I think that all of us, myself definitely included, fall in love with dominant seasons from a pitcher. Or rather, I should say, we fall in love with a given pitcher thanks to their dominance. I know this was the case with myself and Kyle Hendricks in 2016. He’d always been a pitcher I liked and thought was a really good undervalued starter. Then in 2016, he was dominant and as the year went on he became a pitcher whose flag I waved heading into any argument over the best pitchers in baseball. In the case of Hendricks, and so many others, it ends up being more than one season of dominance, but still, it is that one unforgettable season that is so often used to frame their careers.

With that in mind, I fired up Baseball Reference and went in search of the greatest single season by a pitcher in the history of Major League Baseball. However, with all due respect to the deadball era, I felt it was a little unfair to include guys from the era when they were starting 80+ games a year and not playing against the very best that baseball had to offer (sincerest of apologies to Pud Galvin and his WAR of 20.8 for the 1884 Buffalo Bisons). My search criteria ended up being the years 1947-2018 with a minimum of 25 games. That search yielded twenty-three times when a pitcher accumulated a WAR of 10.0 or higher over the entire season.

It’s important to note that since I am using Baseball Reference for this search and list that their version of pitcher WAR is calculated differently. The main difference between Baseball Reference’s rWAR for pitchers is that their base starting statistic is ERA. This leads to a much different outcome than say, Fangraphs, who uses FIP as their base starting stat. This essentially means that Baseball Reference is interested mainly in the raw take of a pitcher allowing runs. Conversely, Fangraphs is interested in how a pitcher fares independent of his fielders. Because of this, a search for the top pitcher according to fWAR would yield different results than the list I am about to write discuss, so just keep that in mind.

There are many familiar names in the top twenty-three, and a few names I was not expecting. Aaron Nola showing up at #12 with a WAR of 10.5 for his 2018 season with the Philadelphia Phillies was extremely unexpected. The pitcher I expected to see from 2018 was Jacob deGrom, but it turns out that in terms of bWAR Nola was almost a full game better as a pitcher in 2018 than deGrom was. I definitely was not expecting Wilbur Wood to make the list twice, first at #4 and again at #9, with WARs of 11.8 and 10.7 respectively for his 1971 and 1972 seasons with the Chicago White Sox.

The rest of the list was full of the names we’d all expect to see. Roger Clemens shows up twice, posting WARs of 11.9 and 10.5, and placing 3rd and 13th for his efforts with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997 and Boston Red Sox in 1990. It is somewhat surprising to see Clemens’ season with the Blue Jays so high but that’s mainly because for me the Blue Jays years have been erased from Clemens history and I only ever see him in a New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, or Houston Astros jersey in my mind. Bob Gibson also appears twice, for his 1968 and 1969 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. His WARs of 11.2 in 1968 and 10.4 in 1969 were good enough for 6th and 15th place on the list. There are also multiple appearances from Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, and Steve Carlton.

All told the list of twenty-three is a nice mixture of players who had great careers, those who put together a great run for a few years, young stars who still have the chance to expand the list, and the outlier who was elite for one year and then no more. It’s what you would expect from a baseball list, especially one spanning from 1947 to the present. The player at #1, well, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s on this list, but I guess I never thought his 1985 season was best of all time dominant.

According to bWAR the best pitching season of all-time belongs to Dwight Gooden and his WAR of 12.2 in 1985 for the New York Mets. I should clarify that it is no surprise that Gooden was great, I recall watching him embarrass my Chicago Cubs quite often as a very young tyke. I also recall my Grandpa telling me how great Doc’s stuff was and how he was one of the best in the game. But, his 1985 season occurred when I was only 4 and thus was just a bit before the window of me knowing what the heck I was watching when I had a baseball game on in front of me.

Just how dominant was Gooden’s 1985 sophomore season? He appeared in 35 games, threw 16 complete games, and had 8 shutouts. In 276.2 innings he struck out 268 while only walking 69 batters. He led the National League in ERA at 1.68 and ERA+ at 229. His ERA+ ranks as 6th best of all-time using the same criteria as the WAR list. He recorded a FIP of 2.13 and a WHIP of 0.965 behind a H/9 of 6.6 and BB/9 of 3.0. These are all impressive, but that should be expected for the best single season ever recorded by a pitcher.

