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ANSWER to the Trivia question in the previous column: The Angels Bobby Knoop led the 1966 AL in Triples.
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NEW TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the pitcher who had the highest ERA among qualifiers in his league one year and hit a World Series home run in another year, during the 1960s?
This week we present a series of Guest Columns. If you wish to submit a column for review to be published here in Baseball in the 1960s, just send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Effects of the Lowered Mound by Aaron Wolen of Fishers, IN.
In the aftermath of 1968 commonly referred to as the Year of the Pitcher, when MLB scoring levels hit an all-time low during the Live Ball Era, MLB over-reacted by lowering the pitching
mound from fifteen inches to ten. The best aspect of that change was the mandate
that all mounds had to have the same height and slope starting in 1969.
The results that season were mixed. Twenty-four "qualified" pitchers had an ERA
lower than 3.00. Clearly that was a very talented group. The most improved
pitchers were Dick Bosman, who led the AL with his 2.19 ERA after struggling
previously; and Rick Wise, whose unsightly 4.54 ERA was the worst in MLB in
1968, checked in with 3.23 in 1969. Joe Coleman and Catfish Hunter individually had nearly identical pitching statistics in 1968 and 1969. Young veterans Fritz Peterson, Rudy May, Ken Holtzman, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer had their best years after 1968.
On the flip side, Don Drysdale incurred a shoulder injury and retired. Larry Jaster, a junk-ball left-hander, Joe Sparma, a hard-throwing righty, and Camilo Pascual, right-handed curveball and high fastball specialist developed command issues they could not resolve, and fell by
the wayside shortly thereafter.
Jim Hardin, George Brunet and Tony Cloninger declined rapidly, and were soon gone. Joel Horlen and Bob Veale began a gradual decline. In another contrast in style, Horlen, a skinny junk-ball right-hander, had a lifetime ERA of 2.66 through 1968, and 4.08 thereafter; Veale, a beefy (pun intended) hard-throwing lefty, went from 2.76 through 1968, to 3.88 the remainder
of his career; both were gone in the early 1970s.
Stan Bahnsen, Steve Blass and Luis Tiant saw their ERAs double from 1968 to
1969, and then made noteworthy adjustments. Bahnsen's ERA in April was 6.23,
and through the rest of the 1969 season it was 3.52, the level at which he stayed
most of his long career. The curve and high fastballs which served him well
in 1968 were ineffective in 1969, so he relied on sliders and low fastballs going
forward. Blass's ERA was 4.46 in 1969, but he improved yearly through 1972.
Tiant's adjustment was more complicated. His ERA was 7.51 through May 15th,
and 2.89 the remainder of 1969, but his overall numbers were ugly. He led the
league in losses, home run pitches and walks that year. Then he struggled two
more years before bouncing back to his 1968 level. He led the AL in
ERA in 1968 and 1972, and led in shutouts in 1968 and 1974. He transitioned
from being a hard thrower in 1968 to being a finesse pitcher in 1972.
It is difficult to determine how much of an effect the mound height had on scoring
in 1969, considering there was also expansion that year, and expansion increases