Bob Gibson: Ranking the Cardinals Hurler Among the Greatest of All Time

Friday March 9th, 2012

Rob Bland:  Bob Gibson is, in Jonathan Hacohen’s mind, the best pitcher of all time.  To me, there is certainly in an argument for at least top-10, maybe top-5. But I have trouble actually justifying putting him ahead of Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Pedro Martinez and Walter Johnson.  Now, these pitchers played in different eras, so it is extremely difficult to compare them side-by-side.  

Bob Gibson pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals for parts of 17 seasons, racking up 251 wins against 174 losses.  He made his debut on April 15, 1959, and played his last game in September of 1975.  Six years later he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving 337 of a total 401 votes (84%).  

Between 1961 and 1974, Gibson threw over 200 innings all but twice; 175.1 in 1967, and 195 in 1973.  He surpassed 250 innings pitched eight times, and 290 innings four times.  Needless to say, Gibby was a work horse.  

Gibson had a slew of great years, and three pretty ridiculous years.  Between 1968 and 1970, he accumulated 34 bWAR.  Over that span, he average 304 IP, 270 K, 7 H/9, and 3.3 K/BB.  To top it off, in 1968, he put together one of the finest years in baseball history.  He had a 22-9 record, with a 1.12 ERA.  Gibson started 34 games, and completed 28 of them, with 13 shutouts.  He threw 304.2 innings, striking out 268 batters, and giving up only 198 hits.  His ERA+ of 258 was tops in the league, along with a 0.853 WHIP.  Not only did he win the National League Cy Young Award, but he was the NL MVP, was an All-Star, and for good measure, won a Gold Glove.

Over his career, Gibson won an MVP, 2 Cy Young Awards, 8-time All-Star and 9 straight Gold Gloves between 1965 and 1973.  He also accrued 251 wins, just shy of 4000 innings pitched, over 3100 K, and an ERA+ of 128.  So over the course of his career, he was basically 28% better than the average pitcher.  Gibson won 2 World Series: 1964 and 1967, while losing to the Detroit Tigers in 1968.  He started 9 games in the postseason, going 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA, 8 complete games, and 81 innings pitched.  He struck out 92 batters to 14 uIBB, and gave up only 55 hits.  To say the least, Gibby was a gamer.

What most people don’t know about Gibson is that he was such a tremendous athlete that he not only played for the Cardinals early in his career, but he was also under contract with the Harlem Globetrotters.  It wasn’t until mid-season 1961 that he fully devoted to pitching, and that is when his baseball career took off and led him to the Hall of Fame.  

Gibson overcame a tough childhood where he was the youngest of seven children, and his father had died 3 months before his birth.  Being the runt of the litter forced him to be competitive and take what was his.  He was known as a fierce competitor, unafraid of throwing brushback pitches to keep hitters from feeling comfortable at the plate.  He rarely smiled and appeared to be very surly on the mound, even in retirement.  In 1992, Gibson played in an Old-Timers game in which Reggie Jackson hit a home run off of him.  The next year, at the same event, Gibson threw a ball up and in to Mr. October, and the message was received.  

Players feared and respected Gibson.  He was intimidating on the mound and had a great arm.  He was an athlete, not just a pitcher.  Bob Gibson was indeed, one of the greats.

***Today’s feature was prepared by Rob Bland, MLB reports Baseball Writer.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter***


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Posted on March 9, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Bob Gibson: Ranking the Cardinals Hurler Among the Greatest of All Time.

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