Since baseball's Expansion Era began in 1961, fans have witnessed some truly memorable seasons by starting pitchers, the top 15 of which we recap here. Who knows, perhaps Brandon Webb or Cliff Lee soon will be worthy of a spot on this list for their 2008 performances. <br><br>In 1963, Juan Marichal of the Giants had the first of his six 20-win seasons to go with a 2.41 ERA, 18 complete games and 248 strikeouts.
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Perhaps no pitcher has been better over a four-year stretch than Sandy Koufax from 1963 until his premature retirement due to arm trouble at age 30 in 1966. Over that span, Koufax won three Cy Young awards, but his best season came in 1965, when he went 26-8 with a 2.04 ERA, pitched a perfect game and struck out an NL-record 382 batters.
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Of all of baseball's untouchable records, few are as set in stone as Bob Gibson's mark for lowest ERA in the modern era: 1.12. Gibson, the easy choice for NL Cy Young that season, won 22 games and notched 13 shutouts, then added a World Series-record 17 more in Game 1 of the Cardinals eventual seven-game Series loss to the Tigers.
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The first pitcher to win 30 games since Dizzy Dean in 1934, Denny McLain enjoyed a remarkable season in which he went 31-6 with a 1.96 ERA, won the AL Cy Young, and topped it with a World Series ring for the 1968 Tigers.
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After just three wins in his first two seasons, Vida Blue broke out in 1971 when he went 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts en route to winning the CY Young and AL MVP for the West-champion A's.
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Seaver won three Cy Youngs, but his best season may have been in a year in which he didn't win the award. In 1971, "Tom Terrific" validated his nickname by leading the league in ERA (1.76) and strikeouts (289) while going 20-10 for the Mets.
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The Philadelphia Phillies' struggles in 1972 had nothing to do with Steve Carlton. Though the club went 59-97 . Lefty posted an amazing 27-10 record, leading the league in wins, complete games (30) and strikeouts (310).
8 of 15Walter Iooss Jr./SI
The man leading the Yankees ' improbable comeback to the AL East title in 1978 was a skinny left - hander known as Louisiana Lightning. Ron Guidry went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA, had a then-AL-record 18 strikeout game against the Angels and gave up 187 hits in just under 284 innings on his way to the Cy Young award.
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Few pitchers have burst onto the scene with as much promise and dominance as Dwight Gooden. "Doc" was a mere 20 years old and in just his second big-league season when he cut through the National League in 1985, going 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA, eight shutouts and 268 strikeouts.
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For most of the 1988 season, Orel Hershiser was merely very good. When he took the mound on Aug. 30, he was 17-8 with a 2.88 ERA. But beginning with a shutout of the Expos that day, Hershiser's season went from very good to historic. By the time it was over, he had pitched a record 59 consecutive scoreless innings, including five straight shutouts. He finished 23-8 and steamrolled through the playoffs by winning all five of his starts and even notching a key save, leading the Dodgers to the World Series title.
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Picking Greg Maddux's best season from 1992-1995, during which he won four Cy Young awards, is a bit like trying to choose Picasso's best painting: each one was a masterpiece. But even by Maddux's high standards, it would be hard to top his 1995 campaign. In a strike-shortened season, Maddux went 19-2 to lead the league in winning percentage, WHIP, fewest walks per nine, complete games, innings and shutouts. His 1.63 ERA was the second consecutive season in which he achieved an ERA below 1.80, the only player to do so since Walter Johnson in 1919.
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Roger Clemens won three AL Cy Young awards before joining Toronto, where turned in arguably the best two seasons of his career. His first, 1997, may have been his best ever. Clemens went 21-7 with a 2.05 ERA and 292 K's to win pitching's Triple Crown and the first of back-to-back Cy Youngs.
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Pedro Martinez's power pitching style was on full display during the 2000 season in which he won 18 games, posted a 1.74 ERA, hurled seven complete games, and whiffed 284 hitters. He also set a number of marks. His WHIP was 0.74, breaking a 77-year-old record set by Walter Johnson, and he also became the only starting pitcher to have more than twice as many strikeouts in a season (284) as hits allowed (128). The only question: How did he lose six times?
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The 6-foot-10 Randy Johnson overpowered the NL from 1999 to 2002, winning four straight Cy Young awards. The last of those four seasons was his best. He won a career-high 24 games with a 2.32 ERA and 334 strikeouts and held batters to a .208 average.
15 of 15Tom Dahlin/SI
During his first full season as a starter in 2004, Johan Santana enjoyed one of the best second halves of a season for a pitcher. He went 13-0 and achieved a 1.21 ERA to finish the season with a 20-6 record, 2.61 ERA and 265 strikeouts on the way to his first of two AL Cy Young awards.
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