madison bumgarner christy mathewson greatest world series pitcher all time
A lot of guys write about baseball. Not many guys with Pulitzer Prizes for commentary write about baseball. So when they do, I tend to listen. Especially when they write so nicely about me! During the World Series, David Leonhardt introduced the Matty Score to measure a pitcher's World Series dominance. Seemed fine to me, except that unearned runs were completely ignored. In response, Leonhardt revised the method to account for unearned runs. Which didn't make a big difference in the results, but did bump Madison Bumgarner up a notch. Leonhard's big finish:
Who is the greatest World Series pitcher of all time? That's a question statistics can't fully answer. I'll still go with Mathewson, but he had the benefit of pitching against less competition than Koufax (who played after integration) and much less than Bumgarner (who faces batters from around the world). There is certainly an argument for Bumgarner. He's now been stellar in three World Series -- 2010, 2012 and 2014 -- and dominated one of those.
I'm not wild about the difficulty-of-competition argument, except as a sort of tiebreaker. Christy Mathewson, were he alive today, wouldn't be able to survive in the Lickskillet League. Well, maybe the Lickskillet League. But not the Eastern League.
That's not really the point, though, is it? We've accepted the meaning of major leagues, haven't we? We don't consider the Yankees who won five straight World Series beginning in 1949 any less dynastic because the quality of play was relatively low, do we? We're not asking which pitcher showed the most talent in the World Series, because that's quite clearly Madison Bumgarner.
No, I think what we're asking is which pitcher was the most dominant in World Series history. And so I think the answer is clearly Mathewson. Granted, once we start counting unearned runs, things get closer. But not much closer.
Seven pitchers have Matty Scores in the 20s. Two -- Bumgarner and Sandy Koufax -- are tied in the 30s. Nobody has a Matty Score in the 40s. And there's Matty himself at 52.
I'm afraid I just don't have any sympathy with Giants fans who just KNOW their guy should be No. 1, somehow. My response is that if you're upset about a metric that puts your guy in a tiny group with Christy Mathewson, Sandy Koufax, and Bob Gibson, it might be time to admit that maybe objectivity just ain't your bag.