There’s also the eye test, and scouring YouTube for clips or full games that Gooden pitched in 1985 reveals a pitcher who was better than just about everyone who stepped to the plate against him. He mainly relied on his fourseam fastball and giant hook of a curveball. That’s all he needed though because he could locate his fastball on the inner half of the plate like no other and his curveball was known for its knee-buckling capabilities. I cannot stress enough just how overmatched hitters look against Gooden’s stuff in 1985; it’s something special to watch.

Doc ended up winning the National League Cy Young in 1985, and though most at the time recognized his season as a great one it took some time for people to realize the other level Gooden achieved that year. His spot at #1 is the only time Gooden appears on the list, but it’s the only appearance he needs. On a list of nothing but dominant seasons, Gooden’s 1985 is the most dominant of them all and still ranks as the greatest season ever by a pitcher in the modern integrated era.

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12 Responses to “The Best Single Season by a Pitcher, Ever”

  1. Brandon Martin

    Mr. Thompson,
    In all due respect the Deadball era is considered between 1900-1920. The great pitchers of this era were not starting 80 something games a season like a Pud Galvin (although his highest was 76 games,) Christy Matthewson, Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and others were starting high to middle 40 games a season, or even high 30s. So to ignore these pitchers seem to be not right. Also at the end of your article i rewrite your written quote, “Dwight Gooden had the greatest season ever by a pitcher in the modern intergrated era.” But your title is the best single season by a pitcher ever. You didn’t distinguish it from the era before intergration. I am African-American, but MLB doesn’t discount the players stats before intergration. Why did you in respect to the deadball era, or even the great pitchers that excelled during the new live ball era instituted from 1921 to 1935, especially Lefty Grove, Dazzy Vance, and Carl Hubbell—— to not even be considered? It doesn’t seem fair from a historical analysis of the greatest pitching season to be evaluated to not include the greatest seasons of some of the greatest pitchers in MLB history.

    Mr. Thompson, I look forward to hearing from you.

    • Bill Thompson

      Using the moniker deadball era was me taking a short cut. There is, in terms of offensive output and pitcher dominance, very little difference between the deadball era and the 19th-century era. The only marked difference would be in games pitched, but even then the numbers put up in the deadball era are much greater than what we have come to know as the modern game. Between 1919 and 1947 there were 220 instances of pitchers appearing in 40+ games. From 1947 to the present day there have been 339 instances of pitchers appearing in 40+ games. Strictly in terms of how the game has come to be known the deadball era is not representative of modern baseball.

      The larger issue, for myself and many others, is that the lack of integration is a mark against what has come to be known as MLB from the time period before 1947. MLB can count those records all they want, and I myself am not discarding them wholesale. I am being honest in that I don’t believe those records/statistics/what have you can be talked about unless you put them into context. That is not needed with the game from 1947 on, and that is a big deal to me. I didn’t have to put in the caveat that Dwight Gooden was denied the ability to face the best Japanese, Dominican, African-American, etc players in 1985 because he wasn’t. Deadball and 19th-century era players were denied that opportunity because of racist policies by the league.

      I understand that this is just my viewpoint, and it is not shared by all. But, when I am discussing the very best seasons to ever take place, I want to be able to do so freely and without the need to add in the context that it took place in an all-white league. Dwight Gooden faced better competition in 1985 by virtue of playing in an integrated league, that’s why the integration era represents the real MLB to me, not the deadball or 19th-century eras.

