Top 10 Greatest Cy Young Award Seasons
Beginning in 1956, MLB Commissioner Ford Frick inducted an award in honor of the late Cy Young, who passed away in 1955.
The award was named in honor of Young, who held almost every major pitching record at the time.
The award was given to one pitcher from 1956 until 1967, when it was awarded to one pitcher in both the American League and the National League.
There have been many multiple winners. Roger Clemens won the award seven times. Randy Johnson has won it five times. Greg Maddux has won it four times.
But how do their seasons stack up with the rest of the winners?
No. 10. 2008 AL Winner Cliff Lee, CLE
22-3, 2.54 ERA, 170 K
Cliff Lee was the only positive thing for the 2008 Cleveland Indians.
After capturing the 2007 AL Central title, the Indians were heavily favored to repeat as Division Champions behind the strong play of 2007 Cy Young Winner CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner.
But Sabathia struggled to a 6-8 start, and was dealt to Milwaukee before the All-Star Break, with the Indians in last place in the AL Central at 37-51.
Fausto Carmona also showed signs of his 2006 season (1-10, 5.42 ERA in 2006 compared to an 8-7, 5.54 ERA in 2008), and Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner battled injuries most of the season.
And then, there is Cliff Lee.
Cliff Lee jumped off to an amazing start, winning his first six decisions, posting a 0.67 ERA in his first seven starts. He was 11-2 at the All-Star Break, accounting for 26 percent of Cleveland’s 41 wins.
He got off to an even better start in the second half, winning his next 11 decisions. He lost his last start of the year to Boston, putting his record at an astounding 22-3, the most wins in the majors.
His 2.54 ERA was the lowest in the American League.
Despite Francisco Rodriguez setting the league record in saves (62), Lee received 24 of 28 first place votes, making him the second consecutive Indian to win the award.
No. 9. 1972 AL Winner Gaylord Perry, CLE
24-16, 1.92 ERA, 234 K
Gaylord Perry is the perfect example that the statistic for wins and losses mean absolutely nothing for a pitcher.
Despite Perry's 16 losses (his brother and 1970 Cy Young winner Jim Perry also had 16 losses that season); he brought home the first of his two Cy Young awards in 1972.
Perry's Indians finished 72-84 in the AL East, 14 games behind the Detroit Tigers.
Cleveland was in the bottom three in runs scored in 1972 (472, the league average was 537), and only averaged three runs per game.
Enter Gaylord Perry, where he recorded 33 percent of Cleveland's victories. What is more impressive, is that Perry recorded a 1.92 ERA in 243 IP.
Perry also led the league with 29 complete games of the 40 games he started.
As for his 16 losses, the most for any Cy Young Award winner, Perry gave up three runs or less in each loss.
No. 8. 1992 AL Winner Dennis Eckersley, OAK
7-1, 1.91 ERA, 51 SV
Although I am not particularly excited about seeing a relief pitcher win the Cy Young Award, I didn't feel this list would be complete without Eck.
Eck's Oakland Athletics recorded victories in his first 52 appearances of the season, while Eck picked up 41 saves along the way. He was finally beat by the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 23.
Eck bounced back and converted his next 10 save attempts to bring his total up to 51. During his 80 innings pitched, Eck gave up only 17 runs while striking out 93.
No. 7. 1999 AL Winner Pedro Martinez, BOS
23-4, 2.07 ERA, 313 K
1999 was an important year for Pedro Martinez. He finished second in AL Cy Young votingin 1998 (Roger Clemens of Toronto won. Pedro and Clemens both brought the Cy Young to Canada in 1997, Clemens with Toronto, and Martinez with Montreal), and Martinez was trying to prove that he belonged in a big-market ball club.
Any doubters he had before '99 melted away quickly.
Pedro won 11 of his first 12 starts (his lone loss came at the hands of the Chicago White Sox, 0-4. Pedro gave up two earned runs) with an ERA of 1.91, and 133 K in only 89.3 innings with only 18 BB.
Martinez won both of his starts against the rival World Champion New York Yankees, allowing three earned runs in 16 IP with 28 K, 17 of them coming in one game.
His third loss of the year would come at the hands of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Pedro would lose the game 2-3, despite striking out 14 Rays.
Pedro's success continued in the second half of the season, going 12-2 with a 2.01 ERA.
Pedro's numbers earned him the Triple Crown, and was only the second AL pitcher (Roger Clemens accomplished the feat in 1997 and 1998) since 1945.
No. 6. 1968 NL Winner Bob Gibson, STL
22-9, 1.12 ERA, 268 K
1968 wasn't a good year for hitters. The NL had only five players hit over .300, while the AL had only one.
Bob Gibson was the reason for the National League's woes.
Despite a 3-5 start to the 1968 season (he had a 1.45 ERA), Gibby buckled down and won his next 15 decision, posting a 0.68 ERA, and holding hitters to a .174 average.
All 15 of his games were complete games, one going 11 ininings, and eight of them were shut outs, including a 46.2 inning streak in which he didn't allow a run.
Gibson would win the NL Cy Young and the NL MVP.
His St. Lous Cardinals would finish 97-65, but would lose the World Series in seven games to AL Cy Young and MVP winner Denny McLain's Detroit Tigers.
No. 5. 1984 NL Winner Rick Sutcliffe, CHC
16-1, 2.69 ERA, 155 K
Last year, Manny Ramirez and CC Sabathia attempted to pull a Rick Sutcliffe.
Let me explain.
