The Underrated Phil Niekro

Niekro was a really good pitcher for a very long time. He didn’t get much acclaim during his career, judging from award voting, but looking at the incredible number of innings he pitched, year after year, I have to think he’s underrated. 280 or so innings each year, 1968 through 1980, with ERAs that were fairly close to the league leaders, is an awfully nice thing to bank on if you’re the GM or manager of a team.

For example, Niekro’s 1978: a 2.76 ERA for 334 1/3rd innings should be good for better than 6th place in the Cy Young voting. Baseball-reference has him leading the NL in WAR that year. Are Niekro’s stats unfairly discounted because he wasn’t a “great” pitcher (didn’t have the profile of Marichal or Seaver or Gibson), didn’t have an awesome strikeout rate, hardly ever got into the postseason, and threw a knuckleball? The obvious comparison is with Don Sutton, who benefited from pitching for the Dodgers while Niekro was pitching for the Braves.

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Published in: Uncategorized on January 22, 2019 at 7:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

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