Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts seems to be the least remembered great pitcher of the 1950s and ’60s. He won 286 games with incredible, by today’s standards, complete game totals throughout the ’50s: 33, 29, 21, 19, and so on. But, he also lost 245 games, threw primarily for Phillies teams that were not good and were obscured by the Dodgers, Giants, and Braves, and had only one really spectacular season, 1952 (two years after the Whiz Kids pennant-winning season of 1950). He died in Florida in 2010.

Here are a few notes on Roberts’ career: Baseball-Reference has him with 83.1 WAR, 22nd among pitchers, and leading the NL in WAR from 1950 through 1954. He is 38th in career complete games, with 305, but just 45th in strikeouts, with 2,357.

Robin threw 3475 2/3rd innings from 1949 through 1960, 290 per season, over 36 starts per year, with 49 more relief appearances in the 12 years. Those 49 games, which included 24 saves, are in a way more impressive than all the innings thrown: this guy fairly regularly would throw 18 innings in his two starts in a given week, and come into a third game to secure a victory. The saves didn’t come in pennant races or the postseason: they were apparently cases of the Phillies’ manager looking at his bullpen and deciding that Roberts was the best guy to hold onto a lead. People talk about pitchers being workhorses: Roberts is probably the least heralded and most impressive workhorse in baseball since World War II. It was his misfortune to pitch for a lot of Phillies teams that weren’t very good and didn’t even have the virtue of being memorably bad.

Published in: Uncategorized on July 9, 2016 at 2:55 pm  Comments (3)  

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  1. Roberts was most remembered through the mid-1980s as the guy who gave up the most home runs in a season, probably more a function of him spending much of his career pitching at home at Connie Mack Stadium and then at Wrigley Field. He was finally eclipsed in 1986 by Bert Blyleven, who gave up 50 in a season (pitching at home in the Metrodome), a mark that, inexplicably, has NOT yet been surpassed.

  2. No question that Robin Roberts was a truly great pitcher who belongs in the Hall, but the most unheralded in the postwar era? I’ll take Jim Kaat.

  3. Blyleven may be more underrated than Roberts, but one guy that leaped to mind immediately is Jim Kaat, a very consistent pitcher whose 283 career wins are right behind both Roberts and Blyleven on the all-time list and ahead of over 30 other HOFers, his 2,461 strikeouts are more than at least 17 Hall of Famers (including Roberts, Marichal, Waddell, Grove and Koufax) and he won 16 consecutive Gold Gloves.

    He may not be in the conversation when it comes to the best left-handed pitcher in history, but Kaat deserves more serious consideration for Cooperstown than he’s received.


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