Sutcliffe, a former Rookie of the Year, had been a 17 game winner in 1983, and led the league in ERA in 1982 with 2.94. But Sutcliffe, being in the last year of his contract with the Cleveland Indians, started the season poorly with a 4-5 record and a 5.15 ERA in 94 innings.
He was dealt to the Chicago Cubs on June 13, along with George Fraizer and Ron Hassey, for Joe Carter, Mel Hall, and Don Schulze.
The rest is history.
Sutcliffe caught fire in Chicago, recording an astounding 16-1 record while in Cubbie Blue. He started 20 games for the Cubs, pitching 150 innings.
The Cubs, who were 34-25 before acquiring Sutcliffe, finished 62-40 with him, totaling a 96-65 record and finishing atop the NL East division.
Sutcliffe was the unanimous selection for the Cy Young, collecting all 24 first place votes, beating...
No. 4. 1985 NL Winner Dwight Gooden, NYM
24-4, 1.53 ERA, 268 K
After winning the Rookie of the Year award and finishing second in the NL Cy Young voting in 1984 (17-9, 2.60 ERA, 276 K), many fans expected Gooden to recapture success of 1984 during the 1985 season.
Fans never expected this.
After earning a no-decision in his first start of the '85 season after allowing four ER, Gooden dominated his next two starts, pitching back-to-back shut outs, only allowing seven hits in 17.0 innings of work, with 17 Ks.
His ERA was 4.50 after his first start, but it would never get above 1.89 the rest of the season.
Gooden would cruise for rest of the season, winning 18 of his 19 decisions from May 30 thru Oct. 2. (His one loss was a 2-3 defeat at the hand of the SF Giants).
Despite Gooden's performance, the Mets fell three games short of the NL East division, behind the eventual NL Pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.
Gooden won the Triple Crown award, the first pitcher in 13 years to achieve the feat, and was a unanimous selection for the Cy Young Award, beating John Tudor and Orel Hershiser for the award.
No. 3. 1966 Winner Sandy Koufax, LAD
27-9, 1.73 ERA, 317 K
This slide was originally named No. 3 TIE. 1963/1966 Sandy Koufax.
But since you can't have ties in baseball, I went with 1966.
I didn't really look at Koufax's numbers before making the list. I knew he won the MVP and the Cy Young Award in 1963 (25-5, 1.88 ERA, 306 K), but also knew he won 27 games with a 1.73 ERA in 1966.
He also had more complete games (27 vs. 20), innings pitched (323.0 vs. 311.0), and strikeouts (317 vs. 306) in 1966 than he did in 1963.
Fresh of his second Cy Young Award and his 1965 World Series MVP (Koufax pitched a three-hit 2-0 shutout against the Minnesota Twins in Game Seven), 1966 was Koufax's 11th and final season at the major league level.
And what a way to go out.
Koufax led the league in wins (27), ERA (1.73), games started (42), complete games (27), shutouts (5), innings pitched (323.0), and strikeouts (317).
Koufax set career marks in wins, ERA, games started, and BB/K ratio (8.9)
Koufax won the Triple Crown, and was a unanimous choice for Cy Young.
In fact, he was the only player to receive votes.
No. 2. 1995 NL Winner Greg Maddux, ATL
19-2, 1.63 ERA, 181 K
For most people, putting up Greg Maddux's 1995 numbers would be a career year.
For Maddux, it was just another day at the office.
Maddux won his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award in 1995, helping the Atlanta Braves to their only World Series despite 14 consecutive division titles.
Maddux was 8-1 with a 1.64 ERA at the All-Star Break, and had only given up more than three runs (5) in his 14 starts.
His one loss came at the hands of the Colorado Rockies, 5-6.
Maddux got hotter during the second half of the season, going 11-1 with a 1.62 ERA.
Maddux led the league in wins (19), ERA (1.63), complete games (10), innings pitched (209.2), shutouts (3), winning percentage (.905), WHIP (.811), HR/9 (.3), BB/9 (1.0), and K/BB (7.87).
Maddox also won his sixth consecutive gold glove, and finished third in MVP voting.
No. 1. 1968 AL Winner Denny McLain, DET
31-6, 1.96 ERA, 280 K
While I was doing the research for this Top 10 list, I discovered that Carl Yastrzemski won the 1968 AL Batting Title with an average of .301...the lowest winning batting average in title history. It didn't take me long to figure out why.
The answer is Denny McLain.
McLain demolished the American League from Opening Day.
He won 18 of his first 20 decisions, with an ERA of 1.79, and held opponents to a .189 batting average. He pitched 16 complete games during this stretch, one of them lasting 10 innings.
McLain was 16-2 at the All-Star Break, and media and fans were both excited for what looked to the first 30+ win season since Dizzy Dean won 30 games in 1934.
McLain didn't let the people down, winning his 30th on Sept. 14.
During the second half of the season, McLain went 15-4 with an ERA of 1.89 and an opposing batting average of .211.
McLain's Tigers finished with a 103-59 record, and atop the American League. The Tigers would go on to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, despite McLain going 1-2 with an ERA of 3.23.
McLain was three strikeouts from the Triple Crown, behind the Indian's Sam McDowell (283).
McLain is one of eight pitchers to win the MVP and the Cy Young in the same season (Don Newcombe in '56, McLain in '68, Vida Blue in '71, Rollie Fingers in '81, Willie Hernandez in '84, Roger Clemens in '86, and Dennis Eckersley in '92).