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Starting pitcher Championship Belt


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#1
The Choc

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Inspired by a similar list the Ringer did about the Champioship Belt of QBs, I decided to make one for starting pitchers, beginning in 1900. Now the list is not just "who had the best year", that would be boring. It's more of a "who would the average fan think was the best pitcher in baseball at any given time." There will be long reigns by all time great pitchers, short one year runs where there just were no really great pitchers operating in their prime and there will be times where you had two great pitchers both pitching great at the same time and they could trade the belt back and forth for a few years. Having said that. Here is the first part.

 

1900-1904: Cy Young

No one else could possibly have this title other than the man the awards are named after. He was the best pitcher of the 1890's and he carried that into the first years of the 20th century. His reputation from prior to 1900 definitely plays a role here but he was still great, leading his league in wins 3 straight years from 1901-03. The main contender was probably Giants pitcher Joe McGinity.

 

1905-1911: Christy Mathewson

One of the fun yet hard things about doing this is deciding one one pitcher surpasses another, especially when it's a couple true all time greats. Just when Mathewson passed Young is hard to say. He was probably just as good, if not better, than Young in 03 and 04 yet Cy was still great and his reputation so strong that I feel he held of “Big Six”. In 1905 Mathewson took the title though, going 31-9 with a 1.28 ERA, also his team won the World Series. Young was still a top pitcher, also posting an ERA under 2.00 but he was under .500 and Mathewson was just so great he takes the belt. He would hold on to it for 7 years as he had nothing even resembling a bad year in that span.

 

1912-1916: Walter Johnson

A similar question to the previous title change, when did Johnson surpass Mathewson? In 1911 the two men were both great but like Young's rep kept the title on Mathewson for a year or so after Christy became great the same applies here. In 1912 Johnson was 33-12, 1.39. Mathewson was a still excellent 23-12 2.12 but just not enough to hold off “The Big Train” who would hold the belt for 5 straight seasons until someone was able to take it for a brief stint.

 

1917: Grover Cleveland Alexander

Alexander was the NL's best pitcher during the period where Johnson dominated the AL but he couldn't quite take the title away from him, however in 1917 he surpassed him just enough to steal the belt for a year. Alexander went 30-13, 1.83 (which really wasn't even his best year) but Johnson “fell off” to 23-16 2.21. Considering Alexander was already not far off from Johnson this allows Alexander to snag a short lived title reign here.

 

1918-1919: Walter Johnson

Ours first two time Champion! Johnson had brilliant years in 18 and 19, leading his league in ERA both years. His main competition for the belt, Alexander, only made three starts in 1918, allowing Johnson to reclaim his belt.

 

1920: Grover Cleveland Alexander

Johnson stayed a good pitcher into the 1920s but his days as a contender for the title were done by 1920. Alexander had the injury riddled 1918 but bounced back with a strong 1919, just not quite strong enough to dethrone Johnson again. However in 1920 Alexander won 27 games with a 1.91 ERA while Johnson went 8-10 allowing Alexander to retake the title.

 

1921-1922: Red Faber

Much like Johnson, Alexander stayed a good pitcher into the 20's but not good enough to be the champ. Up until this point the title has only been held by immortals, not quite the case here. Faber had a very good career, although not in the same sense that Young, Mathewson, Johnson and Alexander did. However the early 1920s didn't have that kind of super star pitcher in their prime. Faber won 46 games and led the AL in ERA in both 1921 and 22 which gives him a nice 2 year run as Champion.

 

1923: Dolf Luque

Probably even less of a big name than Faber and one of the least accomplished guys who will make this list. Faber fell off in 1923 and there were not any great, established pitchers having great years. Luque did have a great year though, going 27-8 with a 1.93 ERA. He had a short, one year reign as the greatest pitcher in the world.

 

1924-1925: Dazzy Vance

Vance had a weird career with odd arm injuries early in his career. His major league career didn't really get started in any meaningful way until he was past 30. In 1924 and 25 he was just brilliant though going a combined 50-15. He led the NL in Ks his first seven years in the league.

 

1926: Geore Uhle

We are in a bit of an odd run here between the great pitchers of the very early century and the next great pitcher which has lead to some not all time greats getting some time with the belt, this happens a couple times. Vance went 9-10 in 1926 which left the door open for someone to steal a year. Uhle did just that going 27-11.

 

1927: Grover Cleveland Alexander

Ahhh the old man came back for one last title run, ala George Foreman. Alexander was known as a hard drinker. This title reign actually really began in Game 7 of the 1926 World Series when Alexander came in from the pen (legend has it drunk or hangover). The Yanks had the bases loaded and 2 outs in the 7th inning. Alexander struck out future HOFer Tony Lazzeri and then pitched 2 more scoreless to save the game. He'd follow up that with one last gasp of greatness in 1927 going 21-10, 2.52 to get one last run as Champ. This would be the last of these short title reigns for a bit as the next great pitcher was about to claim the belt for his own starting in 1928.

 


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#2
The Choc

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Well with this amazing response I figure I better keep going.

