What was the most valuable season by Dennis Eckersley? Would you believe that it was 1979?
It's often forgotten just how good of a starting pitcher Dennis Eckersley was prior to becoming one of the greatest closers of all time. Eckersley was once one of the best starting pitchers in the American League and even performed reasonably well with the Chicago Cubs. Eckersley won 20 games with the Red Sox in 1978 and was fourth in the Cy Young voting.
However, in 1979 Eckersley was even better. He won only 17 games, losing 10, but his ERA was the same at 2.99, and his WHIP was lower at 1.18. He lead the league in adjusted ERA+ and pitched 17 complete games. More to the point though, Eck's WAR that year was 6.8, which was the highest in the Major Leagues that year. And for all that, Eck finished seventh in the Cy Young voting, gaining just one vote.
It's often forgotten that Eck was once a great starter. He may not have been good enough to make the Hall of Fame, but he was certainly a talented pitcher.