Vern Law had an excellent season for the Pirates in 1960. He was credited with 20 wins. His ERA was 3.33. And he won the Cy Young Award. But Law was not the best pitcher in the National League that year. In fact, he was not the best pitcher on his team.
Law was superb, but Bob Friend‘s 1960 campaign was one of the very best in Pirate history.
Law / Friend
IP: 271.2 / 275.2
K/9: 3.98 / 5.97
HR/9: 0.83 / 0.59
BB/9: 1.33 / 1.47
WHIP: 1.13 / 1.13
ERA: 3.08 / 3.00
FIP: 3.33 / 2.54
WAR: 4.9 / 7.8
Law’s FIP was just 7% better than league average. Friend’s was 28% better than league average.
How much better was Firend’s 7.8 WAR than Law’s 4.9?
Why didn’t he?
FIP and WAR had not yet been invented and pitchers were still judged largely – and mistakenly – by the number of wins and losses that were credited to them.
Law’s won-loss record in 1960 was 20-9. Friend’s was 18-12.
So, it would seem that Law beat out Friend for the 1960 Cy Young Award because the Pirates hitters and relievers performed better when Law pitched than they did when Friend pitched. Those kinds of errors were far more likely to be made in the good old days before sabermetrics.
Bob Friend was an excellent pitcher for a long time.
From 1956 through 1964, Friend’s lowest single season WAR was the 4.3 he earned in 1959. That’s 0.3 wins better than A.J. Burnett‘s 2013.
I need to say that again.
Bob Friend’s “worst” single season WAR – over a 9 year period – was 0.3 wins better than what A.J. Burnett posted in 2013!
Friend’s average single season WAR from 1956 through 1964 was 5.63.
If you are ever asked who was the greatest pitcher in Pirate history, you could make a good argument for Bob Friend. Consider this:
If 1960 were 2013, Bob Friend’s WAR-Based Free Agent Value would be $31.9 million per season.