      • Brandon Martin

        Mr. Thompson, I am so glad you answered me! I want to revisit some statements that you made in your response and respond. “Numbers are much greater than what we have come to know in the modern game.” (referring to the deadball era pitchers) I am from Detroit. I was born in 1975. I lived through the Jack Morris, Tram, and Lou Whitaker era. I am going to talk to you about Jack Morris a little bit, an older man named Mr. Gleaton, and a phenomenon I witnessed at the playgrounds and the legendary St. Cecilia gym. (forgive me for mixing in some basketball to express my point)
        In 1983 Jack Morris started 37 games. He completed 20 games. He pitched 293.2 innings that season. He was 28 years old. 9 years later at the age of 37 he started 34 games. He completed 6 games. He pitched 240.2 innings. This year at the age of 33, Max Scherzer led the major league in innings pitched with 220.2 innings. Max tied with 7 other pitchers with the major league lead with 2 complete games. In the span of 35 years ago, I have seen pitchers be able to complete 20 games in a season and almost pitch 300 innings in a season to pitchers seemingly not be able to complete more than 3 games in a season. Even at 37, Morris still pitched more innings and completed more games than any pitcher this year. After he made the Hall of Fame he was being interviewed by our local sportscaster and he made a decision to not destroy the “modern” day pitcher and with a mellow answer he stated that they “were conditioned in their mind that they could pitch as many innings and complete games like that.” That is where the summation of an understanding I believed came to me.
        I realized the greater numbers is not so much inferior competition or lack of intergrated competition. It is the fact that a player can be conditioned in their mind and that person’s body makes a decision to become one with the mind enabling them to do things on playing fields that would seem impossible to a generation 20 to 30 years removed. The word modern is a word that is full of subtle and interesting thoughts that when looked at closely is worthy of deeper discussion. The modern game Doc Gooden and Jack Morris were pitching in the 1980s does not seemed to be the modern game being pitched now although. The numbers of the deadball era when it comes to pitchers would not have decreased with the addition of African-American players because the two races throughout the deadball era played against one another in many barnstorming contests that were according to eyewitnesses were epic and fierce. Because men like Walter Johnson, Christy Matthewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander had been conditioned to pitch over 350 innings at times, complete 30 to 35 games in their minds and their bodies said “We can do it”. It is most likely they would have been able to do so against the African American players. For all three of them played against Negro league teams in their careers. I was given the wonderful opportunity to move next door in 1986 to two men that had once played in the Negro leagues, Mr. Gleaton and Mr. Fields. Mr. Gleaton got an awesome opportunity to not play against but he was able to see Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play in a Negro League game. He told me something I will never forget. He Told me when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig hit they didn’t any home runs in the game, but when they hit the ball a couple of times in the game they hit the ball so hard that they made small holes in the ground!!! The ball would hit the ground so hard it was causing holes in the grounds. The Negro leaguers weren’t able to field the balls! I realized then When your mind decides you are mighty and your body lines up with it You are MIGHTY. Regardless of your competition. You are right the Dead ball era is not representative of modern baseball, BECAUSE THE PITCHERS SHOCKINGLY MAY HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED IN THEIR MINDS TO BE GREATER THAN THE PITCHERS OF THE FUTURE THAT MAY BE WHY THERE NUMBERS ARE PRETTY INSANE LOOKING, NOT JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE AN ALL WHITE LEAGUE. Finally, In 1988 to 1997 i was able to observe an phenomenon on the playground that doesn’t happen in pro team sports. A different generation of athletes play as if their life is on the line against a younger generation of players that play if their mother is going to be killed if they lose. Allowing me to see that some times an older generation of athletes that have never stopped practicing their craft and can show they are greater than their younger seemingly modern generation of athletes. The Dexter-Davidson court on the west side of Detroit was considered the 2nd greatest baskeball court in the city the Detroit News declared in a story I still have. St. Cecilia is the legendary gym on the west side where George Gervin, Steve Smith, every member of the Fab five, and every Detroit Basketball legend has played. It is where D 1 players and NBA players play against guys from the streets in sanctioned games with referees, shot clocks, foul shots, time clock, statistics, coaches, real teams. Well our best young player at the playground a 18-19 was a guy named Donald. Our legendary player was a older guy around 38-40 was Voodoo. I went to watch a St. Cecilia game where Donald and 4 other guys from the neighborhood took on a Fab Fiver, Jimmy King and 4 D-1 players who played at Michigan(two of them going to play in the NBA Robert Tractor Traylor, Maurice Taylor, Albert White, and Willie Mitchell. Donald led his team to a VICTORY!!! I saw it with my own eyes! Both Teams were playing hard, but they couldn’t handle Donald. The interesting thing is at the Dexter Davison court when Voodoo was playing on one team and Donald was on the other team playing. One player always stood out. Voodoo!!! He refused to let his team lose No matter how great young Donald was, his team couldn’t beat Voodoo team of older guys. They had conditioned their mind that age is just a number. I realized then that their is a tendency to nominate the players closer to our time to be immeasurably better than those from the older generations. But it is not a wise thing to do. For some older really are greater, and some younger are really great, but just are not as great as the older. It always rest in the condition of the mind and the unity of the body to achieve things that future generations will say “Nah, they were able to do this, do that , do this do that because of this, because of that……… when some legends really live up to the legend that the numbers reveal. John Henry Lloyd, Spotswood Poles, Bruce Pettway, Rube Foster, Smoky Joe Williams, Jose Mendez, Dave Malarcher, Pete Hill did not talk down about the major leaguers they faced, but they didn’t talk down about themselves either. Greatness recognized Greatness. These are some of the Negro League legends of the Deadball era. I hope to hear your response. Thank you again for responding the first time.

