On November 12, 1980 — Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Stone, who led the American League with 25 victories, wins the Cy Young Award over Mike Norris of the Oakland Athletics.
Stone was 78-79 with a 4.06 ERA, from 71 – 79. but in 1980 he changed his delivery and went 25-7 for the Orioles. However it would be hard to argue the Mike Norris was not a batter pitcher, his era was 3/4 of a run better, his WHIP was better by a base runner per game and he pitched 30 more innings.
What made the difference?
Stone decided to try for one big year in 1980, throwing more curveballs at the expense of his arm. He later said “I knew it would ruin my arm. But one year of 25-7 is worth five of 15-15.” Throwing the curveball over fifty percent of the time, he dazzled with a 3.23 ERA (123 ERA+) to go with his 25-7 mark. He led the 1980 AL in winning percentage and victories, was 7th in ERA, 9th in innings (250 2/3), tied for 7th with Jerry Koosman in strikeouts (149), the 7th-hardest to hit pitcher in the AL for the second consecutive season, second behind Jim Clancy in walks (101) and 10th in ERA+. At one point, he had won 14 games in a row. He made his only All-Star team (throwing three perfect innings in the 1980 All-Star Game), won The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award, won the Cy Young Award and was 9th in the league in MVP voting. The rest of the stellar rotation included Jim Palmer, a multiple Cy Young Award winner in the 1970s, Mike Flanagan, the 1979 Cy Young Award winner, and Scott McGregor, who twice finished as high as sixth in the Cy Young Award voting.
The heavy curveball diet took its toll and Stone struggled with tendonitis in 1981, going 4-7 with a 4.60 ERA and reaching the point where his career ended a year after his best season.
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