Glancing Back, and Remembering Juan Marichal
During the 1960s, he won more games (191) than Sandy Koufax (137), Bob Gibson (163) and Denny McLain (114) – but never won a Cy Young award.
Juan Marichal won more games (191) during the 1960s than any other major league pitcher.
During the 1960s, he struck out more batters (1,840) than Sam McDowell (1,663) and Camilo Pascual (1,391) – but never led his league in that category.
During the 1960s, he posted a combined ERA of 2.57 — lower than the decade ERAs for Bob Gibson (2.74), Dean Chance (2.77) and Whitey Ford (2.83) — but won his league’s ERA crown only once in a 16-year career.
In any other decade, Juan Marichal might have been the game’s most dominant pitcher. But in the pitching-rich 1960s, he was “simply” one of a group of truly great, Hall of Fame pitchers – and quite probably the decade’s most underrated hurler.
Marichal was a delight to watch, in terms of both style and effectiveness. One of the last of the “high kick” pitchers, Marichal’s delivery encompassed a panorama of release points, from straight over the top to sidearm and all points in-between. He utilized a vast repertoire of pitches, with variations on his fastball, curveball and change-up that constantly kept hitters off-guard.
He could throw hard. He pitched with control. Marichal was a hitter’s nightmare, and his record proved it. A native of the Dominican Republic, Marichal was signed by the New York Giants in 1957. He made his debut with the San Francisco Giants in 1960, pitching a one-hit shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies. He found a place in the starting rotation almost immediately.
In the Giants’ pennant-winning season of 1962, Marichal won 18 games, but that was only third best on the team (behind Jack Sanford’s 24-7 and Billy O’Dell’s 19-14). It was a pattern that would haunt Marichal throughout his career: consistently strong, and sometimes great, pitching performances that would be overshadowed by someone else. He went 25-8 (including a no-hitter) in 1963, the same year Sandy Koufax won the Cy Young Award with a 25-5 season. He followed that in 1964 with a 21-8 record, leading the majors with 22 complete games and posting a 2.48 ERA. However, he lost out on the Cy Young Award to the Angel’s Dean Chance, who had the most productive season of his career at 20-9 with 11 shutouts and a 1.65 ERA.
In 1965, Marichal won 22 games with a major-league best 10 shutouts and a 2.13 ERA. That same season Koufax won 26 games with a 2.04 ERA and his second Cy Young Award. Marichal followed in 1966 with a spectacular season, posting a 25-6 record with a 2.23 ERA. Again that year, Koufax topped him, going 27-9 with league-leading 1.73 ERA.
Juan Marichal recorded 20 or more victories six times between 1963 and 1969.
In 1968, Marichal had his best season, finishing the year 26-9 with a 2.43 ERA. He led the league in victories, innings pitched (326) and complete games (30). But that was the year Denny McLain won 31 games in the American League, and in the National League, Bob Gibson swept both the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards with a 22-9 record with a 1.12 ERA in leading the St. Louis Cardinals to their second consecutive pennant.
Marichal closed out the 1960s with a 21-11 record in 1969, posting a major-league best 2.10 ERA while leading the league in shutouts with eight. In the Cy Young voting that year, Marichal finished eighth, with the award going to Tom Seaver and his 25-9 season for the World Series champion “Miracle” Mets.
In all, Marichal recorded 20 or more victories in six out of seven seasons between 1963 and 1969. He finished his career with 243 wins and a 2.89 ERA. When he retired in 1975, Marichal’s 52 shutouts put him in ninth place among right-handed pitchers for career whitewashes. A nine-time All-Star (and MVP of the 1965 All-Star Game), Marichal was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
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