      • Corey Zimmerman

        Koufax 1965…..
        25+ wins
        Triple Crown. W/SO/ERA
        League MVP
        WS MVP
        Cy Young
        Perfect Game……..

  2. Bill Thompson

    What you are writing about, well, it can’t really be quantified or refuted. I’m not saying that I don’t believe in mental toughness, I most certainly do. I can’t though mark down all the changes in the game to mental toughness, or qualify mental toughness in any way beyond saying I do believe that mental toughness exists and helps any number of players.

    In the end, though it comes down to skill. Mental toughness puts you in the position to succeed, but whether you succeed or not is up to skill. Jack Morris was a talented pitcher, he had a lot of mental toughness. I have no doubt that his mental toughness helped him to succeed at times, but I also believe he was mentally tough in the moments where he did not succeed. This is true for any highly skilled athlete. They exist at such a level that they possess both mental toughness and high skill.

    I, too, have talked to, read the stories, and listened to anecdotes about white ballplayers barnstorming with and against Negro League ballplayers. That is, and always will be great stuff. At the same time, Babe Ruth hitting the ball hard in the few times he faced Negro League pitching doesn’t tell me that he would have done well against them. I’m certain he would have, he was a highly skilled player. I do not believe that all Negro League players were better than white ballplayers. But, the league never allowed him to truly test himself against Negro League players on a regular basis. Players who were equal to or better than the skill of MLB players of the time. For that reason, I still need to add context to what happened before 1947, and I don’t need to do that to accomplishments after 1947.

    I think that you and I are of two different minds on this topic. That is fine, I have no issue with you disagreeing with my position. Such is life, and I am well aware that many disagree with my take on this issue. However, I do value your opinion and am glad that you have presented it to me.

    • Brandon Martin

      Awesome response Mr. Thompson! I want to throw some more pitches toward you, pretty much some fastball’s and sliders, no curveballs.
      WAR. I have a big concern about the meat of this concept. A replacement player is used as a person that could be, instead of persons that really were. And then the different factors that can effect a real person for good and bad into having a poor, good, great, or even legendary season is not considered. Let’s take two real replacement pitchers. Brian Tollberg and Cory Lidle. Now let’s put Cory in place of Doc Gooden for 1985. And let’s take what he did in 2001 and place two things he did in that year. Him averaging 3.59 as an ERA, and him starting 29 games. Now the Mets for that year averaged 4.26 runs a game. Now lets say for 19 games they averaged that exactly. And for 19 games Cory exactly averaged 3.59 ERA with no unearned runs allowed in all 19 games. Cory in 1985 finishes the year 19-10. Now is Doc Gooden’s WAR still 12.2 if Cory Lidle is his replacement player (pitcher) used? Now let’s Take Brian Tollberg. Let’s take his same ERA in 2001 and the amount of games he started and place him in 1985. His ERA was 4.30 and he started 19 games. Now let’s say the Mets still start him those 19 games and they really do averaged 4.26 runs a game in 15 of his starts with no scoring of unearned runs. And Mr. Tollberg has an ERA of 4.30 15 of his starts and gets the decisions in all 19 of his starts. Meaning he finishes the year at 4-15, because the Mets were able to score more than 4.26 runs in his other starts. Now again is Doc Gooden’s WAR still 12.2 if Brian Tollberg the starting pitcher?
      The Next Fastball I am throwing to you is this question since 1947 the African American players allowed to compete in the major leagues for each decade were different level of quality players and quantity. Some times greater quantity does not always mean greater quality. From 1947 to 1957 White ballplayers in the National League did not face many African American players but the ones they faced were great or good players in the Negro leagues that were past their prime, but still able to have some outstanding years in the MLB (Some of these made the Hall of fame) From 1958-1968, the next group of African American players did not all play in the Negro Leagues but came from High school, semi-pros, even some colleges. Some of these were mentored by former Negro leaguers. There were hall of famers in this group. This group had the largest amount of legendary African American players playing in their prime(possibly ever) From 1969-1979 This group of African American players bombarded the rosters of the Major leagues. And Baseball Fans got to watch again some very good and quite a number of African American players that were hall of famers and those who would not go to the hall of fame, but had years that were simply outstanding. The 80s proved to be interesting for the African American players of the MLB. There simply were not as many legendary players or even Hall of Fame players during this decade. The greats of the 70s were past their prime or retired. And the new group simply were not as great seemingly. So yes Doc Gooden was pitching in a league with the best players in the world were competing, but were the Dominicans, African American, Puerto Rican players during that time or even that season as good or as great of the African Americans, Puerto Ricans, or Dominican Players that Don Newcombe faced in 1959, Bob Gibson Faced in 1969, J.R. Richard faced in 1979? If you study this out using real players(I am not trying to be smart aleck here) you may be quite surprise.
      I want to say I never looked at discussions like this as disagreements. I love to hear other people’s thoughts and insights. I enjoy questioning things that are accepted by the status quo of scholars and thinkers. I think all of us are really searching for the truth in our desire to know who is the best or who is the greatest in this or in that. But I realize in our searching for the truth the truth possibly is much more simpler and deeper than our intellect can reason or figure out. This was my slider. I am finished. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you again. And may you have a Happy New Year this year!

