Last week I compared the career of Austin Nola to the most recent LSU shortstops, this week lets take a look at the great season Gausman is having.
Just beginning this article was difficult due to the amount of question for making the comparison. How do you rank the pitchers from different eras? Do certain stats weight heavier than others and how do you evaluate those? Is it better to evaluate a career, or a single season? When ranking the greatest pitchers do I only focus on starters, or do I include the bullpen? Finally, how do you account for memorable performances in the regional and the CWS?
With out spending too much time on the setup I’ll be brief. I took a look at the most dominate starters from 1984-2012. I incorporated all of there most important stats and reach a average on those stats. Then went line by line and gave each year one point to those pitchers who met or surpassed those numbers. If two pitchers were tied with the same amount of points, I did a head-to-head comparison to rank each.
Doing this I did reward pitchers who made it at least to the college world series, just for the fact that they had more stats to calculate compared to the others. The only area I could not break down was the eras they played in. A pitcher from the ‘80s and ‘90s had to face better lineups that this current generations. Fewer top prospects are going to college today due to the scholarship and roster restrictions currently in place.
The question I am answering isn’t who would I want as my starting pitcher if I was needing an ace on the mount, instead I did an historical breakdown and determine who had the most dominate single year on the mound in the last 30-years and if Gausman is in this discussion.
The stats I decided to compare each with was their win/loss record, total innings pitched, complete games thrown, ERA, walks, strikeouts, opponents batting average, WHIP and strikeouts per nine. I tallied up the numbers and here is the average year for each.
Numbers were run on 33-pitchers. Some years there where two dominate starters (1990, 1993, 1997 and 2009). Of those 33, 18 of those starters made the first cut.
Paul Byrd (1990), Greg Smith (2005) and Jared Bradford (2007) just missed the cut from making the top 15 and that is a credit to how dominate the 15 above them are. Paul Byrd had the most wins (17) in a single season that any other starter. Jared Bradford recorded the lowest amount of walks (16) than anyone and Smith missed the cut even though the had a 2.60 ERA in 2005. With those out of the way lets start the countdown.
15. Patrick Coogan (1997)
Coogan joins a list of Tigers that just pitched during the wrong era. He did have four stats above the average (W/L, IP, strikeouts and K/9). He did have some amazing performances in the 1996 and 1997 CWS, but his ERA was just too high to make the top-10.
14. Kurt Ainsworth (1999)
Like Coogan, Ainsworth finished with four stats above average (IP, CG, strikeouts and K/9). It did amaze me that he finished this low with the fourth highest strikeouts recorded, but the numbers do not lie.
13. Anthony Ranaudo (2009)
Ranaudo finished with four stats above average (IP, strikeouts, OBA and K/9) and ranks third on the list with 159 strikeouts in 2009. What hurts him from being ranked higher is that he didn’t have the best pitching performance on the team in 2009.
12. Mike Sirotka (1993)
Sirotka finished above average in four stats (IP, CG, ERA and WH/IP). He is tied with Ben McDonald for the most complete games recorded on the list with 10. What killed Sirotka from possible missing the top-five was his W/L record and OBA.
11. Brett Laxton (1993)
Laxton missing the top-10 might be the biggest upset in the rankings. He finished above average in four stats (CG, ERA, OBA and WH/IP). Its hard to imagine a pitcher with a 1.98 ERA, .177 OBA and 1.06 WH/IP not being ranked higher, and when you account for his performances in Omaha it makes this ranking even odder. What hurt Laxton was his low strikeouts and having the third highest amount of walks allowed.
10. Kevin Gausman (2009)
If his season was to end today, Gausman would finish with the 10th best regular season in the last 30 years. Gausman has five stats over average (ERA, BB, OBA, WH/IP and K/9). These number could change as Gausman should start anywhere from four to six games more times this year and that could raise or lower his rankings. The most important thing to notice is the last three lines and compares those with the guys ahead of him.
9. Chad Ogea (1990)
Ogea can sometimes slip through the cracks when discussing the greatest pitchers in school history. In both 1990 and 1991 he put up great numbers, but 1990 won out. He finished with five stats above average (W/L, IP, CG, OBA and WH/IP), but didn’t dominate any particular stat compared to the guys ahead of him.
