Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Remembering the Greats: Walter Johnson
Side-note before I begin: I've collected baseball cards since I was a kid, I took probably a 10-year hiatus from 1996 to 2006, but I've recently regained some interest in the hobby, more for hobby's sake than anything else. I must say, I'm very impressed with some of the products out there right now, and Upper Deck Masterpieces is one of the best. All of the cards look like they are mini canvas paintings and the paintings they depict are phenomenal. Look for more pictures of these cards in future posts from me.
Walter Johnson is pretty much the forgotten Cy Young. It's really hard to say why history doesn't remember Johnson in the same way as it remembers other pitchers like Cy Young and Christy Mathewson, but for whatever reason, his name is not brought up as often as it should be.
"The Big Train" was the dominant pitcher in baseball throughout the first quarter of the 20th century. There were certainly notable others, even some great ones, but Johnson was about as consistently dominating as they come. From 1908 to 1926, he failed to post 13+ wins only 1 time and that one time was due to injury. During that same period, he posted 20+ win seasons 12 times.
Walter Johnson had, perhaps, the two greatest back-to-back seasons of all-time in baseball. During the 1912 and 1913 seasons, Johnson won 69 games (in two seasons!) with 63 complete games and 18 shutouts. In 1912, Johnson finished 3rd in the MVP voting after a 33-12 season and a 1.39 ERA. In 1913, Johnson bested his previous season in almost every way, posting a ridiculous 36-7 record and 1.14 ERA. In 1913, Johnson won the MVP award and that season still stands as one of the greatest by a pitcher in baseball history.
In some ways, I think Walter Johnson was probably at least as good as, if not better than, Cy Young because Johnson pitched in the modern era where the competition was tougher. Young pitched in the late 1800's and early 1900's when the competition was probably somewhat weaker. Johnson won 417 games and finished and over 21 seasons of Major League Baseball, AVERAGED 19 wins. I'll say that again, he averaged 19 wins per season for 21 years. Today, if a pitcher wins 19-20 games, they're almost a lock to win the Cy Young award.
If you get a minute, take a look at his stats, they are pretty amazing in comparison with today's pitchers.