Year Inducted: 1981 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 337/401)
Entrance into the 300 win club has been a gateway for induction for starting pitchers. That’s allowed for pitchers like Early Wynn and Tom Glavine to gain induction despite maybe not being the best pitchers of their time period. But, if 300 wins gets a player into the Hall of Fame, why is the average for Hall of Fame pitchers only about 271 not counting the relief pitchers? Maybe, at least in terms of the Hall of Fame, the BBWAA have been accepting the fact that a pitcher’s win total isn’t necessarily the be-all-end-all for judging a pitcher’s greatness. If it was, pitchers like Dizzy Dean and Bert Blyleven would never have been inducted, much less one of the most intimidating and dominating right handers of all-time, Bob Gibson.
Gibby was one of the fiercest competitors of all-time. Pitching his entire 17-year career with the Cardinals, Hoot tossed just fewer than 3900 innings with a record of 251-174 and an ERA of 2.91. Gibson had the reputation of a head hunter, but only hit 102 batters in his career. Using the intimidation factor to his favor, however, Gibby managed to strike out 3117 batters in his career, while walking 1336. Gibson was the first pitcher to punch out 3000 or more batters since Walter Johnson did it way back in the 1920’s. He was a once in a generation talent.
Gibson is most famous for his 1968 season, so dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher”. That season, Gibson went 22-9 in over 300 innings. He struck out 268 batters and maintained an ERA of only 1.12 and a FIP of only 1.77. There have been very few seasons that a pitcher had both an ERA and an FIP below 2.00. Gibson’s fWAR was 8.6 that season, and he was a catalyst to the league dropping the height of the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches for the 1969 season. How did Gibson respond? He posted an ERA of 2.18 in 314 innings with an fWAR of 8.8. Amazingly, he was slightly more valuable as the league offense went up, but he maintained his dominance. He was even better in 1970, with an ERA of 3.12, an fWAR of 9.8 and a career best 23 wins. Gibson maintained his dominance of the NL until 1974, when he had a brief two-year decline phase where he posted an ERA above league average each year.
Overall, Bob Gibson showed some of the most dominating performances of all-time, and possibly other than Sandy Koufax and Pedro Martinez, there hasn’t been a more dominating pitcher outside of the 300-win club. Gibson could do it all, and rightfully made it in on first ballot, despite 64 writers not voting for him. Other than his win total, which ranked first among all pitchers in his career, what were the arguments against him? He was far and away the best pitcher during his career as well, so most arguments against him would be pedantic at best. Gibson was not only dominant, but an incredibly important pitcher in the history of the game.
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