Astros’ All-Time Best Seasons: Starting Pitchers

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1979: J.R. Richard

Aug 3, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; A view of Minute Maid Park before the game between the Houston Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The other key piece to the Houston Astros’ success in 1979 was J.R. Richard. If the 35 year old Niekro was the heart of that rotation, Richard, at 29 years old, was the soul. If you want to read the background on the 1979 Houston Astros, just click back one slide. With J.R. Richard, I’m going to just cut to the chase. Here are J.R. Richard’s stats from 1979:

  • 2.71 ERA (1st in NL)
  • 18 wins (3rd in NL)
  • 313 Strikeouts (1st in MLB by 90!!!)
  • 1.09 WHIP (2nd in NL)
  • 4 Shutouts (2nd in NL)
  • .209 Batting Average Against (1st in NL)
  • 19 Complete Games (2nd in NL)
  • 292.1 Innings Pitched (2nd in NL)
  • 38 Games Started (3rd in NL)

J.R. Richard was a pitcher that people wanted to get to the ballpark and see because not only did he flat out dominate hitters, he was fun to watch. When he wasn’t forcing groundouts, he was striking hitters out, 313 times to be exact. In fact, that number of strikeouts in a season, 313, wouldn’t be passed by an MLB pitcher for 18 years until Curt Schilling struck out 319 batters in 1997.

If hitters were getting bored with Joe Niekro’s more old-fashioned style, they without a doubt would be begging for mercy after facing a J.R. Richard fastball. Niekro & Richard complemented each other very well, and it’s a shame that they weren’t able to pitch together longer.

Here’s a clip of J.R. Richard dominating some of the best hitters in the game. Not from 1979, but only one year after and a great example of Richard’s relentless pitching style. Enjoy.

Next: 1986: Mike Scott