February 18, 2009

In Praise Of Statistics

I take for granted the ease at which I can get any mundane baseball statistic at any time of the day from nearly anywhere. Of course, this wasn't always the case...fans would have to depend upon the Sports section of the newspaper or maybe a Baseball almanac for their buring stat needs. They might also turn to some great baseball cards, like this one from the 1962 Topps set, to get the answer to their stat questons...


I am quietly building a respectable Whitey Ford collection and I picked up this card simply because Whitey disembodied head is floating around on it. But then I got a look at the back of the card and an encyclopedic look at the American League strikeout leaders from 1961. The card includes stats on 50, count 'em 50, players and their success at striking out batters. We've got the big four of Camilo Pascual, Whitey Ford, Jim Bunning, and Juan Pizzaro and then we also have players like McClain, Wash. and Baumann, Chi who totaled 76 and 75 strikeouts respectively and who's first name will be a mystery to me forever. I thing it's great that nearly every first or second starters for each team gets recognition for being a Strikeout Leader. It's like get a "Participant" ribbon at a track meet.


I must admit that I was sorely lacking in my knowledge about Camilo Pascual even though he was a Washington Senator and later a Minnesota Twin [my favorite boyhood team]. 1961 would prove to be the first in a stretch of four seasons that Pascual would average over 200 strikeouts [the 221 K's in 1961 would be his career high]. He would also post impressive 20-11 and 21-9 records in '62 and '63 earning him an All-Star birth in '62 but not '63. Like so many players, during the final years of his career he played with a flury of different teams including a reborn Washington Senators, Cinncinnati Reds, Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians before retiring in 1971. Interestingly, the pitcher which his stats closest resemble is Fernando Valenzuela.

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