A pitcher’s Earned Run Average (or ERA) is the average number of earned runs that a pitcher gives up per nine innings pitched (as the typical game lasts nine innings).
An earned run is a run that is not scored as the result of a defensive error, such as a fielding error or a passed ball.
A pitcher’s ERA is calculated by dividing the number of earned runs he has allowed by the number of innings he has pitched, then multiplying by nine. For example, if a pitcher is charged with 21 earned runs over the course of 90 innings pitched, his ERA would be 2.10.
(21/90) x 9 = 2.1
An ERA under 3.00 is generally considered to be excellent. The lower a pitcher’s ERA, the better.
The lowest all-time career ERA in baseball history was 1.82, by Ed Walsh, who pitched from 1904 to 1917. The lowest career ERA during the live-ball era (that is, post-1920), belongs to Mariano Rivera, who pitched from 1995-2013 and posted an ERA of 2.21.
The first Cy Young Award was given out following the 1956 season, and, at the time, it was given only to the single best pitcher in both leagues. Brooklyn pitcher Don Newcombe became the first ever Cy Young winner, finishing the season with a 27-7 record and a 3.06 ERA. The Cy Young would continue to be given to only one pitcher each year until 1967, when it then started being given to one pitcher in each league.
Sometimes a strikeout means that the slugger’s girlfriend just ran off with the UPS driver. Sometimes a muffed ground ball means that the shortstop’s baby daughter has a pain in her head that won’t go away. And handicapping is for amateur golfers, not ballplayers. Pitchers don’t ease off on the cleanup hitter because of the lumps just discovered in his wife’s breast. Baseball is not life. It is a fiction, a metaphor. And a ballplayer is a man who agrees to uphold that metaphor as though lives were at stake.
Perhaps they are. I cherish a theory I once heard propounded by G.Q. Durham that professional baseball is inherently antiwar. The most overlooked cause of war, his theory runs, is that it’s so damned interesting. It takes hard effort, skill, love and a little luck to make times of peace consistently interesting. About all it takes to make war interesting is a life. The appeal of trying to kill others without being killed yourself, according to Gale, is that it brings suspense, terror, honor, disgrace, rage, tragedy, treachery and occasionally even heroism within range of guys who, in times of peace, might lead lives of unmitigated blandness. But baseball, he says, is one activity that is able to generate suspense and excitement on a national scale, just like war. And baseball can only be played in peace. Hence G.Q.’s thesis that pro ball-players—little as some of them may want to hear it—are basically just a bunch of unusually well-coordinated guys working hard and artfully to prevent wars, by making peace more interesting.
Outfielder Ted Williams of the Red Sox was overwhelmingly voted American League Most Valuable Player following the 1949 season. This occurred shortly after Williams was denied the Triple Crown, losing out to Tigers third baseman George Kell, whose batting average was .0002 better.
Here’s a poem written by John Updike, published in his Collected Poems 1953-1993. I love the collision of East and West in this piece.
Distance brings proportion. From here
the populated tiers
as much as players seem part of the show:
a constructed stage beast, three folds of Dante’s rose,
or a Chinese military hat
cunningly chased with bodies.
“Falling from his chariot, a drunk man is unhurt
because his soul is intact. Not knowing his fall,
he is unastonished, he is invulnerable.”
So, too, the “pure man”—“pure”
in the sense of undisturbed water.
“It is not necessary to seek out
a wasteland, swamp, or thicket.”
The opposing pitcher’s pertinent hesitations,
the sky, this meadow, Mantle’s thick baked neck,
the old men who in the changing rosters see
a personal mutability,
green slats, wet stone are all to me
as when an emperor commands
a performance with a gesture of his eyes.
“No king on his throne has the joy of the dead,”
the skull told Chuang-tzu.
The thought of death is peppermint to you
when games begin with patriotic song
and a democratic sun beats broadly down.
The Inner Journey seems unjudgeably long
when small boys purchase cups of ice
and, distant as a paradise,
experts, passionate and deft,
hold motionless while Berra flies to left.
In 1998, Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs was awarded the National League MVP award, and Juan Gonzales of the Texas Rangers won the American League MVP. It was the first time that both MVP awards were won by Latino players in Major League Baseball.