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Shut ‘Em Down

Nineteen-sixty-eight is remembered in mostly reverential terms as “The Year of the Pitcher.” But at the time, Roger Angell complained about the lack of hitting in The New Yorker and dubbed it “The Year of the Infield Pop-up.”

Our man Cliff takes a look at ’68 and other dominant pitching years, over at SI.com. One surprise–1997:

Just because offenses dominated in the late ’90s doesn’t mean there wasn’t great pitching going on. Between the strike year of 1994, when 4.92 runs were scored per game, and 2000, when the era peaked with 5.14 runs scored per game (the most since 1936), 1997 represented a relative low point for run scoring with “just” 4.77 runs crossing the plate per contest. The sheer quantity of star pitching talent on display that season, the last before the most recent round of expansion and the homer-happy season of 1998 was staggering.

Start with the Braves’ rotation headed by future Hall of Famers Greg Maddux (19-4, 2.20 ERA), Tom Glavine (14-7, 2.96 ERA), and John Smoltz (15-12, 3.02 ERA, 241 K’s) and complimented that year by a career year from lefty Denny Neagle (20-5, 2.97 ERA). Those four men combined for a 2.80 ERA over 962 innings (an average more than 240 innings per pitcher). None of them took home the Cy Young award, however, as that was claimed by a breakout season from 25-year-old Expos righty Pedro Martinez (17-8, 1.90 ERA, 305 K’s). Despite those 305 punchouts, Martinez finished second in the league in strikeouts to the Phillies’ Curt Schilling (17-11, 2.97, 319 K’s), marking one of just six seasons in baseball history in which two pitchers each struck out 300 men. Schilling’s 319 strikeouts remain a record for a right-handed National Leaguer.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver