1968: Year of the Pitcher, 50 years later


It’s been 50 years since 1968, MLB’s greatest year for pitchers. Here are 50 things to know, by the numbers:

  • 1.  Number of .300 hitters in the American League, Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski at .301. If not for Yaz, Danny Cater’s .290 would have led the AL. It took a sizzling last six weeks for Yaz to get there: he was hitting .269 as late as Aug. 13. Yaz was 61-for-164, a .371 pace, from there, reached .300 with a four-hit game on Sept. 11, dipped below the next day and got back to .300 for good on the 13th. On the final day of the season Yaz went 0-for-5, dropping his average to .300556, rounded up to .301. It wasn’t quite Ted Williams going 6-for-8 on the last day of 1941 to hit .406, but enough to win the batting title by 11 points.
  • 2. Only two players topped a .900 OPS for the season among qualifiers for the batting  title, the Giants’ Willie McCovey at .923 and Yaz at .922. Willie Horton, at .895, came close. For comparison’s sake, there were 11 players  whose OPS surpassed .900 this year and there were 38 in 2003.
  • 3.42. Average runs scored per game by one team. If you think the triple-outcome baseball of today — walks, strikeouts and homers — is boring, you should have seen how boring a summer of routine popups and groundouts were.
  • 4.23. Average runs per game scored by the Reds, the highest-scoring team in MLB. That was the lowest highest-scoring team in 50 years, since the Cubs and Reds led MLB by scoring 4.11 runs per game in 1918. No highest-scoring team since the ’68 Reds has been lower than the Astros’ 4.63 runs per game in 1972. In 2018, the MLB average is 4.45 runs per game after Sunday, and 20 teams averaged more than than the ’68 Reds’ 4.23. Even the 2018 Reds, who lost 93 games, outscored the ’68 Reds, who won 83 and finished fourth in the 10-team league.
  • 5. .300 hitters in the NL, led by Pete Rose’s .335. It was the first of two straight batting titles for Rose (.348 in ’69) and first of three in his career (.338 in his MVP 1973). Two of the NL’s .300 hitters were Reds (Rose and Alex Johnson at .312) and two were Alous (Matty, the 1966 batting champ, hit .332 for the Pirates; Felipe .317 for the Braves; the third Alou, Jesus, hit .263 for the Giants). Rose had a 12-point lead as September started, but he and Alou went into the final weekend tied after Rose went 0-for-9 in the final three games of a four-game series against Matty’s Pirates. Rose went back ahead by a point on Friday. On Saturday Alou went 4-for-4, but Rose went 5-for-5 to maintain a one-point lead, and Rose went 1-for-3 on Sunday as Alou went 0-for-4.
  • 6. Shutouts pitched in a row by Don Drysdale from May 14-June 4 in his streak of 58.2 consecutive scoreless innings. In his seventh start, Drsydale shut out the Phillies for the first four innings until pinch-hitter Howie Bedell, who had nine plate appearances all season, drove in Tony Taylor with a sacrifice fly. It was the only run Bedell drove in all season, and one of three in a 67-game MLB career. Drysdale’s streak would have ended at 44 innings against the Giants on May 31 in the ninth inning but for the call of home-plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt. With the bases loaded and none out, Drysdale hit Dick Dietz with a 2-2 pitch on the elbow, but instead of forcing in a run, Wendelstedt ruled Dietz hadn’t tried to avoid the pitch, called it a ball and Dietz flew out to short left, Ty Cline grounded out first to home and Jack Hiatt popped out. For the six games, Drysdale allowed 27 hits, walked nine and fanned 42. He won two of the games by 1-0, one by 2-0, one by 3-0 and two by 5-0.  The last of Drysdale’s shutouts was the night of the California primary, won by Robert Kennedy, who began his speech with congratulation to Drysdale. “I want to express my high regard to Don Drysdale,” Kennedy began his final speech, before he was interrupted by cheers, “who pitched his sixth straight shutout tonight, and I hope we have his good fortune in our campaign.” Minutes later, Kennedy was murdered; a cassette of the speech was found among Drysdale’s belongings when the pitcher died in 1993.
  • 7.  Pitchers with an ERA better than 2.00: Bob Gibson, 1.12; Luis Tiant, 1.60; Sam McDowell, 1.81; Dave McNally, 1.95; Denny McLain, 1.96; Tommy John, 1.98; and Bob Bolin, 1.99. Bob Veale and Stan Bahnsen, at 2.05, just missed. The seven pitchers bettered their career ERAs by an average of 1.48 runs per nine innings.
  • 8. Hits in the All-Star Game, which ended, not surprisingly, 1-0 on an unearned run. Willie Mays singled in the bottom of the first, was picked off but reached second on an error, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a double play. The AL had only three hits, and the four pitchers they faced over the first eight innings — Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver — were all Hall of Famers. Ron Reed and rookie Jerry Koosman got the last three outs.
  • 9.  Starting pitchers who allowed less than one walk and hit per inning, and whose WHIP was less than 1.00: Dave McNally (0.842), Bob Gibson (0.853), Luis Tiant (0.871), Denny McLain (0.905), Tom Seaver (0.978), Dean Chance (0.983), Pat Jarvis (0.984), Bobby Bolin (0.985) and Bill Hands (0.994).
  • 10. Home runs, a career-high, hit by Len Gabrielson, who led the Dodgers. No other Dodger hit more than Bob Bailey’s eight. The Dodgers hit 67 home runs, one more than the Astros’ 66.
  • 11.2. Bob Gibson’s pitching WAR for 1968, fitting since his ERA was 1.12. Gibson’s WAR led all pitchers in 1968 and all players. It’s only 54th all-time for pitchers in a single season, but 35 of those came in the 19th century. Since Gibson’s ’68, only four pitchers have had greater single-season WARs: Steve Carlton’s 12.1 in 1972, Roger Clemens’ 11.9 in 1997 and Pedro Martinez’s 11.7 in 2000.
  • 1.12. Bob Gibson’s ERA was 1.12, the lowest in 54 years and the fourth-lowest ever (only Tim Keefe, 0.86 in 1880; Dutch Leonard, 0.96 in 1914; and Mordecai Brown, 1.04 in 1906 have done better.) Since Gibson, there hasn’t been an ERA lower than Dwight Gooden’s 1.53 in 1985. Gibson had 13 shutouts, but somehow won only 22 games for a team which won 97 games and the NL pennant. In the nine games Gibson lost, the Cardinals scored 12 runs for him, were shut out three times and scored two runs or fewer eight times. Gibson lost four in a row from May 12-28, to fall to 3-5. The four losses were by 3-2, 1-0, 2-0 and 3-1. In 34 starts, Gibson allowed more than three runs just twice, and once it took him 11 innings to do so. He had five straight shutouts, starting his streak just as Drysdale’s was about to end, and was just two runs away from pitching 10 straight shutouts. After the fifth straight shutout, Gibson was asked, according to Steve Rushin’s 1993 Sports Illustrated story, if he felt pressure to match Drysdale. “I face more pressure every day just being a Negro. In an 11-game streak from June 6-July 30, Gibson allowed three runs in 11 straight complete games (and two runs in the first 90 innings); from May 28-July 30 he pitched 13 straight complete games, and his streak ended only in a 13-inning game against the Cubs, of which Gibson pitched 11.
  • 13. Players who hit 25 home runs or more: Frank Howard (44), Willie McCovey and Willie Horton (36); Ken Harrelson (35); Dick Allen (33); Ernie Banks (32); Billy Williams (30); Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson (29); Ron Santo and Jimmy Wynn (26) and Tigers teammates Norm Cash and Bill Freehan (25). Willie Stargell just missed at 24. In 2018, there were 47 players hit at least 25 homers through Sunday.
