Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Pedro Martinez: Most Dominant Pitcher Ever?

Pedro Martinez: Most Dominant Pitcher Ever?



By Mike Silva ~ August 6th, 2011. Filed under: Statistical Analysis.

Earlier in the week I called Pedro Martinez the “Sandy Koufax of our generation.” This was done just by the eye test. I remember how feared and dominant Martinez was as a member of the Red Sox. Even as he declined during his days as a Met, Martinez still put together one of the better pitching performances in team history during the 2005 season. Upon further review, Martinez’s prime was not only better than Koufax, but it may be one of the most dominant periods in the history of the game. This is especially true when you considered the small American League ballparks, steroids, and the Designated Hitter.

The five year period of Koufax dominance was from 1962 to 1966; his age 26 to 30 seasons. Koufax was 111-34, with a 1.95 ERA. He struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings, walked 2.1, WHIP of 0.926, and had an ERA+ of 167.

Martinez was at the height of his game from 1997 to 2003, but to make this a fair comparison I took his age 26 to 30 seasons (1998 to 2002). During that period, he was 87-24 with a 2.27 ERA. He struck out 11.5 per nine, walked 1.8, WHIP of 0.923, and an ERA+ of 212.

If you use Baseball-Reference ERA+ as a measure, Martinez 2000 season was the best ever by any pitcher that qualified for the ERA title. Ahead of Bob Gibson in ’68, Gooden in ’85, any of Maddux’s best seasons, and Walter Johnson. Remember, ERA+ measures how much better than league average a pitcher was in that season. Martinez probably had more offense going against him than any pitcher in the history of baseball.

The biggest difference between the two was that Koufax had 100 complete games and 33 shutouts. Martinez was far behind with 18 complete games and 7 shutouts. Does that take away his performance when he did pitch? No. Plus Martinez can’t be penalized for the era he pitched. Add a Designated Hitter and steroids, and I suspect Koufax might not complete quite as many games either.

Take a look at the Top 20 pitching seasons according to ERA+

Rk Player ERA+ Year Tm CG SHO W L IP H ER BB SO ERA
1 Pedro Martinez 291 2000 BOS 7 4 18 6 217.0 128 42 32 284 1.74
2 Dutch Leonard 279 1914 BOS 17 7 19 5 224.2 139 24 60 176 0.96
3 Greg Maddux 271 1994 ATL 10 3 16 6 202.0 150 35 31 156 1.56
4 Greg Maddux 262 1995 ATL 10 3 19 2 209.2 147 38 23 181 1.63
5 Walter Johnson 259 1913 WSH 29 11 36 7 346.0 232 44 38 243 1.14
6 Bob Gibson 258 1968 STL 28 13 22 9 304.2 198 38 62 268 1.12
7 Mordecai Brown 253 1906 CHC 27 9 26 6 277.1 198 32 61 144 1.04
8 Pedro Martinez 243 1999 BOS 5 1 23 4 213.1 160 49 37 313 2.07
9 Walter Johnson 243 1912 WSH 34 7 33 12 369.0 259 57 76 303 1.39
10 Christy Mathewson 230 1905 NYG 32 8 31 9 338.2 252 48 64 206 1.28
11 Dwight Gooden 229 1985 NYM 16 8 24 4 276.2 198 47 69 268 1.53
12 Roger Clemens 226 2005 HOU 1 0 13 8 211.1 151 44 62 185 1.87
13 Pete Alexander 225 1915 PHI 36 12 31 10 376.1 253 51 64 241 1.22
14 Christy Mathewson 222 1909 NYG 26 8 25 6 275.1 192 35 36 149 1.14
15 Roger Clemens 222 1997 TOR 9 3 21 7 264.0 204 60 68 292 2.05
16 Lefty Grove 220 1931 PHA 27 4 31 4 288.2 249 66 62 175 2.06
17 Pedro Martinez 219 1997 MON 13 4 17 8 241.1 158 51 67 305 1.90
18 Kevin Brown 217 1996 FLA 5 3 17 11 233.0 187 49 33 159 1.89
19 Cy Young 217 1901 BOS 38 5 33 10 371.1 324 67 37 158 1.62
20 Jack Pfiester 216 1907 CHC 13 3 14 9 195.0 143 25 48 90 1.15
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/6/2011.

http://youtu.be/wnIVn9lv5Fw

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook

The following two tabs change content below.
Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

Latest posts by Mike Silva (see all)

4 Responses to Pedro Martinez: Most Dominant Pitcher Ever?

  1. curMetgeon

    Certainly an excellent topic for debate. I hesitate to declare one pitcher the best of all time. People measure that any number of different ways and who am I to decide which way is the right way.

    I can only say this: I’ve been observing baseball since the mid-70s and Pedro Martinez is my favorite pitcher and in my subjective opinion the best pitcher I’ve ever seen.

  2. Chuck Johnson

    ” Remember, ERA+ measures how much better than league average a pitcher was in that season.”

    And the league “average’ player was better when Koufax played than what Martinez faced.

  3. FromThisSeat.com

    I disagree with the comment taking away from Pedro’s dominance as a pitcher.

    Small american league ballparks – vague statement. Owners design the stadiums how they want, can’t take away from Pedro for that.

    Steroids – Repairs muscle tissue quickly. Made players bigger and stronger; quicker. Doesn’t help you hit home runs.

    Designated Hitter – Hitters are hitters. Great pitchers like Pedro can take anyone out of their groove at the plate. DH or Pitcher.

  4. M. Scott Eiland

    Pedro was better at his peak. . .but good grief would you look at those Maddux peak seasons. Of all of the crimes to be laid at the feet of those who perpetrated the 1994-1995 strike, the marring of the absolute peak of arguably the greatest starting pitcher in NL history has to be among the most appalling.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.