Teams are known for stellar players. The St. Louis Cardinals have had greats like Pujols and Gibson and this generation’s stellar player may be toeing the mound today in the way of Carlos Martinez.
Have you watched the great Carlos Martinez pitch? If you haven’t had the chance to see this in person, you are truly missing out. The St. Louis Cardinals have one of the best pitchers to toe the mound in Martinez but how does he compare to one of the greatest Cardinals arms, Bob Gibson?
Gibson, for those who don’t know or need a refresher, was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1957. He made his MLB debut just two years late in 1959 against the Los Angeles Dodger. In his debut he pitched only two innings surrendering two hits and two earned runs.
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Cardinals fans remember brighter days and brighter statistics for Bob Gibson outside of this weak start. Gibson is best known as a seven-time all-star, two-time Cy Young winner, MVP, and hall of fame inductee. In addition to these accolades, Gibson is known for his terrifying mound presence exemplified in his statistics.
Amazing, right? Wouldn’t we all kill to have a pitcher with a career 2.91 ERA on the squad today? Teams would quake to face a pitcher with a career 210 Ks/162-game average. The St. Louis Cardinals rotation would dominate with a pitcher owning a .591 W-L%.
Is there anyone who holds even the slightest candle to this bright spot in Cardinals history? I firmly believe that Carlos Martinez is this arm. While Martinez’s career has years left to match the number of Gibson, I believe we are seeing flashes of similarity that indicate that Martinez is on the same path.
See the similarities? Let’s look year by year for an even deeper look at the comparison.
At 23, Martinez was an all-star who appeared in 179.2 innings. At 23, Gibson appeared in only 75.2 innings. To make the comparison fair, then, let us jump to Gibson’s age-25 season in which he pitched in 211.1 innings. Martinez approached this number in 2016 when he pitched in 195.1.
Gibson’s 211.1 innings allowed him to post an ERA of 3.24. Martinez posted an ERA of 3.01 at 23 years old in 179.2 innings and an ERA of 3.04 in his 2016 season of 195.1 innings. Martinez’s best ERA season came in 2015 when he posted the 3.01 while Gibson’s best came in 1968 when he was thirty-two years old. In this season, Gibson posted an outstanding 1.12 ERA across 304.2 innings.
Yes, you read that correctly– 304.2 innings posting a 1.12 ERA. Let’s take a moment to revel in that splendor.
Martinez, to his credit, has amassed 466 strikeouts in his four MLB season. By his forth season, Gibson- who started slower than did Martinez- had amassed 491 strikeouts. Martinez’s 466 Ks came against 2,074 batters faced while Gibson’s eclipsing number was achieved while facing 2,615 batters.
While the above numbers illustrate the strikeout dominance that was Bob Gibson, they likewise illuminate the close proximity of similarity held by the young Martinez.
The 162-game average stat is intended to equalize players for comparison sake. If we play with these numbers then, we can see the striking similarity (albeit dominance by Gibson) that these two players share. Gibson, by the these numbers, would be immediately slotted as the number one starter in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation followed very closely by Martinez at the number two slot.
Gibson, using the 162-game-average stat, would pitch in approximately 262 innings while Martinez would pitch in only 161. In these innings, it is estimated that Gibson would surrender eighty-five earned runs to Martinez’s sixty. Gibson is predicted to record 210 strikeouts to Martinez’s 152. Gibson’s ERA would settle at 2.91 while Martinez would record an ERA of 3.32.
All of these numbers, and all of the charted numbers above, suggest- to me at least- that Martinez could well be the reincarnation of the younger Bob Gibson. While it is difficult to directly comparing these two thanks in large part to the changes to the game in regard to batting (read: better batters, better digital assistance for batters facing pitchers, the change in batter training and performance enhancers (legal and illegal)), Martinez is showing similar pitching adroitness.
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Bob Gibson spent his entire career wearing the birds on the bat and it is my wish that Carlos Martinez will do the same. Hear me, Mozeliak, you must extend Martinez and ensure that this budding Gibson has the time and support to become another stalwart of the Cardinals Way.