Two for the Ages: Gibby in '68 or Pedro in 2000?

Lou CappettaAnalyst IIMarch 13, 2009

Bob Gibson was one of the nastiest, most dominant pitchers of his generation. Pedro Martinez was also one of the nastiest, most dominant pitchers of his generation.

The similarities don't stop there.

They're both right handed pitchers. They both were considered head hunters. They also both wore the number 45.

They also, arguably, both can lay claim to the greatest season by a pitcher ever (post-1900, of course). Bob Gibson in 1968. Pedro Martinez in 2000.


The case for Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson's 1968 season by the numbers:

Wins-Losses    IP        GS   CG   SHO   SO    BB     R     ER    HR     ERA  WHIP         

 22       9       304.2    34   28    13   268    62   49    38    11    1.12   0.853

By 1968, Bob Gibson was a 10-year veteran and an established ace for the St. Louis Cardinals. He had already been an All-Star four times, won three Gold Gloves, won 20 games twice, and had two World Series rings.

In 1968, however, Gibson took his dominance to new heights. The numbers are truly staggering. Gibson set career marks (at the time) in wins (22), innings pitched (304.2), complete games (28), shutouts (13), WHIP (0.853), and his 1.12 ERA wasn't only his career best, but was also the lowest single season ERA ever.

He would also lead the National League in all those categories plus strikeouts (268), and except for innings, which he finished third.

As amazing as Gibson's record setting ERA sounds, 1968 has since been regarded as "the year of the pitcher."

That year, along with Gibson's record setting ERA, baseball fans saw Denny McClain become the last major league pitcher to win 30 games (a feat no pitcher had accomplished since Dizzy Dean in 1934, garnering him AL Cy young and MVP honors), Carl Yastrzemski win the American League batting title with a .301 batting average, and major league hitters as whole bat just .237.

An astonishing 21 percent of all games played that season were shutouts. These numbers would lead to Major League Baseball changing the height of the pitcher's mound, lowering it from 15 inches to it's current 10 inches.

Indeed it was a different time for pitchers in 1968 (just think, if Gibson threw 304 innings today, he would lead the league by 60, but finished third in 1968. Third!).

Still, Bob Gibson posted a record setting ERA that was 1.78 runs lower than the league average of 2.90, won 20 games, was named an All-Star, and won the National League Cy Young (his first of two) and MVP awards.

Gibby completed 28 of his 34 starts. He also helped pitch the St. Louis Cardinals to the NL pennant, before losing in seven games to Deny McClain's Tigers.

Bob Gibson had a season that was so great in 1968, that it just may be the best by any pitcher ever.The Case for Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez's 2000 by the numbers:

Wins-Losses     IP     GS   CG    SHO    SO    BB     R      ER     BB  HR   ERA    WHIP

  18       6       217    29     7      4    284    32   44     42     32   17   1.74    0.737

By the year 2000, Pedro Martinez had already won the a Cy Young award in each league, and was coming off what many people considered to be the greatest pitching performance of his generation (23-4, 313 K's, 213 IP, 2.07 ERA, 0.923 WHIP).

To go along with his two Cy Young awards, Pedro was also a all star four times, and even finished second to Ivan Rodriguez in the 1999 AL MVP voting.

Not bad for a guy the Dodgers once traded for Delino DeShields because they feared he was too diminutive to carry a staff as a starter.

In 2000, Martinez carried his momentum from 1999, built upon it, and was even more dominant than the previous season.

Although he only started 29 games in 2000, Pedro still managed to lead the league in strikeouts (284), K/9 innings (11.78), and shutouts (4).

He also finished in the top ten in the AL in wins (4th with 18), Won-Loss % (2nd at .750), innings pitched (7th with 217), and complete games (2nd with 7).

As good as those numbers are, the real tale of Pedro's dominance in 2000 was his WHIP and ERA. By allowing only 128 hits, 32 walks, and 14 hit batsmen in his 217 innings pitched, Martinez set a single season Major League record with a WHIP of 0.737, or less than three-quarters of a base runner per inning.

His ERA was not only a Major League-leading 1.74, but it was more than 3.25 runs lower than the league average ERA of 5.07. A sub-2.00 ERA in the American League during the steroid era is an amazing feat.

Pedro would help get the Red Sox to the playoffs, again be voted an all-star, again would finish in the top five in MVP voting, and would win his third Cy Young Award in a four year span.

After totally dominating the baseball world in the 1999 season, maybe the most impressive feat of Martinez's 2000 baseball campaign, was that he was even more dominant.

Definitely the greatest year by a pitcher in the offensively fueled "steroid era," and maybe the greatest season any pitcher has ever had.The Verdict

Both Gibson's 1968 season and Martinez's 2000 season were beyond dominant. They both deserve consideration as the best season by any pitcher ever. However, there will be no ties here.

Gibson has the edge in wins (22 to 18), innings pitched (304.2 to 217), games started (34 to 29), complete games (28 to 7), shutouts (13 to 4), homers allowed (11 to 17), and ERA (1.12 to 1.74)

Pedro has the edge with fewer losses (6 to 9), fewer walks (32 to 62), strikeouts (284 to 268), WHIP (0.737 to 0.853), and differential between his ERA and the league average (3.33 run difference to 1.78 run difference).

Strictly looking at numbers, it seems that Bob Gibson has the edge over Pedro Martinez.

In baseball, however, the numbers don't always tell the whole story.

Bob Gibson pitched in the year of the pitcher, with a mound that was 15 inches high. Pedro pitched in the steroid era, an era where offense ruled, with a 10-inch mound.

Also, as impressive as Gibson's record setting ERA is, the fact that the average for the league that season was still under 3.00, compared to the average in the AL during 2000 being over 5.00, may not make Martinez's 1.74 mark more impressive, but it definitely levels the playing field.

Not to mention that, Pedro's WHIP in 2000 is still .116 points lower than Gibson's, despite the increased offense in Pedro's era.

It's really a close call, but in the end, the fact that Gibson's season was dominated by pitching, while Pedro's season was during a period dominated by huge hitters and record offensive numbers can't be ignored.

With that in mind, Pedro Martinez circa 2000 gets the call as the greatest season by a pitcher ever. Come to think of it, Pedro's 1999 season may even have a strong case for the No. 2 spot.