Pedro Martinez will take his place among the greatest players of all time Sunday when he’s inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Martinez, who spent the bulk of his career with the Boston Red Sox, obviously is among the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game. We decided to take a look at just how dominant Martinez was in his era compared to other legendary pitchers in their own eras.
Comparing pitchers from different eras is quite difficult and an imperfect science. For the purpose of this article, we broke down the last 115 years into six sections, selected the best pitcher from each period and compared each to his greatest competition using six stats. We then compared the top pitcher to the second-best pitcher in each category and added the difference to form one number, which we call the dominance factor (DF). It’s certainly not a perfect statistic, but it’s one way of comparing pitchers from all different eras.
1901 through 1919
The dead ball era produced the lowest offensive output of any other period in MLB history. As a result, it was a great time to be a pitcher. The cream of the crop at this time was Washington Senators hurler Walter Johnson, who many historians view as the greatest pitcher in history. Johnson is second to Cy Young on the all-time wins list, and he ranks among the best ever in several other categories, including WAR (wins above replacement), where he sits third among all players at 165.6.
1920 through 1945
Lefty Grove was the most dominant pitcher of the live ball era and racked up 300 career victories. In fact, he’s one of just three pitchers since 1920 to win 30 or more games in a single season. Grove also was one of the most impressive strikeout pitchers of his era, and he led the American League in K’s from 1925 through 1931. Grove won two World Series titles with the Philadelphia Athletics as well.
Grove, as the chart below shows, has the highest “dominance factor” in this article, primarily because of his superior ERA+.
1946 through 1960
When Whitey Ford returned from military service in 1953, he embarked on one of the best careers ever by a left-handed pitcher. He racked up 236 wins and played a key role on six World Series-winning teams for the New York Yankees.
1961 through 1980
Sandy Koufax is one of the most beloved pitchers of all-time. He also was one of the most dominant.
Interestingly enough, his five best seasons came at the end of his career. From 1962 through 1966, he won 76.6 percent of his games (including three years of 25-plus victories) and had a 1.98 ERA with a sub-1.00 WHIP. Koufax also won the World Series MVP award twice in that span (1963 and 1965).
1981 through 1990
Nolan Ryan perhaps is best known for his career strikeouts record (5,714) and no-hitter record (7). But he was a pretty well-rounded pitcher with a good ERA, a solid ERA+ and incredible longevity with a 27-year career.
1991 through 2005
The height of the steroid era was 1999 and 2000. These two seasons had the highest home runs per game ever and the most runs scored per game since 1936. Players batted .271 in 1999 and .270 in 2000, which are the highest season averages since 1939.
Despite the offensive explosion, Martinez posted an astounding 41-10 record with a 1.90 ERA, an 0.830 WHIP and 597 strikeouts in those two seasons. He won the AL Cy Young Award both seasons and should have won the MVP at least once, but he finished second in 1999 and fifth in 2000.
From 1997 through 2003, which many consider Martinez’s prime, he had an ERA+ of 213. Randy Johnson was second in that span at 170. Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens, who ranked fifth and seventh, respectively, were both more than 70 points lower than Martinez.
Martinez also is the all-time leader in ERA+ among starters at 154, and his 291 ERA+ in 2000 is the best single-season mark of anyone since 1880.
Not only was Martinez clearly the best pitcher of his era, a strong case can be made that he’s the best pitcher to ever step on a major league mound. His dominance factor is the second-highest in this article, which is pretty impressive for a pitcher from the steroid era.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@jonsaidstuff