The 10 Best Pitching Perfomances: Age 40 and Beyond
Most everyone knows about the achievements of the dominant, young pitchers.
For instance, in just his third year in his professional career, Roger Clemens won not only the A.L. Cy Young Award in 1986, but the A.L MVP Award as well.
Tim Linececum's achievements as the 2008 N.L Cy Young as a 22 year old are also well documented. When Dwight Gooden was a mere 20 years old, he posted what I consider the most dominant season of any modern day pitcher.
Everyone wants to see youth and flash, but what about when a pitcher loses 10 mph on his fastball? The pitchers who thrive off guile and finesse are ones I believe are far greater than the Sandy Koufax's of the world who pitch six great seasons.
Continued success is key to baseball, and these are the pitchers who continued their success late into their careers.
10: Phil Niekro - 40- 1979
Niekro set the standard for oldie pitchers throwing until he was 48 and logging in 1977 innings after his 40th birthday.
The knuckle-baller had his last great season in 1979, going 21-20, throwing a league-high 342 IP, 23 complete games, 208 strikeouts, a 3.39 ERA, and a 1.24 WHIP
He did have quite a bit of streakiness, allowing a league-high 41 home runs and a .303 batting average against.
9: Grover Alexander - 40 - 1927
Grover put up actually a decent season at age 40; you know, just 21-10, 22 complete games, a 2.52 ERA, and a 1.13 WHIP
Unfortunately for old Grover, these numbers aren't anything amazing for the dead ball era, but would have won him a Cy Young Award nowadays.
8: Eddie Plank - 40 - 1916
Eddie Plank, again, was a beneficiary of the dead ball era. His career numbers are very good, including a ridiculous eight 20 win seasons and posting ERA's never going above 3.00 after his sophomore season.
The Hall of Famer posted a mediocre 16-15 record at age 40, but he threw 17 complete games (including three shutouts), three saves, a 2.33 ERA, and a 1.14 WHIP.
7: Hoyt Wilhelm - 41 - 1964
Hoyt Wilhelm learned how to throw a knuckleball by studying a local newspaper in the 1920's, and it was that pitch that gave him continued success as a reliever, and his only no hitter in 1958 as a starter.
Mostly a reliever throughout his Hall of Fame career, Hoyt established records for relief victories (124), games finished (651), games as a reliever (1,018), most innings in relief (1,870), most games pitched overall (1,070), and most saves after 40 (129).
In 1964, Hoyt went 12-9 with an incredible 55 games finished, 27 saves (second in the league), 95 strikeouts, a 1.99 ERA, and a 0.94 WHIP.
6: Warren Spahn - 42 - 1963
Had Spahn not went into the military in his early 20's he probably would have won over 400 games and hit well over his career 35 home runs.
In 1963, Warren Spahn put up a typical Warren Spahn season, except only at age 42: a 23-7 record, 259.7 innings pitched, 22 complete games, a 2.60 ERA, and a 1.11 WHIP.
5: Roger Clemens - 41 - 2004
After more than a few very good seasons with the New York Yankees, and one decent one with the Astros, the Rocket exploded in 2004 at age 41 winning his record seventh Cy Young Award.
Clemens carried the Astros into the playoffs with an 18-4 record, a 2.98 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 218 strikeouts.
4: Nolan Ryan - 40 - 1987
Nolan Ryan; what can you say about this guy? He pitched for a ridiculous 27 years, set the record for no-hitters, and, oh yea shattered the career strikeouts record (set with 5714).
Ryan is the only pitcher in history with six 300+ strikeout seasons, and a laughable 15 200+ strikeouts seasons. All that said, because of the poor teams he was on, he never won a Cy Young, posted only two 20+ win seasons, averaged a mediocre 13 wins a year, and "only" 324 wins for his career.
1987 was just another example of the offensive ineptitude while Ryan pitched. He led the league at ERA (2.76), strikeouts per nine innings (11.48), hits per nine innings (6.55), strikeouts (270), and went third in the league with a WHIP of 1.13 only to show a terrible 8-16 record for it all.
Poor, poor Nolan.
3: Randy Johnson - 40 - 2004
2004 was a good year for old pitchers with Roger Clemens winning the Cy Young, Curt Schilling winning 21 games, and of course, Randy Johnson's usual dominance.
Johnson won the Cy Young in consecutive years from 1999-2002 for Arizona, but Clemens ousted him in 2004.
Some say that he split votes with Schilling, and that's why he didn't win it; I'm not buying it. Johnson was BY FAR the most dominant pitcher in the National League in 2004, he just didn't get the record Clemens posted.
Randy went 16-14 in 2004, a fringe-average record, but he led the league in strikeouts (290; 72 better than Clemens) and WHIP (0.90; 0.25 better than Clemens), while his 245 innings pitched (31 better than Clemens) and 2.60 ERA( 0.38 better than Clemens) was second best.
Oh, and he also threw the first perfect game in 15 years.
2: Cy Young - 42 - 1909
Ah, the old Cy Young. I find it funny that some people don't know that the award is named after the guy. Meh, I used to be one of them I suppose.
Some of the records this guy owns are just straight up ridiculous. I laugh out loud whenever someone claims the basketball points records are the most untouchable in sports, or the like.
Here's some trivia to tell your old man: Young holds the record for wins at 511, the next best is Walter Johnson at 417, the next is Grover Alexander at 373. The closest modern day winner is Greg Maddux at 355.
Young holds the record for most complete games at 749 (yes, more than his win total). The closest active pitcher is Johns Smoltz (41 years old) with 53 complete games. I really could go on and on, but you get the idea.
The league's oldest player at 42, Cy Young was continuing to revolutionize a pitcher's role. Young posted a decent record at 19-15, throwing 30 complete games, 295 innings pitched, a 2.26 ERA, and a 1.10 WHIP.
1: Cy Young - 41 - 1908
Young posted an even better season the year before in 1908.
At the ripe old age of 41, Young posted one of the best seasons ever: a 21-11 record, 30 complete games (including 3 shutouts), 299 innings pitched, a 1.26 ERA, a 0.89 WHIP, and threw a no-hitter to top it all off.