A Biography in 1,000 Players No. 71 Bob Feller (Number 20 Pitcher)

I could have gotten Bob Feller’s autograph here in Colorado Springs. They had a two-day baseball souvenir in a small gym near my house. One day Bob Feller was signing autographs and the next day Harmon Killebrew was signing them. As a Twin’s fan I was going to get Killebrew’s autograph. He was and is my favorite player. I decided to go to the Friday show to scout the place out. It was nothing like the San Diego Comic Con, nor the Denver Pop event. It was just a bunch of baseball nerds, like me, and a few rows of old tables pushed together with some collectable items. I’m guessing it was like $3.00 to get in.

When I came in there was Bob Feller at the end of the tables. There was a line that went behind him on his right that started and ended in a hallway. The hallway also contained the men’s and Lady’s room. Bob was telling all the autograph seekers some stories. He was a good storyteller. It made me consider getting a book and having him sign it. However, I wasn’t a big Bob Feller fan. I wasn’t too impressed with his ERA and he didn’t win 300 games.

Now looking at his record I should have been more impressed. From 1939 to 1947 he was a dominant pitcher. Well that is an understatement, he was the best pitcher in baseball for that time period. The bad thing was he lost 3 full years and pretty much another year serving the Navy in WWII. Let’s see how he would have done in the Cy Young Award for those years:

In 1939 Bob went 23-9 ERA of 2.85. He led the league in strikeouts and innings pitched. He was first in pitcher WAR. Feller would easily have won the Cy Young Award. He was third in the MVP voting, but was the top finishing pitcher.

In 1940 Bob won the pitching triple crown. He was first in wins ERA and strikeouts to accomplish the feat. He was also the leader in innings pitch. He was second in the MVP award. If he wouldn’t have been voted the Cy Young Award, there should have been an investigation.

In 1941 Bob went 25-13 ERA 3.15. He again led the league in innings pitched and strikeouts. His ERA wasn’t as dominate as the two previous years, so he was second in WAR. Would he have won the Cy Young Award? Let us see. It comes down to Feller and Thornton Lee who led the league in pitcher WAR. Feller pitched about 40 more innings, had twice the strikeouts, but more than twice the walks. Lee had a lower ERA (leading the league). Feller gave up 3 less homeruns.  Feller led the league in starts by 4 had 2 saves to Lee’s one, even though no one knew at the time. He also pitched 6 shutouts leading the league. I would have voted for Feller, but it was close. So that gives Feller 3 Cy Young Awards before going into the Navy.

Feller came back in 1945 but pitched in only 9 games. He came back from the Navy in late August and pitched well to end the season.

I was surprised by 1946. I thought I would have voted easily for Feller as led in wins in 26, in strikeouts and innings pitched. He also led in pitching WAR. Hal Newhouser, however, was tied in wins, first in ERA and had a better strikeout to walk ratio. The difference in WAR was only .2 so that could go either way. Feller relieved more. Newhouser finished higher in the MVP. Looking at the stats I give Newhouser a very slight edge, so I’m giving him the Cy Young for 1946.

OK, 1947 is the last year I’m going to check. Feller again led the league in wins and strikeouts. However, he had 152 less strikeouts than the year before. Bob Feller started to fade in 1947 and he did a little more in 1948. He was still an effective pitcher, but he wasn’t the superstar he was before. He did win 20 in 1951 but that was due more to the Cleveland offense than his outstanding pitching. He was an above average pitcher in thru 1951 than he faded again. He also led the league in innings pitched in 1947 but with 72 less innings than the year before. He was fourth in pitcher WAR and came in 8th in the MVP award. Let’s do the comparison. Looking at everyone’s stats that year, I would have voted for Bob Feller. No one had a real outstanding year and those that had better WAR had mediocre records except Eddie Lopat. I compared Lopat and Feller and liked Feller’s stats better. So, I would give him a fourth Cy Young award.

Now that I know more about the history of the game and took a better look at Feller’s record, I’m thinking I probably should have bought his book and got his autograph that day.

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Author: Douglas Byzewski

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