Editor's Note: Today my guest writer is my one-time high school baseball teammate Evan Drellich. Evan is a devoted Mets' fan and equally devoted Yankees' hater. We often find ourselves in disagreements, that run from the expected (Jose Reyes vs. Derek Jeter) to the bizarre (the population of Morris, New Jersey in 1986). Despite this, Evan is one of the most knowledgeable baseball fans I know, as his essay on the one of the great pitchers of all-time proves. August 19th, 2000
Boston Defeats Texas
On the afternoon of Saturday, August 19th, 2000, Pedro Martinez treated over 33,000 Fenway-faithful to 7 innings of 3-hit ball, walking none and striking out 10 along the way. Bryce Florie finished off the game en route to a 9-0 Red Sox win, the team’s 4th consecutive victory. Pedro’s record improved to 14-4 with the W, and he would win 4 of his next and final 5 decisions in 2000. Martinez’s older brother, Ramon, would also win 10 games for the Red Sox that season and lose just 8, despite pitching horridly to the tune of a 6.13 ERA. Boston would finish 85-77, 6 games behind the wildcard-winning Seattle Mariners and just 2 games behind their rival Yankees in the East. Considering the Red Sox allowed fewer runs than any other American League team at a rate of 4.6 runs per game, Red Sox fans had to be disappointed that their team missed the playoffs. But realistically, they should not have been too surprised: the Boston bats could only muster a measly 4.89 runs per game, good enough for 3rd worst in the league.
Pedro Jaime Martinez can be credited with single handedly keeping the Red Sox alive and kicking in 2000, the year in which he won his 3rd Cy Young award. A Scorpio born in Manoguayabo of the Dominican Republic, Martinez was a lean 5”11” in his prime, and featured a high-90’s fastball, a circle change, and curveball--all with excellent movement. Martinez is best known for threatening to wake up Babe Ruth and drill him in the ass, hurling elderly Yankee bench coaches to the ground during playoff brawls, jheri curls, and for providing two thought-provoking questions: “Who is Karim Garcia?” and “Who’s your daddy?”
One thing’s for sure, Pedro Martinez was the Daddy to every lineup he faced in 2000, making opposing hitters look like children. Pedro’s brilliance at the turn of the century remains unparalleled, and is exemplified by three numbers: 1.74, .74, and 13.21. 1.74, Pedro’s 2000 ERA, is not the lowest ever in Major League Baseball history--it doesn’t even make the top 100. But when his ERA is compared to the league average, Pedro ends up with an ERA+ of 292, the best of anyone since 23-year old Tom Keefe in 1880. However, not even the great Keefe put up a WHIP better than Martinez’s 2000 mark of .74, which stands as the best WHIP of any pitcher, ever. Pedro’s success was not due to some rare ability to induce weakly hit pop-ups or groundouts, rather, batters simply could not make contact with the ball at all: Pedro struck out hitters at a rate of 13.21 per 9 innings in 2000, which stands as the second best strikeout rate for a single season, behind only the Randy Johnson of 2001. On top of it all, Pedro finished the 2000 season with the third best K/BB rate for an individual season since 1884, striking out 8.875 batters for every 1 he walked.
From 1997-2002, the game reached higher amounts of runs scored than ever before during what will forever be known as the steroids era, and Pedro Martinez just didn’t care. All he could do was get people out. And as ESPN’s David Schoenfield attests to, during those six seasons, “Pedro was the most dominating pitcher in the game’s history.” Through 2004, Pedro holds the best career mark for: ERA+ at 167, winning percentage at .705, OBP-allowed (best since 1920) at .269, WHIP at 1.03, K/BB at 4.314. Pedro also holds the 3rd best mark for career batting average against at .209, behind Ryan’s .204 and Koufax’s .205 as well the 3rd best mark for career K/9 at 10.40, behind Johnson and Wood.
Pedro Martinez will reach Cooperstown, with the reputation of an intimidator, for both his ability to get you out, and to knock you down--he’s 6th on the active list for hit batsmen, with the 5 pitchers in front of him an average of 7 years older. However, not all of Martinez’s individual highlights lie on top 10 lists: In 1995, before Pedro truly reached his prime, he pitched 9 innings of a perfect game only to lose it in the 10th, as his Expos could score no runs behind him. In 1999, Pedro was named the All-Star Game MVP, striking out 5 of the 6 batters he faced--including the first four--in front of his hometown Fenway crowd. He once struck out 17 Yankees, and has pitched 6-innings of hitless postseason ball in relief, while injured.
Pedro continues to dominate today having moved to the more pitcher-friendly National League and Shea Stadium, and looks to solidify his case to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer as his career winds down. But his post-peak career, as good as it may be, is not what I am looking to comment on. From 1997-2002, and especially in 2000, Pedro Martinez pitched at level higher than anyone in the history of baseball. An argument may be made that a young Dwight Gooden or, more realistically, the great Sandy Koufax, have also known this level of pitching greatness, but the numbers are in Old Petey’s favor. Not that Martinez flies under the radar as a premier pitcher; rather, just how dominant Pedro really was during a time when the game was owned by hitters goes underappreciated. As David Segui, formerly of the Seattle Mariners once said, “If the Lord were a pitcher, he would pitch like Pedro”.
Any comments about Pedro Martinez or this analysis? Drop a line to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s Go Mets!