  • 14. Games won by the Cardinals’ Ray Washburn in 1968. The 13th on Sept. 19 was a 2-0 no-hitter over a Giants lineup that included Bobby Bonds, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Jim Ray Hart, and came a day after the Giants’ Gaylord Perry had no-hit the Cardinals. They were the last two of  five no-hitters thrown in 1968 (the A’s Catfish Hunter, the Reds’ George Culver and the Orioles’ Tom Phoebus) and the only no-hitters ever thrown in the same series on back-to-back days. Perry fanned nine, walked two and beat Bob Gibson, 1-0, on a first-inning home run by Ron Hunt, who hit only two in ’68 and 39 in a 12-year career (that’s how Gibson went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA); Washburn fanned eight, walked five and outdueled Bob Bolin, who ended the season with a 1.99 ERA, 2-0. Washburn was 14-8 with a 2.26 ERA in ’68, 1.27 runs better than his career 3.53 ERA.
  • 15. Pitchers  who had ERAs lower than 2.30. Jim Nash, who had an ERA of 2.28 despite a career ERA of 3.58, was 15th; a year later only six pitchers had ERAs so low and Nash’s was 3.67.
  • 16. Innings the Mets shut out the Giants on Aug. 19. Too bad the Mets couldn’t score. The Giants scored a run in the 17th on Ron Hunt’s RBI single and won, 1-0. Mets starter Jerry Koosman pitched 12 shutout innings, allowed five hits, fanned eight and got a no-decision. Koosman, who won 222 games in a 19-year career, won 19 games in ’68 and had seven shutouts and a 2.08 ERA. Koosman was runner-up for Rookie of the Year because one voter split his ballot. Think a 20th win might have made a difference? The winner, Reds catcher Johnny Bench, wasn’t too shabby, either.
  • 17. Batters Gibson fanned in a 4-0 win in Game 1 of the ’68 World Series, a record which still stands. Gibson fanned every Tiger regular, and fanned Hall of Famer Al Kaline and Norm Cash three times each. It was Kaline Gibson fanned for the 15th strikeout, tying Sandy Koufax’s 1963 record, for the first out of the ninth after Mickey Stanley singled.  “Tim (McCarver) would not get behind the plate and call another pitch,” Gibson said in an interview with NPR in 2015. “He’s walking out. He’s walking toward me. What? Let’s go. What are you coming out here for? And he was pointing at the scoreboard. And I looked around. And it said something; I think it was 15 strikeouts. It said something about tying Sandy Koufax’s record. I went, OK, but we still got the rest of this game to finish. And that is not nearly as important as finishing the game, the strikeouts. Let’s go. Let’s just get this thing over with.” McCarver got back behind the plate and Gibson fanned Cash for No. 16 and Willie Horton for No. 17.
  • 18. Games lost by the Dodgers’ Claude Osteen and the Giants’ Ray Sadecki, the most in MLB. Osteen won 12 and had a 3.08 ERA (above the MLB average, though not by much), but the Dodgers were shut out in five of his starts and scored one run in six more. Osteen was well on his way to 20 losses after dropping No. 17 on Aug. 9, but two-and-a-half weeks in the bullpen following it probably saved him that  ignominious distinction. Sadecki’s 18 losses are harder to fathom. He had a 2.91 ERA and Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Willie McCovey behind him. But the Giants were shut out in four straight Sadecki starts in in late May and early June, and Sadecki went from 6-3 to 6-7 and never got back above .500. The Giants were shut out in eight of his starts, and scored one run eight times for him — twice one run was enough for Sadecki in 1-0 wins. Like Osteen, Sadecki won 12, but his 18th loss wasn’t until his final start, and fittingly, the Giants were shut out, 3-0, by the Reds’ Jim Maloney.
  • 19. Twins struck out by Luis Tiant in a 1-0 Indians’ win over the Twins in 10 innings on July 3. Tiant allowed six hits, walked none and fanned 16 in nine innings. He got his final three outs all on strikeouts of John Roseboro, Rich Rollins and opposing pitcher Jim Merritt after the Twins had first and third with none out in the top of the 10th (imagine allowing your starting pitcher to bat today in the 10th with the go-ahead run on third). Tiant also fanned 16 Twins in nine innings when he faced them on Sept.  9, winning a 6-1 five-hitter.
