From Tuesday's chat:
Jacob (Poland): Was there ever a season in which four pitchers under 28 had 15 wins and sub-2.50 ERA?
Excellent question, Jacob. My response in the chat was, "I would guess yes, certainly back in the '60s and early '70s" and I said I'd do a quick follow-up post later on. So he's the follow-up post.
The question is pertinent since this era's crop of young pitchers presents a list of candidates who could do it this year: Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez (yes, still just 27), Matt Harvey, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Shelby Miller, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Moore and Chris Sale being the best bets.
Of course, we had a long period when few pitchers of any age recorded an ERA under 2.50. From 1993 through 2008, only four pitchers under the age of 28 finished with an ERA under 2.50 -- Pedro Martinez twice, Greg Maddux, Mark Prior and Jake Peavy. All told, however, there were just 27 such seasons, with Martinez, Maddux and Randy Johnson responsible for 15 of the 27 seasons.
Anyway, we came close to answer Jacob's question in 2009 when Hernandez, Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke, but that's only three. We have to go back to 1972 to get four -- and that year we had nine. Here are the five previous times it was done:
Steve Carlton, Catfish Hunter, Steve Kline, Jon Matlack, Gary Nolan, Blue Moon Odom, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton
Steve Carlton, Larry Dierker, Jerry Koosman, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Bill Singer
Stan Bahnsen, Steve Blass, Jerry Koosman, Sam McDowell, Denny McLain, Dave McNally, Blue Moon Odom, Tom Seaver, Mel Stottlemyre, Luis Tiant
Dean Chance, Don Drysdale, Juan Marichal, Gary Peters, Dick Radatz, Chris Short
Dick Ellsworth, Sandy Koufax, Juan Marichal, Ron Perranoski, Gary Peters, Juan Pizarro, Dick Radatz
Anyway, the strike zone had been redefined beginning in 1963, setting in motion a 10-year period when the pitchers -- in particular young guys who threw hard -- dominated. We're in another era when the pitchers are dominating. Fifteen wins and a sub-2.50 ERA is still a tough standard, especially since starters don't get as many decisions as they did in the '60s, but it wouldn't surprise me to see four guys do it this year.