      • Bill Thompson

        WAR is concerned with Wins Above Replacement, but not with the actual stat of pitcher wins. Basically, WAR takes into account numerous factors depending on the WAR you are citing (for this article I used Baseball Reference’s rWAR, which is calculated differently than Fangraph’s fWAR, Baseball Prospectus’ bWAR, Seamheads sWAR, etc.) In either case you presented those pitchers would be less WAR than Gooden was in 1985 because their peripheral stats are not as good. At its base rWAR is mostly concerned with weighing innings pitched and the total number of runs allowed. It is a statistic that relies heavily on ERA+ for example. They do also take into consideration the level of opposition faced, custom park factors, etc. In summation, while theoretically Tollberg and Lidle would sport the actual win-loss records you provided, those records have nothing to do with how WAR is calculated or what it means. Simply put, Gooden was 12.5 team win better than a replacement level starting pitcher would have been. Tollberg and Lidle’s peripheral stats like ERA, ERA+, etc. ensure that they wouldn’t be anywhere near as many wins better than a replacement starter.

        The problem with the argument of African-American player availability is that there was a sum total of zero available prior to integration. After that time the argument can be made that MLB is simply MLB with ebbs and flows in terms of talent level among all represented demographics. Those demographics were represented though, so we can look at 1985 and say that there were X number of Japanese ballplayers in MLB with great seasons, versus only X number in 1977. Those numbers will fluctuate, but post-integration the league was accessible and that’s why I have no problem saying that any player in any given year post-integration was facing the vest best players the world had to offer. There will always be outliers, great players who had yet to emerge from the minors and probably would have been great in that given year, or a foreign league player who was excellent in his foreign league and probably would have been excellent in MLB as well. However, they had/have the ability to play in MLB and the outlier percentage is small enough to be negligible. That leaves me with the conclusion that ebbs and flows in terms of demographic talent level/accomplishments will occur, but the overall talent of the league remains at a consistently great level from year to year across the board and there are no caveats of players being excluded that present major problems when discussing overall talent level/accomplishments.

  3. Brandon Martin

    Thank you again for your response! I have been enjoying this discussion as we continue to move deeper in our discussion. From 1986 to 1871 the word replacement player did not exist in the mind of anyone in the North American watcher team sports. In 1987, during the NFL chaotic strike ladened season, the replacement player term came into actual being in the minds of Sports observers in North America. In 1994, Baseball brought that term back into the national consciousness of sports observers again due to the strike.
    I want to deal again to deal with the meat of WAR, rWAR, bWAR, or sWAR—– the replacement player. Why would use a person that does not exist to measure goodness or greatness of players instead of using actual players that were actual replacement players and have actual statistics that you can use?
    I remember something very simple about the Movie Moneyball that I thought was very powerful. The Analytic guy found that there were actual players that did things on the field that actually was most valuable to a baseball team—–scoring runs. It didn’t matter if they weren’t fast or weren’t great hitters, but what was very important is did they get on base, and did they score runs or cause runs to be scored. He proved to be right. It revolutionized baseball. Why reduce baseball statistics to could be if…… instead of this is it…. In this world “if” simply is not as strong as “is”
    There will always be outliers, great players who had yet to emerge from the minors and probably would have been great in that given year, or a foreign league player who was excellent in his foreign league and probably would have been excellent in MLB as well. However, they had/have the ability to play in MLB and the outlier percentage is small enough to be negligible.

