A friend of mind today lamented the lack of a twenty-game winner in either league this season, teh first time that’s happened since like Babe Ruth was a baby. The Twins’ Johan Santana, the no-doubt AL Cy Young winner, and Chien Ming-Wang, the Yankees’ best pitcher this year, will finish the 2006 regular season with 19 wins before they perhaps square-off in the opening round of the playoffs next week. In truth the 20-Game Guy had been evolving towards Do-Do Bird status for some time now, along with the near-extinct complete game and other iconic, old-school pitching standards. Ignoring the strike-affected seasons (’81, ’94 and ’95,) the No 20-G Guy Season hasn’t happened for far back as my own fingers could research, at least not since 1900. In 1995 one certain and one maybe Hall of Famer – Greg Maddux being the former; Mike Mussina, the latter – led baseball with 19 wins. But that was a strike-shortened 144-game season. The previous year – no World Series – might as well had never happened; the Yankees’ Jimmy Key led baseball with 17 Ws.
The best Season of the 20-G Guy? Well, three times in the early 1900s (’01, ’03 and ’05), 16 pitchers reached 20Gs. Fours seasons have seen 15 pitchers reach the mark, the last being in at least my lifetime, 1969; the Mets’ Tom Seaver topped all hurlers that season with 25 Ws. Since the 20-G Guy slowly become The Invisible Baseball Man. The 10s averaged 9.7 20-G Guys per season. In the 80s, 90s and 00s – the average has been about four, including this, the season of the donut.
In 1969, 20-G winner Bob Gibson led baseball with 28 complete games. This season, Aaron Harang of Cincinnati and Clevelands C.C. Sabathia led all pitchers with 6 each.