I didn’t expect Phil Niekro to do so good in my rating system. Of course, pitching 24 years didn’t hurt. Niekro was a knuckleball pitcher and I like Knuckleball pitchers. He was 26 years old when he won his first game and 48 when he won his last game. He was 46 when he won his 300th game.
It is interesting that good teams usually don’t like knuckleball pitchers but Niekro had two of his best won loss records when the Braves won their division. He didn’t pitch that well when they won their second division title with him in 1982. He was just a little bit above average.
I watch a lot of Braves games, so I saw Niekro pitch a lot. I watched the superstation on TBS. I saw Niekro pitch a lot. He was fun to watch a good pitcher, but I didn’t think of him as a great pitcher. Of course, knuckleball pitchers like the pitch can be deceiving.
In the early days of cable TV, 1977 to 1979, Niekro led the National League in starts, complete games and innings pitched all three seasons. So Niekro was on cable TV a lot. He was also age 38 to 40 those three years. Most pitchers are retired by that time. Unfortunately, Atlanta were really bad in 1977 and 1978. They finished in last. They finally had a decent season in 1979. They finished one game over 500 and so did Niekro as he went 21-20. It is really great when a pitcher wins 20 and really bad when one loses 20. Niekro managed to do both in 1979.