On the blog today, we move on to the American League and their top three winning pitchers for 1977, displayed on an “expanded” 1978 league leader card:
This card is unique that all three pitchers shown were tied for the league lead with 20 wins, beginning with the Minnesota Twins Dave Goltz.
The Twins’ ace had a career year in 1977, posting a record of 20-11 over 39 starts, with 19 complete games and a couple of shutouts, striking out 186 over 303 innings.
Goltz had a nice run between 1974 and 1979, posting double-digit wins, with the 20 in 1977 his career-best, as were his strikeout totals and games started.
Sadly, after a 1979 season when he went 14-13, he moved on to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and suffered career-derailing injuries that pretty much ended his career by 1983, still only 34 years of age.
Tied with his 20 wins in 1977, Kansas City Royals ace Dennis Leonard, who had a very nice season for the A.L. West champs, posting the first of what would be his three 20-win seasons over his career, which was also curtailed by injuries by the mid-80s.
Leonard went 20-12 for the Royals in 1977, completing 21 of his 37 starts while tossing five shutouts over 292.2 innings of work.
The man was a stud between 1975 and 1981, finishing near the top of the A.L. for wins each year while taking the mound every fourth or fifth day without fail, logging a boatload of innings, even leading the league in the strike-shortened 1981 season with 201.2 over his 26 starts.
Sadly arm injuries kicked in during the 1982 season, something he’d never recover from, missing the 1984 season and retiring soon after in 1986.
The third and final pitcher to tie for the league-lead with his 20 wins, all-time great Jim Palmer of the Baltimore Orioles, who posted yet another “Palmer-esque” year.
The man was indeed a win-machine, posting his seventh (of eight!) 20-win seasons in 1977, completing a league-leading 22 of his 39 starts and posting 319 innings of work, also tops in the A.L. that year.
Those numbers were good enough for a second place finish in the Cy Young race that year, getting beaten out by reliever Sparky Lyle of the New York Yankees.
If not for the Yankee reliever’s great season, Palmer would have been the first pitcher in Major League history with four Cy Young Awards instead of Philadelphia Phillies great Steve Carlton some five years later.
It was the third year in a row Palmer led the league in wins, on his way to 268 total over his 19-year career that also included 53 shutouts and a brilliant 2.86 ERA.
Well there you have it!
Onto the top National League strikeout men of 1977 next week!