  • 20. First-place votes for Tigers pitcher Denny McLain (see No. 31) in winning the AL MVP award. Gibson wasn’t unanimous — he received 14 first-place votes to Rose’s six — but he was the NL MVP. It’s the first time since 1924 — Brooklyn’s Dazzy Vance and Washington’s Walter Johnson — that both MVPs were pitchers. Three of the top six in the AL vote were pitchers (McLain, McNally and Tiant tied for fifth) and four of the top 10 (Mel Stottlemyre).
  • .214.  Team batting average of .214 for the Yankees, their lowest ever and just 95 points worse than the .309 average of the 1930 Yankees (those Yankees finished third, 16 games out, behind the A’s and Senators). The ’68 Yankees hit 109 homers, won 82 games and finished fifth, but only Roy White (.267) hit more than .245. Mickey Mantle hit .237 in his final season, future Braves Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox hit .229 at third base, shortstop Tom Tresh got 595 plate appearances despite hitting .195, which might have been because backups Gene Michael and Ruben Amaro hit .198 and .122, respectively. Mel Stottlemyre won 21 games and Stan Bahnsen had a 2.05 ERA, but Fred Talbot, of future Ball Four fame, went 1-9 with a 3.36 ERA.
  • 22. Consecutive quality starts — at least six innings and no more than three earned runs; a stat which didn’t exist in 1968 –by Bob Gibson. In his first 22 starts, Gibson allowed 21 earned runs, and he didn’t do it by exiting after the sixth inning. He went at least seven innings in every start, and the streak only ended when Gibson gave up four earned runs — in 11 innings. Gibson gave up two runs, only one earned, in the fifth, and then homers to Billy Williams in the seventh and Al Spangler in the ninth and another run in the 11th. Today Gibson would have been gone, when he batted in the seventh, his quality starts streak intact, and it would have reached 30 until he gave up four earned runs in a 5-4 complete game win over the Dodgers in start No. 31. The Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter tied Gibson’s mark of 22 in 2005 and Jacob deGrom broke it this year finished the season with 24 consecutive quality starts.
  • 23. Times the Chicago White Sox were shut out. The White Sox were a bad hitting team before the Year of the Pitcher — they were next to last in runs scored in the AL in 1967 — but had contended with strong pitching. In 1968 their offense was historically bad — their team OPS was .595, they hit fewer home runs (71) as a team than Barry Bonds did in a single season, and were even fourth in the AL in double plays grounded into, not easy to do given their paucity of base runners (they were last in on-base percentage in the AL at .284). Pete Ward was the only regular with an OPS greater than .700 of .720, despite a .216 average (15 homers, 76 walks). The White Sox lost nine games by 1-0,  and were shut out three games in a row twice. In one three game-series at Oakland, the White Sox allowed seven runs and were swept, scoring just a solitary run in the last game.
  • 24. Innings played by the Astros and Mets on April 15. The first 23 were scoreless before the Astros finally won in the bottom of the 24th on, fittingly enough, an error by shortstop Al Weis. Each team had 11 hits — 10 singles and a double — and the Mets used eight pitchers, the Astros five. The Mets Tom Seaver started, allowed two hits and no walks over 10 innings and got a no-decision. Tommie Agee and Ron Swoboda, World Series heroes the next year for the Mets, each went 0-for-10; Bob Aspromonte went 0-for-9 for the Astros, but it was his ground ball Weiss booted to allow the winning run to score.
  • 25. Times Ron Hunt was hit by pitches, leading MLB (Tigers catcher Bill Freehan was hit 24 times). If you can’t hit them, get hit by them. Twenty-five was only half Hunt’s career high — he was hit 50 times with the ’71 Expos and led the NL for seven straight seasons, giving up the painful distinction only when he retired after the ’74 season. Hunt’s 243 hit by pitches ranks sixth all-time behind predominantly 19th-century star Hughie Jennings’ 287.
