We're talking 1968, of course, and we bring it up because the other memorable thing about that year is that it's down in history as the ‘Year of the Pitcher’.
Denny McLain won 31 games for the world-champion Detroit Tigers. Bob Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA — and 'only' went 22-9. Luis Tiant led the AL with 1.60 ERA in a 21-9 season.
The American League hit .230 and slugged .339 as a whole, and the game was so slanted to the pitching side — sounds strange, doesn't it? — that for the following season, the mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10.
OK, admittedly, it’s a stretch to compare that remarkably offense-challenged season to the first five-plus weeks of this one. Different era, different game.
But for a sport that just has made its way out of an ugly era in which PEDs became as much a part of the alphabet soup as RBI, ERA and OPS, what’s unfolded so far this season is nothing short of remarkable.
Dominant pitching performances have become daily occurrences again – and just look at how a potentially historic National League Cy Young Award race is taking shape:
Ubaldo Jimenez (6-0-0.97) became the first pitcher since Detroit’s Jack Morris in 1984 to throw a no-hitter and win five games in April.
And in his first start in May, all the Rockies’ overpowering right-hander did was punch out 13 San Diego Padres and win again — although his consecutive scoreless innings streak did come to an end at 25.3.
If you know Rockies manager Jim Tracy, you know he never is at a loss for words, especially positive ones. After the latest gem from his ace with a 100-mph fastball, Tracy succinctly said: “He’s become a big-game, big-time pitcher.’’
That’s changed, of course, and Halladay (6-1, 1.60) is finding it even easier to do what so many others can’t – throw complete games.
He already has three (two shutouts) – using no more than 118 pitches in any of them -- and is averaging eight innings per start, with only seven walks in a league-leading 56 innings. It’s enough to remind Phillies broadcaster Gary Matthews of Sandy Koufax.
“It was lights-out, period, with Koufax,’’ Matthews said. “You didn’t want to go to the game late, because he would have you out of there in like a buck-37 (one hour, 37 minutes), or something. Roy absolutely can have one of those kind of years. It could be a special year, no doubt. And he does it quickly.’’
Tim Lincecum (4-0, 1.70) has one more Cy Young than Halladay, winning the last two seasons. And you can’t be any more dominant than he has been in his first six starts — 42.1 IP, 27 hits, and an incredible walk/strikeout ratio of 8/56.
He left his last start after seven innings in a 3-3 tie, and lost another win when the bullpen couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead in the ninth inning.
But Lincecum’s ERA is only second in his own rotation behind a rejuvenated Barry Zito (5-0, 1.49), who’s throwing his big, sweeping curveball for strikes again and better-locating his sub-90-per-hour fastball.
More from the NL pitching bag:
The names aren’t as big on the AL leaders board, but the numbers are just as miniscule. No fewer than 14 starting pitchers currently have sub-3.00 ERAs, and that list doesn’t include aces Felix Hernandez, James Shields, Jered Weaver and Rich Harden.
Shields (at 3.15) has merely the fifth-best ERA in the Rays rotation, the top three in the Yankees rotation are a combined 12-1, and then there’s defending AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.
He allowed only 10 earned runs (13 total) in his first six starts — and two or fewer in five of those — but sits winless thanks to miniscule run support.
NEW YORK (AP) - Yankees fans showed Don Mattingly the love from the moment he took the lineup card to home plate Wednesday. Hiroki Kuroda, though, wasn't feeling nostalgic when facing his old team.
Taking a look at some of the greatest catchers off all time.