Credit: fanbase.com
In 1958, the tandem of Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette was arguably at its finest.
Spahn owned a 22-11 record with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.148 WHIP.
Burdette owned a 20-10 record with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.195 WHIP. Spahn's 22 wins, .667 winning percentage (tied with Burdette) and 1.148 WHIP were all NL-leading figures.
In 38 games, Spahn started 36 while adding an NL-best 23 complete games to go with two shutouts in his 290 innings of work.
Burdette appeared in 40 games, starting 36 for the Braves while adding 19 complete games and three shutouts of his own. He would pitch 275.1 innings.
Spahn had 150 strikeouts, while Burdette added 113.
By the season's end, Spahn was an All-Star, the NL Cy Young runner-up and finished fifth overall in the MVP voting. Burdette was third in the Cy Young voting and finished 11th in the MVP voting.
Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling
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Take your pick, 2001 or 2002. In both seasons, the Diamondbacks received incredible performances from Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
Randy Johnson would finish off a four-year stretch of winning the NL Cy Young, while Schilling would be the runner-up both of those seasons.
Combined, the duo won 110 games, 55 games apiece.
Schilling struck out 609 batters, while Johnson struck out 719.
In total, there were four All-Star appearances, two Cy Youngs, two Cy Young runner-ups and four top-11 MVP finishes.
Arguably, this tandem over these two seasons was the greatest in all of Major League Baseball history. Their domination was absolutely breathtaking.