  • 26. Home runs hit by Jimmy Wynn for an Astros team that finished last in the NL, one game behind the Mets, and last in MLB in home runs with 66. No other Astro hit more than six home runs (Doug Rader, Norm Miller. Rusty Staub and Denis Menke) and the team total would have been ever lower had not pitchers Don Wilson and Mike Cuellar each homered.
  • 27. Batters faced by Catfish Hunter in pitching the first perfect game in the AL in 46 years on May 8. It was the seventh perfect game of the 20th century and third in five seasons (Jim Bunning in 1964, Sandy Koufax in 1965). There have been 14 perfect games since, most recently by Felix Hernandez in 2012. Hunter fanned 11, including Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew three times and pinch-hitter Rich Reese for the final out. Hunter also drove in three of the four runs the A’s scored, the tiebreaker with a bunt single in the seventh and the last two with a bases-loaded single and two outs in the eighth. Hunter was promised a $5,000 raise by owner Charlie Finley after the feat, and according to the book Summer of ’68: The Season That Changed Baseball — and America — Forever by Tim Wendel, when Hunter called home to tell his father about the raise, his dad replied: “Tell me all about that five thousand when you get it.” Finley was cheap, but Hunter got the 5K.
  • 28. Quality starts by the Yankees’ Stan Bahnsen, the AL Rookie of the Year. Bahnsen won 17 games, pitched 267.1 innings, completed 10 games and had a 2.05 ERA  — 1.55 runs better than his 3.60 career ERA. Somehow that was only good for 17 of the 20 Rookie of the Year votes. Del Unser, who batted .230, slugged .277, had a .560 OPS and was a -1.8 WAR defensively, got three votes.
  • 2.98. The ERA for all of MLB in 1968, the lowest it had been in 50 years. Not since 1918, when it was 2.77, had it been as low. It went up to 3.07 in 1919 — in part because Babe Ruth batted more (543 plate appearances in ’19 compared to 382 in ’18) and pitched less (166.1 innings in ’18 compared to 133.1 in ’18.) The ERA also went up in 1969, because MLB wanted it to. It lowered the mound and shortened the strike zone. The ERA in 1969 was 3.61 and hasn’t been lower than the 3.26 of 1972 since.
  • 30. Complete games by MLB leader Juan Marichal in 1968. It was the most in 15 years — Robin Roberts had 33 in 1953 — and has been equaled three times since but never topped (Ferguson Jenkins in 1971, Steve Carlton in 1972 and Catfish Hunter in 1975). Marichal completed 16 consecutive starts from May 24-August 1; no one has completed that many in a full season since Roger Clemens completed 18 in 1987. The streak ended when Marichal pitched only nine innings of a 10-inning loss to the Phillies; had the Giants not rallied with two runs in the bottom of the ninth, Marichal would have pitched 19 complete games in a row. Marichal led the NL with 26 wins and 325.2 innings pitched, both career highs.
  • 31. Games won by Tigers pitcher Denny McLain, the last 30-game winner. Thirty-game winners were so common in the earlier days of that McLain’s 31 wins are tied for 107th all-time. But since McLain won 31, no one has won more than 27 — Bob Welch for the AL champion A’s in 1990 and Steve Carlton for the last-place Phillies in 1972. Thirty-one was also how many home runs McLain threw, which led MLB, though McLain insists one — Mickey Mantle’s 535th and next-to-last — was purposeful. Mantle was tied with Jimmie Foxx at 534 on Sept. 19 when McLain, the Tigers ahead 6-1 in the eighth, says he set one up for Mantle, and catcher Jim Price told Mantle it was coming. Price, from a 2009 New York Times story:  “McLain was clapping as Mickey was rounding the bases. And when he crossed home plate, Mickey thanked me. The next batter was Joe Pepitone, and he said, ‘Give me one, too.’ And I go, ‘No way, you’re not Mickey Mantle.’ ” From a Newsday story in March: “Noted columnist Red Smith, writing for Women’s Wear Daily after the demise of his old paper, the Herald Tribune, delivered the best punch line: ‘When you’ve bought 534 drinks at the same saloon, you’re entitled to one on the house.’ ”
  • 32. Gibson starts in which he pitched at least eight innings — in other words, all but two. Gibson pitched seven innings in the first two games of 1968, and went at least eight innings in the next 32 starts — 35 if you count three more complete games in the World Series.
