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Philadelphia Phillies: Steve Carlton and His Record Campaign of 1972

Zak SchmollAnalyst IJune 20, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 05:  A statue of Phillies great Steve Carlton is outside of the stadium where the Philadelphia Phillies played the Atlanta Braves on April 5, 2009 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today's game is the opening of the 2009 major league baseball season.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Steve Carlton played before the era of sabermetrics. However, if the love of sabermetrics had been there, he would have been an even greater hero in 1972.

Most of us know the story of the 1972 Philadelphia Phillies.

It was Carlton's first year in Philadelphia after coming over from St. Louis. The Phillies, for lack of a better word, were pretty bad. They ended up 59-97, 37.5 games behind the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates. For all intents and purposes, the Phillies had an across-the-board terrible year.

However, Carlton pitched the campaign of his career. First of all, he started 41 games on the season and completed 30 of them. He had a record of 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA and struck out 310 batters in 346.1 innings. Of course, he won the Cy Young and was fifth in MVP voting for winning almost half of his team's games.

Sabermetricians have a statistic called Wins Above Replacement (WAR). According to FanGraphs, the easiest way to define this is to say, "If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?"

The unit for this measurement is the number of wins, so a player having a WAR of seven would be equivalent to saying that player being in the lineup would result in seven more wins than having an average player in that position.

Now, why does this matter in relation to Steve Carlton? Well, that 1972 campaign with a WAR of 12.2, according to Baseball Reference, represents the highest WAR by a pitcher since the dead-ball era.

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There have been some dominating pitching performances from the likes of Bob Gibson in 1968 (22-9, 1.12 ERA) and Dwight Gooden in 1985 (24-4, 1.53 ERA). Even though they may have been more dominant in terms of ERA, they did not throw as many innings as Carlton did, so their WARs were lower.

If this statistic is accurate (some people dislike sabermetrics), the Phillies would have gone 47-109 without him.  It was a remarkable year for a remarkable pitcher.

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