Welcome to the 1980s: era of free agency, pitch counts and players strikes.With those three factors in place, I found it extremely challenging to find pitching tandems that remained effective for more than two seasons at a time. (I have tried to stick with a "three-year rule" since I started this feature a couple of months ago.) Though the '80s were not as fruitful as previous decades, I did find a handful of dynamic duos. They are as follows:
Dan Petry and Jack Morris/ Detroit Tigers (1982-1985)
Morris has received a lot of support for the Hall of Fame in recent years, peaking at 67.7% of the vote in 2013. There are several factors working against him--his lifetime 3.90 ERA and his tendency toward wildness for instance. But no one would disagree with the fact that Morris was among the greatest hurlers in Tiger history. Between 1979 and 1990, he won at least 15 games ten times for Detroit. He led the league in complete games and strikeouts once apiece. A big game pitcher, he captured World Series MVP honors in '91, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 3 starts against the Braves.
Petry is a little known right-hander who carried the less than intimidating nickname of "Peaches." He hit his peak between 1980 and 1985, winning at lest 10 games every year for a Tiger club that quietly snuck into contention. A durable workhorse, Petry tossed well over 200 innings in four straight seasons, leading the league with 38 starts during the '83 campaign. It put undue stress on his young arm, which finally gave out on him.
1982 1983 1984 1985
Jack Morris 17-16 20-13 19-11 16-11
Dan Petry 15-9 19-11 18-8 15-13
Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling/ New York Mets (1984-1988)
Gooden started his career with a bang, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in '84 and a Cy Young Award the following year. He led the league in strikeouts both seasons, earning the nickname "Dr. K". Notoriously fond of the high life, Gooden's incessant partying eventually derailed his career. There was a moderately happy ending as George Steinbrenner took him into the Yankee fold during the late-90s. He tossed a no-hitter in May of '96.
A right-hander, Darling was among a handful of Yale alumni to find success in the big leagues. Handsome and articulate, he was one of the Mets' highest profile players during the 1980s and a key reason for the club's Series victory in '86. In the Fall Classic that year, he compiled a 1.53 ERA against the Red Sox in 3 starts. Using a split-fingered and cut fastball, he won 136 games during his career.
1984 1985 1986 1987 1988
Dwight Gooden 17-9 24-4 17-6 15-7 18-9
Ron Darling 12-9 16-6 15-6 12-8 17-9
Bruce Hurst and Roger Clemens/ Boston Red Sox (1986-1988)
The career of Roger Clemens can be divided into two parts: the era during which he hit his natural peak and the years in which he used steroids to regain his previous form. The right-hander's natural peak came between 1986 and 1992, when he won no fewer than 17 games and captured four ERA titles. At some point after that, he started juicing. Though Clemens has repeatedly denied the claims, there are too many accusations to ignore and nothing else adequately explains the superhuman stats he put up during his late-thirties/early- forties in the wake of a noticeable decline.
Hurst was a big left-hander who had a forkball, slider and curve in his repertoire. He hit his stride between '86 and '92, winning at least 14 games five times before injuries and age slowed him down. He was at his best when it counted most. In seven postseason games, he posted a handsome 2.29 ERA. He is among the most successful Mormon players in history.
1986 1987 1988
Roger Clemens 24-4 20-9 18-12
Bruce Hurst 13-8 15-13 18-6
Bob Welch and Dave Stewart/ Oakland A's (1988-1990)
Welch had many good seasons with the Dodgers and A's. A thin right-hander with a dramatic leg kick, he enjoyed his peak years between 1980 and 1990, winning 14 or more games eight times. He led the league in starts, shutouts and winning percentage once apiece. His greatest effort came in 1990 with Oakland, when he posted a stellar 27-6 record, guiding the club to its third straight World Series berth.
Stewart had six unremarkable seasons before the A's rescued him from the scrap heap in '86. He became their most reliable pitcher with four consecutive 20-win campaigns. After two mediocre seasons in '91 and '92, his career seemed to be more or less over. That prognosis proved to be premature as he won 12 games for Toronto in '93 and was MVP of the ALCS that year. Known for his explosive fastball, he carried the nickname of "Smoke."
1988 1989 1990
Dave Stewart 21-12 21-9 22-11
Bob Welch 17-9 17-8 27-6