September 14, 2017
One Entire Season of Baseball From the 1960s (Part 4)
(Note: Last year, I wrote "One Entire Season of Baseball From the 1970s," reviewing the 1971 season. My goal is to repeat the exercise every summer, selecting a different decade. We'll present the 1960s version Monday through Thursday this week, five teams at a time, introducing each team with salient figures from their season. Monday's entry is here, Tuesday's entry is here, and Wednesday's entry is here.)
The American League First Division
5. Cleveland Indians, 87-75: 1, 1, 1. Rank, in the American League, of left-hander Sam McDowell in ERA (2.18), FIP (1.96), and strikeout rate (29.1 percent), respectively. He was also second in DRA (2.36) and innings (273). As a 22-year-old. Who pitched 249 1/3 professional innings as a 21-year-old, 142 as 20-year-old, 127 2/3 as a 19-year-old, and 181 1/3 as an 18-year-old.
Amazingly, he kept up that pace for five more years, leading the league in strikeouts in four of them (and walks in three) before wearing down. He pitched only 82 2/3 innings after his 30th birthday. McDowell, who battled alcoholism as well as arm problems, was Nolan Ryan before Nolan Ryan came along, posting prodigious strikeout and walk totals through his 20s.
Ryan eventually got the walks under control, to a degree, and of course he lasted far, far longer. In McDowell’s first eight seasons as an ERA qualifier, he led the league in strikeouts five times and walks five times. In Ryan’s first eight seasons as an ERA qualifier, he led the league in strikeouts six times and walks six times.
The 1965 season was typical McDowell. He struck out 29 percent of the batters he faced, leading the league, far ahead of teammate Sonny Siebert, who was second with 26 percent. (The league average was 16 percent.) McDowell, though, was third in the league in walk rate (12 percent). He struck out 325, 99 more than runner-up Mickey Lolich, while walking 132, 19 more than Boston’s Dave Morehead.