With Bob Gibson setting a record for ERA at 1.12 and pitching 13 shutouts, ST. LOUIS (3-2) easily swept to its second consecutive pennant, SAN FRANCISCO (3-2) has a streak going, too. The Giants finished second for the fourth straight year as Willie McCovey was the league's most effective slugger. He led in homers (36) and RBIs (105) and ended up eighth in hitting (.293). Juan Marichal enjoyed his best season ever with a 26-9 record and 30 complete games. CINCINNATI (3-4) was the only team in either league to hit as in the good old days. The Reds averaged .273, 21 points better than any other team and came up with the majors' leading batter in Pete Rose (.335) and best rookie hitter in Catcher John Bench (.275 with 15 homers and 82 RBIs). With Billy Williams, Ernie Banks and Ron Santo all hitting more than 20 homers and Glenn Beckert averaging .294, CHICAGO (5-0) produced its second straight first-division finish. Joe Torre (.271 with only 10 homers) and Deron Johnson (.208) of ATLANTA (2-3) and Roberto Clemente (.291, 66 points under last year's mark) and Jim Bunning (4-14) of PITTSBURGH (2-5) had disappointing seasons, but both teams came up with bright new faces. Felix Millan (.289) joined Felipe Alou (.317) to provide most of the Braves' batting punch, while Steve Blass ran off nine straight wins in the late season to finish with an 18-6 record for the Pirates. After Don Drysdale set a record for consecutive scoreless innings in June with 58, LOS ANGELES (2-3) quickly dropped deep into the second division as former hitting stars Zoilo Versalles (.196) and Ron Fairly (.234) proved two of the year's biggest disappointments. PHILADELPHIA (3-2), tying the Dodgers for seventh place, had Chris Short's pitching (19-13) and Richie Allen's slugging (33 homers with 90 RBIs) but little else as the Phillies fell to their worst finish in six years. Both NEW YORK (2-3) and HOUSTON (2-3) had their best seasons ever. The Mets ended up less than 25 games out of first for the first time in their history and for the second straight year came up with the league's best rookie. The 1968 find, Jerry Koosman, won more games than any Met ever and finished with a 19-12 record, while 1967 Rookie of the Year Tom Seaver won 16 games. Despite their best showing, the Astros for the first time in their history still finished last.
Final Standings: StL 97-65, SF 88-74, Chi 84-78, Cin 83-79, Atl 81-81, Pitt 80-82, Phil 76-86. LA 76-86, NY 73-89, Hou 72-90
Detroit (2-4) finished with its first pennant in 23 years and the season's best individual performance in Denny McLain's 31-6 pitching record. The Tigers averaged only .235, but still scored more runs than any other team because of their power. Eight hitters had 10 or more home runs as the team hit 185, 52 more than BALTIMORE (2-3), which ended up second in both homers and the standings. The Orioles had surprisingly good performances by Don Buford, whose .282 was 24 points over his lifetime average, and Dave McNally, who rebounded from a 7-7 season in 1967 to post a 22-10 mark. The most disappointing Oriole was Frank Robinson, who averaged just .268, with 15 homers. CLEVELAND (3-2), after breaking fast, then slumping, came back to finish third, mostly on the strength of its pitching staff, led by Luis Tiant's 21-9 record and 1.60 ERA. Even with Pitchers Jim Lonborg and Jose Santiago injured most of the season, BOSTON (2-4) managed to salvage fourth place when it received help from National League castoffs Ray Culp (16-6) and Dick Ellsworth (16-7). Carl Yastrzemski won his third batting title, but his .301 average was the lowest winning mark ever. Fifth and sixth place NEW YORK (3-3) and OAKLAND (4-2) made surprisingly strong showings. The Yankees had the lowest team average in the majors (.214), but their pitching, paced by Mel Stottlemyre's 21-12 mark, was sharp enough to lift them far above their predicted 10th-place finish. The A's used veteran Danny Cater (.290 BA) and a horde of young players, including Reggie Jackson who slugged 29 homers, to jump four places in the standings. Seventh-place MINNESOTA (4-2) and CALIFORNIA (1-5) and CHICAGO (3-3), who shared eighth place, were all picked for the first division, but faltered sadly. The Twins' fortunes took a bad turn when slugger Harmon Killebrew missed most of the second half of the season after injuring his leg in the All-Star Game. The Angels' hitting was weak (.227), but their pitching was worse as the staff managed only 29 complete games. Starting off with a 10-game losing streak, the White Sox never recovered. Tommy Davis, with a .304 lifetime average, and Pete Ward, with .260, batted just .268 and .216, respectively. WASHINGTON (5-1) dropped four places in the standings to last, but Frank Howard still gave Senator fans a lift, leading the league in homers with 44 and finishing second in RBIs (105) for his most productive season ever.
Final Standings: Det 103-59, Bait 91-71, Clev 86-75, Bos 86-76, NY 83-79, Oak 82-80, Minn 79-83, Cal 67-95, Chi 67-95, Wash 65-96
THE BEST AND WORST OF '68
Osteen, LA/Sadecki, SF
Walks (9 inn)
Strikeouts (9 inn)