The Greatest Single-Season Pitching Performance of All Time

Bob Gibson

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.

Bob Gibson

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.

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6 replies on “The Greatest Single-Season Pitching Performance of All Time”
  1. says: Kman

    I’m not going to sit here and say that this season wasn’t simply amazing. I also love the fact that he kept the ERA over 304 IP. But I think that
    Pedro’s 2000 season was a little more spectacular, when he had a 1.74 ERA and the league average was 4.97. But this season is a top 3 in my book. I
    don’t think we’ll ever see another World Series show down like the 1968 Gibson vs Lolich series! How did you get the pic to show up? Upload it or linked to it?

      1. says: Kman

        The Classy Folk have been stopping by the ‘MUD’ as of late 🙂

        Technically, from a math perspective, Pedro’s ERA+ score of 291 is greater than Gibson’s 258.

  2. says: Early

    The one confusing stat in his ’68 season was his record. Despite his undeniable stamina, durability and overall good stuff In 34 starts he was “merely’ 22-9. He played on a pennant winner and there is no reason his record shouldn’t have been closer to McLain’s that year. Cal, you wrote your last article on W-L importance. If you to retrosheet.com and look at the games he lost you will be bewildered and how poorly Cards hitters supported him. I didn’t count but on several occasion he pitched 9, 10, 11 inning CG’s and lost 1-0, 2-0, 2-1. The 1968 series is one I wished I had witnessed.

  3. says: RedbirdOctober

    Kman has a very good point. I’m currently working on 3 statistics that measure offensive, defensive, and pitching productivity. I compared Pedro and Bob’s numbers. Keep in mind that the lower the number, the better.
    Bob = .01378
    Pedro = -.063855

    some other points of reference on this statistic:
    Johan Santana(2006) = .10718
    Roy Halladay(2008) = .13605
    Greg Maddux(2008) = .28708

  4. says: Ron Monday

    It’s amazing that Gibson lost 9 games in 1968 with an era of 1.12??? It’s a shame that the starting lineup averaged .265 during that year. St. Louis’s pitching took them to game 7 of the World Series before losing to the Tigers!

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