  • 33. Earned runs allowed by Wilbur Wood, who had one of the more remarkable seasons in the Year of the Pitcher. Wood appeared in an MLB-high 88 games, 86 out of the bullpen, and pitched 159 innings, 145 in relief. (Wood appeared in 37 games before making his first start, never pitching more than four innings. He went 8 innings in his start, three days after pitching three days in relief, and allowed only one run. So much for having to be stretched out.) Wood won 13 games (lost 12), saved 16 and had a 1.87 ERA and .572 OPS against and finished 25th in the MVP vote. He was one of five pitchers and the only reliever who received votes.
  • .340. MLB slugging percentage, the lowest since 1918, when it was .325.
  • 35. Tigers struck out by Gibson in three Series starts. Gibson blanked the Cards in Game 1 and fanned 17; allowed only a Jim Northrup homer (with a 6-0 lead), fanned 10 and homered himself in a 10-1 Game 4 win; and had pitched 6.2 shutout innings when Curt Flood misjudged a Northrup liner with two on in a 4-1 Tigers win. It was the most unlikeliest of miscues: Flood won seven straight Gold Gloves and only stopped winning them when he refused a trade to the Phillies. The Game 7 loss ended an extraordinary World Series career of Gibson’s. After a Game 2 1964 loss to the Yankees, Gibson won seven straight Series starts, completed them all (including a 10-inning Game 5 in ’64), won two Game 7s, and allowed two runs or fewer in five of them. After losing Game 2 in 1964, Gibson pitched 70 innings over three Series and didn’t trail again until Northrup’s triple.
  • 36. Home runs hit by Willie McCovey, which led the NL. That was the lowest total to lead the NL since Ralph Kiner’s 23 did so in 1946; it was 24 years until someone hit fewer to lead the NL in a full season, when Fred McGriff did so with 35 in 1992 (Mike Schmidt led with 31 in the strike season 81; he hit 36 to lead in 1974 and 36 more, as did Dale Murphy, to lead a decade later.)
  • 37. Pitchers who threw at least 10 complete games, from Marichal with 30 to Stan Bahnsen, Dick Ellsworth, Woody Fryman, Larry Dierker, Steve Carlton and Earl Wilson with 10. There were 897 complete games pitched in 1968; through Monday there had been 996 complete games in this decade (2010-18).
  • 38. Games pitched by Sam McDowell, who led MLB with 283 strikeouts, three more than McLain. McDowell had 12 games of 10 strikeouts or more and two three-game stretches of 40, including a season-high 16 on May 1 vs. the Athletics. McDowell walked an MLB-high 110, but won 15 games and had a 1.81 ERA.
  • 39. Games started by 1964 Cy Young Award winner Dean Chance for the Twins, third-most in MLB. He completed 15 of them, threw 292 innings — more than anyone in MLB but McLain — had a 2.53 ERA, 2.20 FIP, .545 OPS against, and 124 ERA+. Chance was sixth in MLB in strikeouts (234) and WHIP (0.978; he allowed just 224 hits) and still lost as many games as he won, finishing 16-16.
  • 40. Games started by Ferguson Jenkins, two more than anyone else in the NL and second in MLB to McLain’s 41. Jenkins was third to McLain (336) and Marichal (325.2) with 308 innings, fanned 260 batters, won 20 games and had a 2.63 ERA. It was the second of six straight seasons Jenkins won 20 games, and the first of four straight seasons he threw at least 300 innings.
