He was one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all-time. Steve Carlton won four Cy Young Awards, all while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. His first came in 1972, when Carlton won 27 games…and the rest of the staff won 32. He started his big league career with the Cardinals and appeared in three All-Star games wearing the St. Louis uniform before spending 15 years in Philadelphia. At the end of his career, Carlton played for four teams in three years: Giants, White Sox, Indians, and Twins.
By sheer coincidence, today just happens to be Carlton’s birthday.
I picked up two rack packs of 1983 Donruss last night at the Redsfest for $1 each. I thought surely they were just in the wrong place on the table, but no…$1 each. And with a Reggie Jackson Diamond King showing on top, how could I resist?
How important are awards and All-Star appearances? In the battle for the best left-handed starter, it makes a big difference. With awards and All-Stars included, Randy Johnson comes out on top with a score of 270.10, followed by Steve Carlton (#2, 267.64) and Warren Spahn (#3, 244.40). When awards and All-Stars are removed from the equation, Spahn narrowly beats Carlton for the top spot and the Big Unit drops to third place. I know Johnson was intimidating, but there is no way I would pick him over either Spahn or Carlton when building my historical fantasy team. Sandy Koufax (#8, 180.58) would be another consideration, but he has a lower score due to his short career; in twelve years he won 165 games and compiled a WAR of 50.3.
Only two other lefties topped the 200-point mark: Lefty Grove (#4, 203.46) and Eddie Plank (#5, 200.01). Tom Glavine (#6, 198.62) just barely missed. Overshadowed by Greg Maddux during his prime, Glavine is perhaps the best number two starter in history. His baseball cards are a dime a dozen; even his rookie cards can many times be had for less than a dollar.
Carl Hubbell is next on the list with a score of 185.94, and two non-Hall of Famers, Tommy John (#9, 176.01) and Jim Kaat (#10, 170.14), round out the top ten. Both were very close to the 300-win mark, but had very long careers in which they amassed all those wins and only averaged 13 victories per season.
Jim Umbricht, Houston Colt .45s
Umbricht pitched two very solid seasons as a reliever for Houston, posting ERAs of 2.01 and 2.61, before succumbing to malignant melanoma just prior to the 1964 season. The Astros’ team MVP award is named in his honor.
Elston Howard, New York Yankees
Sandy Koufax, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
Steve Carlton, Philadelphia Phillies