Now that baseball fans are finally done saying Roger Clemens is the most dominating pitcher of our generation, it’s time to make an argument for another pitcher.
The most dominant pitcher of our time is not unlike Sandy Koufax. Koufax had a five-year stint of his career where he dominated batters like no other pitcher of his time. The same can be said for Pedro Martinez. The three-time Cy Young winner hasn’t had the longevity of Greg Maddux, but he did have a run from 1997 through 2003 where he could be compared to Babe Ruth’s dominance in the early 20s. When Ruth hit 54 home runs in 1920 to lead both leagues, the player with the second most was George Sisler of the St. Louis Browns … with 19.
I read a quote from Pedro that said something to the effect of, “I dominated the steroid era.” It’s not cocky if it’s the truth. Martinez did dominate hitters in a time when offense became extraordinary. While Pedro spent 1997 in Montreal in the National League, the rest of the time was with the Red Sox where the team had to face the Yankees 19 times a season. This was the 1998 Yankees; possibly the greatest team ever assembled along with two other World Series champs and two pennant winners.
Alright, it’s numbers time. Here are Pedro Martinez’s ERAs from 1997 through 2003 in chronological order: 1.90 (Montreal), 2.89, 2.07, 1.74, 2.39, 2.26, and 2.22. Five of those seven years, Martinez led his respected league in earned run average. He also recorded a WHIP rating (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 0.93, 1.09, 0.92, 0.74, 0.93, 0.92 and 1.04.
Then there’s his strikeout totals in the seven seasons: 1,758 in 1,408 innings pitched.
I’ve always thought wins and losses are overrated, but for those interested, Martinez was 118-36 in that span; a .766 winning percentage.
Yes, these numbers are impressive, but they get even more impressive when you look at everyone else pitching or, trying to pitch, in the same league of steroid users, small ballparks and tightly-wound baseballs. If you’re going to compare Maddux and Martinez, the best year to do it is 1997, when they were in the same league. While Martinez won 17 games for an Expos team that won 78 all season, Maddux won 19 for a Braves team that won 101. Maddux finished the season with a 2.20 ERA while Pedro had the lowest in both leagues at 1.90. (The “ageless” Roger Clemens’ stood at 2.05 for the Blue Jays, but we all know where he got his edge.)
Martinez took second behind Clemens in the 1998 ERA title, but that’s kind of like saying Roger Maris hit less home runs in 1961 as Sammy Sosa did in 1998.
In 1999 and 2000 Pedro Martinez was playing Nintendo on the beginner level while all the other pitchers were on All-Star. Many of the others were taking steroids to keep up with the hitters and still failing considerably. Pedro was Billy Madison playing dodgeball with the kindergarteners. Pedro was David and he threw a lot of stones at Goliaths.
In 1999, Aaron Sele, Mike Mussina and Bartolo Colon were runner up to Pedro in wins. They had 18; Pedro won 23. David Cone’s 3.44 ERA was good enough for the second best in the AL. Pedro finished up 1999 with an ERA of 2.07. That’s almost a run and a half difference between Pedro and the second best. His 0.92 WHIP was also first with second place going to Eric Milton of the Twins at 1.23.
That was just a warm-up to 2000 where Roger “More Arrogant Than Rose” Clemens was second in the AL in ERA at 3.70. Martinez: 1.74. His ERA is nearly TWO runs lower than the second best; this season is underrated (Martinez’s WHIP was a staggering 0.74 with Mike Mussina in second at 1.19). Even in 1968 when Bob Gibson dominated hitters with a 1.12 ERA, the second best was 1.60 and 1.81 after that. The same goes for Sandy Koufax. Yes, he did lead the league in a number of categories in the 60s, but the second best was never far behind in an era where the defense dominated. Put Pedro’s steroid-era numbers in the mid-60s and they’d still stick out.
Martinez wasn’t eligible as a leader in 2001 with injury problems, but he came back to lead the AL in ERA in 2002 and 2003. A man by the name of Santana took over as the most dominant pitcher after that. Johan Santana, however, has not stood apart from the crowd as well as Pedro did.
Yes, Greg Maddux is the Warren Spahn of our generation: consistent and durable.
Pedro is the Koufax of our time, only better. He put up Koufax-like numbers in an era known for names such as McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, A-Rod, Thome, and Giambi.
Clemens is a cheat and, worse than that, an arrogant liar who takes baseball fans as idiots.
Pedro is the little guy from the Dominican Republic who is at the end of his career. He did it the right way he should be recognized as the best of his time.