  • 41. Pitchers who threw at least three shutouts (compare that to 2018, when 19 pitchers threw one apiece). Twenty pitchers threw at least five shutouts, 66 threw multiple shutouts and 100 pitchers, including Phil Ortega, who had a 4.98 ERA and only made 16 starts, threw at least one.
  • .426  Yaztrzemki’s on-base percentage, the only player with an OBP greater than .400. Pete Rose led the NL with .391.
  • 43. Players who hit 15 home runs or more. Frank Robinson, who hit 586 of them in his career, hit 15 between 30-home run seasons in 1967 and 1969. Bench, the NL Rookie of the Year hit 15 in ’68, two season before he hit 45 to win the MVP. Orlando Cepeda hit 16, down from 25 in his ’67 MVP season. Harmon Killebrew, limited by injury to 100 games, hit 17, between 44- and 49-homer seasons. Only 23 players hit 20 homers, only seven hit 30 and only one hit 40. In 2018, 153 players hit 15, 100 hit 20, 27 hit 30 and three hit 40.
  • 44. Home runs hit by Frank Howard, which led all of MLB. No one else hit more then Willie McCovey’s and Willie Horton’s 36. The 44 were a career high for Howard, which he bettered by four homers in ’69 and matched in ’70. Howard hit four ’68 home runs off Dave McNally, who had a 1.95 ERA; three off Mickey Lolich, who won three games in the ’68 World Series; three off Sam McDowell, who had a 1.81 ERA; and two off Denny McLain, who won 31 games.
  • .461: OPS of Giants shortstop Hal Lanier, who may have been the most inoffensive position player of the season. Lanier didn’t hit much (.206 average), didn’t walk much (12 in 518 plate appearances) and didn’t slug much (14 doubles, 1 triple, 0 homers). He had a triple slash of .206/222/239, and he had an OPS+ of 38 (Mark Belanger, at 59, was next worst). Lanier played 151 games because of his defense — his 2.4 defensive WAR kept his overall WAR to -0.1.
  • 46. Doubles hit by Lou Brock, which led all of MLB. Only three players — Brock, Pete Rose (42) and Johnny Bench (40) — hit more than 40 doubles in ’68. That may not seem like a lot — 19 players hit 40 doubles in 2018 — but that was two more than the numbers of players who hit 40 doubles in 1967 or ’69. Only Rusty Staub (44 for the Astros did so in ’67) and only Matty Alou (41 for the Pirates) did so in ’69.
  • 47.2: Consecutive scoreless innings pitched by Gibson in his streak. Gibson threw five straight shutouts from June 6-26 until his wild pitch allowed the Dodgers to score in the first inning on July 1. It was the only run Gibson allowed in a 5-1 win, and he followed it with a shutout of the Giants, an 8-1 win over the Astros and two more shutouts. In a 10-game stretch, Gibson threw eight shutouts.
  • 47. Hitters with at least a .700 OPS among the 90 who qualified for the batting title. Ron Swoboda, who finished at .699, would have made 48. Only 17 of those finished above .800. For reference, 64 players in 2018 had an OPS of .800 or better, and 119 of the 143 who qualified had an OPS of .700 or better. Tucker Barnhart, at .699, would have made 120.
  • 49. Starting pitchers with at least 160 innings who had ERAs of lower than 3.00. That’s 64% of the 77 pitchers who qualified. Chuck Dobson, at 3.00, just missed making it 50.
  • 50. RBIs by Pete Ward and Tommy Davis to lead the White Sox, who scored two runs or fewer in 92 of their games. Somehow, the White Sox, who averaged 2.86 runs per game, managed to win 17 of those.

And a few bonus numbers: 56 pitchers who threw 200 innings; 82 1-0 games according to Rushin’s Sports Illustrated story; and 339 shutouts, 341 if you include the All-Star Game and World Series.

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