It’s always fun to play the Player A/Player B game. Here are the first 10 seasons of two pitchers, both right-handed, born about 18 months apart. They started their careers the same year.
Player A: 267-151, 3.05 ERA, 1,125 Ks, 768 walks, 28 shutouts, 1.242 WHIP, 139 ERA+.
Player B: 297-151, 2.97 ERA, 1,484 Ks, 1,001 walks, 36 shutouts, 1.234 WHIP, 146 ERA+.
Both were obviously extraordinary pitchers. But, if you look closely, maybe Player B was just a little bit better. More wins (back when wins has a little more meaning since pitchers completed just about every game they started) More strikeouts. More shutouts. Better ERA, Slightly lower WHIP.
Player B is Kid Nichols.
Player A is Cy Young.
Cy Young conceded that Nichols was the better pitcher those early few years. Of course, Cy Young’s greatness continued intact on for another decade, which is how he won 511 games and why there’s a pretty famous award named for him. Kid Nichols’s career would nose downward after he turned 30, and even though he would end up with 361 victories and was better than Cy Young the first decade of their careers, most baseball fans have never heard of him.