8. Lane Mestepey (2002)
Mestepey being ranked this high was a bit of a surprise to me, but he did finish with five stats above average (IP, CG, ERA, BB and WH/IP). He had the lowest amount of strikeouts and K/9 compared to the others, but finished second in walks only allowing 17. Bradford beat out Mestepey in walks, but Mestepey allowed one more walk in 46 more innings of work compared to Bradford.
What might be the most impressive stat was his eight complete games in 2002. Tiger fans will remember how Smoke Laval over used Mestepey’s arm, but when you wipe away how average those teams where compared to the teams in the ‘90’s it helps bring clarity to how dominate he really was in 2002.
7. Greg Patterson (1987)
If only Patterson could have struck out a few more batter, he might have finished in the top three. Of the 33 players reviewed, he finished with the lowest ERA of all of them and second in WH/IP. He tallied six stats above average (CG, ERA, BB, OBA and WH/IP).
I have to admit, my age showed while reviewing his stats. I had never heard of him, Patterson get lost in the shuffle due the arms that came through the program in the years following him, but after reviewing the numbers he clearly how dominant he was in 1987.
6. Scott Shultz (1995)
Schultz just missed out of the top-five, but had a incredible 1995 season. He finished above average in six categories (CG, BB, K, OBA, WH/IP and K/9). If this was a career ranking, he might have cracked the top-five due to a great 1994 season. Schultz finished tie for second in strikeouts per nine with 11.53.
5. Ed Yarnell (1996)
Sometimes reviewing these stats against the others becomes difficult in seeing the differences. In a vacuum (like we are rating each pitcher) Yarnell finished ranked fifth with six stats above average (IP, ERA, K, OBA, WH/IP and K/9), but I could make the case that this was the most dominate single season performance on the list.
Yarnell goes down as the greatest pitcher during the slow-pitch softball era of college baseball. With all the offensive numbers put up that year and those following his ERA and OBA are staggering when you look at them in that light.
4. Ben McDonald (1989)
McDonald Makes his first appearance in the four slot. He tops the list with the most strikeouts and innings pitched on the list. It might have statistically been the most dominant season, but his ERA and walks were too high to crack the top-three. He finished with six stats above average (IP, CG, K, OBA, WH/IP and K/9) and missed adding a seventh stat (W/L) by recording a fourth loss.
3. Louis Colman (2009)
Coleman was the catalyst during the Tigers title run in 2009. Coleman finished with seven of the nine stats above average (W/L, IP, ERA, BB, K, OBA and K/9). He had a 6:1 strikeout to walk ration that year. Only his WH/IP and complete game numbers kept him from going down as the greatest single season ever,
2. Ben McDonald (1988)
There is a reason why McDonald’s number is the only one retired among this list. His W/L record wasn’t the best and the seven losses where they highest of any participant on the list, but he had 10 complete games in only 118 starts. McDonald ranked above average in ever category except W/L and IP.
Some might question why one of the seasons weren’t number one…let me show you why.
1. Lloyd Peever (1992)
Who? Peever was not only the best one-year wonder, but put forth the greatest single season in the last 30 years. He recorded the lowest WH/IP and OBA, and finished second in strikeouts with 166. He had the highest strikeout to walk ration at 8:1 and did I forget to mention that he went undefeated. 14-0, are you kidding me. Skip Bertman would say that a great started would give you four solid starts out of five, well Peever proved that he could go five for five.
So there is the cream of the crop and already Gausman is inside the top-10, but how much higher can he go? If LSU makes it to the CWS, he should have six more starts this season (South Carolina, SEC tournaments, Regional, Super Regional, and CWS (2)). Lets assume that he doesn’t get any better or worse and just puts forth the same production as his previous 13 starts, what would his numbers look like and will he finish higher than 10th? Lets take a look at his stats.
Based upon those numbers, and they project favorable for Gausman he would move up and replace Scott Schultz for sixth all-time, but go look again at Yarnell and Schultz lines and look just how close the comparison is between Gausman’s projections and those two.