In my very humble and often flawed opinion, I have to say the greatest single-season pitching performance of all time belongs to Hall of Famer Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals in the year of 1968 when he was 32 years old. In today’s day and age, often times we call a pitcher a “horse” if he pitches over 200 innings. It is a number all starters shoot for as it means they are pitching late into games for the entire season, it is a number that starters hang their hat on.
In 1968, Gibson threw over 304 innings! Not only that, but in those 304 innings pitched, he allowed 38 earned runs. No, that is not a typo, 38 earned runs!!! I have seen Josh Towers give up that many in the first inning alone. This translates into a 1.12 ERA. He pitched 13 shut outs and completed 28 games. He led the league with 268 strikeouts and an unheard of 0.85 WHIP. It may have been lower if not for the intentional base on balls (6) and the hit batsmen… which were most likely intentional as well. Dusty Baker received the following advice from Hank Aaron about facing Gibson:
“‘Don’t dig in against Bob Gibson, he’ll knock you down. Don’t stare at him. He doesn’t like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don’t run too slow, don’t run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don’t charge the mound, because he’s a Gold Glove Boxer.’ I’m like, ‘Damn, what about my 17-game hitting streak?’ That was the night it ended.“
Not only did he lead his team to a World Series berth in 1968, but Gibbons was the MVP, Cy Young award winner, and topped it all off with a gold glove. A true dominant performance in every sense of the word.