Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gibson Koufax Marichal Mashup

   

In last week's post on Sandy Koufax and Dazzy Vance, THC mentioned Sandy's phenomenal performance in games when he had only 1, 2 or 3 runs of support and promised to look at the record of his fellow aces, Juan Marichal and Bob Gibson, under similar circumstances.  THC is here to report back on his findings.

The first step was to find a four year stretch for Gibson and Marichal comparable to Koufax in 1963 through 1966.  You can argue which years best fit for Bob and Juan but in THC's judgement it was 1966 through 1969 for each of them.  Like Koufax, they were each at their peak and each had one year, like Koufax, when their seasons were shortened by injury.

We'll show you the bottom line, before discussing some of the interesting findings and then finish laying out the complete data line for each.

Record when supported by 1, 2 or 3 runs:

                 W      L      Pct
Koufax     40     18    .689    
Marichal   26     19    .578
Gibson     29     30    .490

As a reminder, anything better than .400 is well above average.  Note that while last week's post reported Koufax's record as 41-18 a further review of the data subtracted one win.

Surprisingly, while we think of Koufax as having poor run support it turns out that Gibson actually had more decisions when he only got 1-3 runs and he was shut out more often (8 times compared to 6 for Koufax).  It also occurred in fewer starts and decisions.  Here are 1-3 run support games as a percentage of total decisions.

Gibson      50.4%
Koufax      46.8%
Marichal   36.3%
(Gibson)
All of these pitchers were workhorses by today's standards but there were some differences.  Koufax pitched in a four man rotation and Gibson in a five man rotation while Marichal was in between.   They all completed a large number of starts during the period but Marichal was amazing completing 100 of 136 starts (73.5%) compared to Gibson (63.3%) and Koufax (59.3%)
(Marichal)
Gibson's under .500 record conceals a stunning streak in his memorable 1968 season (1.12 ERA with 13 shutouts) when he won 9 consecutive low-run support games.  During that streak the Cardinals scored 18 runs while Gibson gave up only one, pitching eight shutouts.

And it turns out there is a story within the story.  THC went back and looked at the lowest scoring of the low-run support decisions; the 1-0 and 2-1 games and found that the three pitchers collectively won 72.7% of those games (40 of 55) .  Here are the individual records:

Koufax    18-6
Marichal    9-3
Gibson    13-6

For further perspective the offensive context they all pitched in was different from that of the 1994-2006 period with teams averaging only about 4 runs per game.  For each of their seasons here are runs scored and league standing (1963-8 in a 10 team league and 1969 in a 12 team leagues).

Dodgers            Giants             Cardinals
640 (6)              675 (5)           571 (10)
614 (8)              652 (4)           695 (2)
608 (8)              599 (3)           583 (4)
606 (8)              713 (4)           595 (10)

And what happened when these pitchers had more than 3 runs to work with?

                    W        L
Koufax        57       3
Gibson        47       3
Marichal     50      11

In three of his four seasons, Bob Gibson did not lose a game when he had four or more runs to work with.  Koufax won his last 39 decisions when he had that many runs to work with.  There is an oddity in Marichal's record when he lost five high run support games during his injury shortened 1967 season.  Three of those loses (7-8, 6-8, 6-8) along with a no-decision (5-6) and an 8-4 win came just before his season ended with a hamstring injury.  Had he been hurt in some way even before the injury?

Based on this data, Koufax's performance in low-run support games is still remarkable even in the context of his peers.
(Koufax icing elbow after game)
Summary (all data from Baseball-Reference.com).   Seasons:  Koufax 1963-66; Gibson 1966-69; Marichal 1966-69

KOUFAX

W        L      ERA      GS      GC      Innings     0 Run Support     1,2,3 Run Support
25       5       1.88       40       20       311                    1                        9-2
19       5       1.74       28       15       223                    2                      10-2
26       8       2.04       41       27       336                    0                      13-8
27       9       1.73       41       27       323                    3                        8-6  

GIBSON
21     12      2.44       35        20       280                    3                        8-9
13      7       2.98       24        10       175                    1                        3-3
22      9       1.12       34        28       305                    3                       12-6
20     13      2.18       35        23       314                    1                        6-12

MARICHAL
25      6       2.23       36        25       307                    2                        6-4
14     10      2.76       26        18       202                    2                        3-3
26      9       2.43       38        30       326                    1                        6-5
21    11       2.10       36        27       300                    1                       11-7   


2 comments:

  1. Mark,
    This is a terrific article about three of the all-time greats, and certainly reveals the ability and tenacity to win on limited support. I seem to remember using my transistor radio after going to bed one night to listen as Koufax allowed something like 12-13 hits and either got a shutout or only gave up a run or two...to win. These guys might bend, but it was almost impossible to break them in their prime. Another interesting factoid for Koufax is his perfect game. He won 1-0 with the other pitcher giving up only 1 hit...and the hit had nothing to do with the run. Typical Dodgers of the era.

    Thanks, Kurt

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  2. This is a fantastic article! Thanks for this....

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