 

1928-1933: Lefty Grove

Early in this list we had some big time, long term champs. Last few years have been shorter reigns, until now. Grove was probably the best pitcher in the world while in the minors but his owner wouldn't sell him to the bigs. It took Lefty a couple years to really start to dominate, eventhough he did lead the league in ERA in 1926 which was his 2nd year in the Majors. In the six years of this title reign Grove led the AL in wins 4 times (28, 30, 31, 33) and ERA also 4 times (29, 30, 31, 32). He helped lead the Athletics to pennants in 29, 30 and 31 and World Titles in 29 and 30. This stretch here is about as dominant a stretch as any pitcher has ever had.

 

1934: Dizzy Dean

Grove was a totally dominant force but an injury riddled first year in Boston opened the door for someone to step in and snag the belt for a year, that would be Dean. Dizzy was an incredibly popular player who led the league in Ks his first four years in the NL. Grove's uncharacteristic off year allowed Dean to step in with an amazing 30-7, 2.66 stat line. Dizzy would follow up his great 1934 with another great year in 1935, winning 28 games, yet he just couldn't hold off Grove from retaking his title.

 

1935-1938: Lefty Grove

Lefty's second title reign wasn't near as dominant as his first but he was still a great pitcher as he led the AL in ERA in 1935, 1936 and 1938. He'd do it again in 1939 but he wouldn't be Champ by then. All in all Grove led the AL in ERA an amazing 9 times in his career and his total years as Champion (10) is the most by any man on this list.

 

1939-1941: Bob Feller

Feller made his MLB debut at 17 years old and was good right away, it took him a few years to really establish himself as a superstar though, that happened in 1939. During this three year reign Feller led the AL in wins all three years, in ERA once and in K's every year. No one had ever struck man out like Bullet Bob did. He was a phenomenon. The only thing that kept him from having a very long reign here was WWII.

 

1942-1943: Mort Cooper

With Feller off fighting bad guys that opened the door for someone else to snag his title for a bit. The first one to do it would be Mort Cooper. In 42 and 43 Cooper won a combined 43 games while leading the NL in ERA with a stellar 1.78 mark in 1942, leading the Cardinals to a victory over the Yankees in that 1942 World Series.

 

1944-1945: Hal Newhouser

Newhouser had a better career than Cooper and he really dominated in 44 and 45 and he was still a contender for the belt in non war years as well. Newhouser won back to back MVPs in 44 and 45, many players were back for the 45 campaign but still readjusting back to playing ball. Hal went a remarkabe 54-18 in those 2 MVP years. In 45 he led the Tigers to the World Championship. In 1945 he also led the AL in ERA and strikeouts, earning the pitchers triple crown.

 

1946-1948: Bob Feller

Newhouser was completely dominant with many of the best players away at war. They all returned in 1946 and that year is a very interesting battle between Feller and Newhouser for the title belt. You have 2 completely deserving pitchers. The defending two year champion in Newhouser and in many ways the champion in absentia during WWII in Feller. They both had tremendous years in 1946. Newhouser 26-9, 1.94, 292 IP, 275 K, 98 BB. Feller would respond by going 26-15, 2.18, 371 IP, 348 K, 153 BB. WAR has it very even with Feller at 10.2, Newhouser at 9.6 but that's too close to really mean anything. In the end I think Feller deserves it, he was supernatural with how hard he threw and how he racked up K's. But really 1946 is one of the more interesting years to figure out here. Feller would keep his title in 48 and 49.

 

1949: Mel Parnell

Feller finally relented in 1949, it's certainly possible if not for the war he'd have reigned for an entire decade. In his place came Mel Parnell. He had a nice career but 49 was his best year by a wide margin. He'd win 25 games, which led the league. He also led in ERA, CG and IP. Not a great pitcher but for one year he was the best.

 

1950-1955: Robin Roberts

Roberts is a bit forgotten but he was absolutely dominant in the first half of the 1950s with the Phillies. He led the NL in wins every year from 52-55, IP every year from 51-55, K in 53 and 54 and in an era where a lot of walks were issued, Roberts walked no one. During his 6 year reign he won an amazing 138 games and was clearly the best pitcher in the Majors during this time. His greatness is a little bit lost to time, maybe because he predated the Cy Young Award. If the award existed during his career he;d have 4 or 5 of them though.

 

1956-1960: Warren Spahn

Probably the greatest old pitcher who ever lived, he challenged Roberts as the best pitcher of the early 1950s. He fell a bit short though as he didn't win quite as many games or throw quite as many innings. The difference though is Spahn stayed great for the rest of the decade whereas Roberts fell off. In 1956 Roberts ERA ballooned to 4.45 where Spahn did what he always did and pitch great. Spahn was just as good a pitcher in the early 50s as he was during his title reign, although he won more games during this reign cause the Braves were good. Roberts simply fell off which allowed Spahn to just keep doing what he had been doing and get a nice five year title run.


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#3
Gamevet

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I'll give you an A for effort!



#4
Ms. Spam

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I have always liked Bob Feller. Baseball has such amazing history.  I appreciate this fine writing.



#5
The Choc

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I have always liked Bob Feller. Baseball has such amazing history.  I appreciate this fine writing.

Thanks, but I'm pretty sure my writing is of poor quality. 



#6
Ms. Spam

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It is fine because it is about baseball. We do baseball statistics when I teach math like "What is the hit rate for a particular player" so they learn how those things in fantasy baseball are calculated and why. 





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