    This is your statement that I want to comment on. When a great player is allowed to play on a major league team when they were on a minor league team or elsewhere playing HISTORY IS CHANGED OR NOT CHANGED… Satchel Paige and Ray Dandrige are my examples. In 1947 Satchel Paige was playing in the Negro Leagues. In 1948 Bill Veeck brought him to the Major Leagues to help his Cleveland team. That Cleveland team won the Pennant by one game. Satchel Paige in his rookie year went 6-1 in 7 starts with a 2.60 ERA. They don’t go to the World Series without him. Satchel Paige way past his prime as a pitcher, but still able to legendarily feats on the field. In 1949, Minneapolis has possibly the greatest Thirdbasemen in Negro League history on their team, Ray Dandrige. He is 35 years old.
    He is hitting .362 for the year and has committed 5 errors on the year Leading the minors in fielding percentage at his position. At the Same time, The New York Giants their major league affliate has Sid Gordon, their starting LF switch to 3B. He has an outstanding year offensively, but he committed 19 errors at 3B. The Giants finishing fourth. What if Ray Dandrige was starting at 3B (who also was more than capable of starring at 2B) and Sid Gordon was at his regular LF position? Don’t assume that another legendary Negro League player couldn’t have put them over the top in winning the pennant or causing such chaos in the Pennant race that who knows who would have one the National league pennant that year! I am bringing out the fact is this one or two African American players not playing or playing does have substantial effect on the league, statistics, historical standpoint at the time and all times.

    The definition of outlier is a person or thing situated or detached from the main body or system.

    The definition of negligible so small or unimportant or as not to be worth considering; insignificant.

    your ending sentence was this
    …. However, they had/have the ability to play in MLB and the outlier percentage is small enough to be negligible.

    Baseball History can not consider Satchel Paige’s impact on MLB in 1948 small. Arguably greatest NEGRO league pitcher ever.

    And we simply can’t say Ray Dandridge, Arguably greatest NEGRO league third basemen ever not playing for the NY Giants in 1949 is an outlier percentage small enough to be negligible to that team in 1949, the Giant’s teams for the future, and MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL History itself . Interesting enough he was still with their Minn. Triple AAA team when a young outfielder Willie Mays came through, and he tutored him considerably.

    I look forward to your next response hopefully. Then I will give you my final response, and the overall reason I continue to comment on your wonderful article on the THE BEST SINGLE SEASON BY A PITCHER EVER. Thank you for your patience with me.

  4. Bill Thompson

    It’s important to note that in terms of any WAR they aren’t measuring against replacement players as you put forth. Rather they are averaging against an average league caliber player. To continue using Doc Gooden as the example, his 12.5 rWAR doesn’t mean he adds 12.5 more wins to his team than a nameless replacement player. Rather, it means he adds 12.5 more wins than an average pitcher across the board would add. It’s also important to note that WAR, in any form, isn’t an end all and be all. While I will reference it and do use it, I don’t view it as infallible. Deeper digging is always necessary, but WAR does offer a nice summation of how a player has performed compared to the league average player.

    The issue I have with the Paige/Dandridge argument is that it’s using far too small of a sample size. Any player having a great year can have an impact on a given team during a season. That’s not to say they didn’t have an impact, great players do have an impact. However, the core argument is that as MLB became a league that no longer discriminated it became a league where the greatest number of great players were playing year after year. You may find a number who weren’t, but they weren’t truly being denied the opportunity to be among those greats. A scout thought they weren’t good enough or not ready. These mistakes will be made, and when taken over a larger sample size over many years would, more than likely, come to a number considered to be negligible.

  5. Sydney Pythias

    True, different eras in MLB history experienced different conditions. That’s why the ‘noise’ has to be factored out. Even then, there is always skewing. That’s why we need to produce rankings by era as well.

    Also, keep in mind that WAR is a measurement of value to a team. It does not measure how far above average one is, for that season, given the conditions of that season.

    Using your guidelines, I suppose one could argue that the ‘integrated era’ was 1947-97 because Black players began leaving the game in droves after that. It dropped below 15% in 1998 and is now below 10%. So, in those 50 years, it comes down to Gooden’s 1985 or Guidry’s 1978:


  6. Brian Patterson

    Good article, but Gooden’s ERA in 1985 was actually 1.53, even better than the 1.68 stated in the article.



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