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The Phillies Nation Top 100: #12 Jim Bunning

The Phillies Nation Top 100 continues today with #12. Our mission is to assess the Top 100 Phillies players of all time using impact to the Phillies, individual achievement, team achievement, traditional stats, and analytics as our criteria. The list was compiled by Ian Riccaboni and Pat Gallen with input from the rest of the Phillies Nation staff. 

From this point forward, each weekday, we will reveal two Phillies from the PN Top 100 in separate posts. To view the players listed thus far, please click here. To view the 2008 iteration of the list of Greatest Phillies of All Time as compiled by Tim Malcolm, please click here.

Please check back this afternoon for #11.

#12 – Jim Bunning

Years: 1964-1967, 1970-1971

89-73, 2.93 ERA, 1.111 WHIP in 1520.2 IP

Previous Rank: 14 (+2)

fWAR Phillies Rank: 5th among pitchers, 15th among Phillies

Signature Accomplishment: Won 17 or more games in four straight seasons (1964-1967)

Signature Moment: Threw seventh Perfect Game in Major League History on June 21, 1964

All-Star (1964, 1966)

If you asked Jim Bunning what his signature achievement in life has been, he would likely tell you that it has nothing to do with baseball. Senator Bunning spent two full terms, or twelve years, serving the people of Kentucky in the United States Senate from 1999 through 2011, elected just three years after his after his Baseball Hall of Fame induction in 1996. Bunning was a Veteran’s Committee selection in 1996 after fifteen years on the ballot and was elected as a Tiger. But make no mistake: Bunning was one of the finest pitchers in Phillies history.

Bunning, a five-time All-Star by that point, was acquired on December 5, 1963 for super-utility player Don Demeter and reliever Jack Hamilton. The trade as much of a steal as it looks like on paper: Demeter would be solid but under-perform his Phillies’ stats and Hamilton would float around for six seasons before retiring while Bunning would win 74 games in four seasons and make two All-Star teams. Bunning’s tenure in Philadelphia got off of to a great start, posting a 2.17 ERA with a .215 BAA through August 28, 1964 including the seventh perfect game in baseball history on June 21, 1964 against the Mets:

And then, September happened: manager Gene Mauch had Bunning take the mound for ten starts, posting a 5-5 record with a 4.06 ERA with a .286 BAA as the Phillies blew a 6.5 game lead with 12 to play to the Cardinals.

Bunning would finish no worse than fifth in the NL in ERA from 1964 through 1967, no worse than fourth in WHIP, led the NL in BB% in 1964 and shutouts in 1966 and 1967. From 1964 through 1967, Bunning led MLB pitchers in fWAR and innings pitched, ranked second in the NL in wins, ranked second in the NL in games started, and ranked third in the NL in ERA. Bunning would be traded for #85 on the Phillies Nation Top 100 countdown Woodie Fryman, third baseman Don Money, Bill Laxton, and Harold Clem after finishing second in the Cy Young voting in 1967. While the Phillies did not get a huge return for Bunning, Bunning’s era would jump by a point and a half and the trade would seemingly be a wash.

After a season and a half with the Pirates and half of 1969 with the Dodgers, Bunning would return to the Phillies for the 1970 season. Bunning would go a combined 15-27 in 1970 and 1971 for the Phillies with a 4.57 ERA and would retire after the 1971 season. Bunning ranks 14th in Phillies history in wins, 11th in IP, 24th in ERA, and fourth in WHIP. Bunning’s stints with the Phillies were short but he was one of the most dominant pitchers in the Major Leagues while with the Phillies. Bunning was elected on to the Phillies Wall of Fame in 1984 and had his number 14 retired by the Phillies in 2001.

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