Pedro Martinez’s Dominance In Steroid Era Ranks Him Among Baseball’s Best

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

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+
Walter Johnson 2.17 1.061 2.42 5.3 7.24 147
Cy Young 2.63 1.13 2.84 3.4 7.74 138
Grover Alexander 2.56 1.121 2.88 3.8 5.85 135
Christy Mathewson 2.13 1.058 2.26 4.7 5.6 135
Eddie Plank 2.35 1.119 2.45 4.5 5.1 122

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.

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+ DF
Johnson 2.17 1.061 2.42 5.3 7.24 147
2nd Best 2.13 1.058 2.26 4.7 7.74 138
Disparity -0.04 -0.003 -0.16 0.6 -0.52 9 9.123

1920 through 1945

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+
Lefty Grove 3.06 1.278 3.36 5.2 6.46 148
Carl Hubbel 2.98 1.166 3.55 4.2 4.24 130
Dizzy Dean 3.02 1.206 3.22 5.3 3.55 131
Lefty Gomez 3.34 1.352 3.88 5.3 3.08 125
Ted Lyons 3.67 1.348 4.01 2.3 3.2 118

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+.

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+ DF
Grove 3.06 1.278 3.36 5.2 6.46 148
2nd Best 2.98 1.166 3.22 5.3 4.24 131
Disparity -0.08 -0.112 -0.14 -0.1 2.22 17 18.788

1946 through 1960

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+
Whitey Ford 2.75 1.215 3.19 5.6 3.36 133
Warren Spahn 3.09 1.195 3.44 4.4 4.4 119
Bob Feller 3.25 1.316 3.48 6.1 3.62 122
Robin Roberts 3.41 1.17 3.5 4.5 4.37 113
Hal Newhouser 3.06 1.311 3.19 5.4 3.55 130

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.

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+ DF
Ford 2.75 1.215 3.19 5.6 3.36 133
2nd Best 3.06 1.17 3.19 6.1 4.4 122
Disparity 0.31 -0.045 0 -0.5 -1.04 11 9.725

1961 through 1980

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+
Sandy Koufax 2.76 1.106 2.69 9.3 4.43 131
Bob Gibson 2.91 1.188 2.89 7.2 4.8 127
Tom Seaver 2.86 1.121 3.04 6.8 5.3 127
Jim Palmer 2.86 1.18 3.5 5 3.58 125
Steve Carlton 3.22 1.247 3.15 7.1 3.5 115

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).

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+ DF
Koufax 2.76 1.106 2.69 9.3 4.43 131
2nd Best 2.86 1.121 2.89 7.2 5.3 127
Disparity 0.1 0.015 0.2 2.1 -0.87 4 5.545

1981 through 1990

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+
Nolan Ryan 3.19 1.247 2.97 9.5 3.1 112
Dwight Gooden 3.51 1.256 3.33 7.4 3.01 111
Jack Morris 3.9 1.296 3.94 5.8 2.43 105
Orel Hershiser 3.48 1.261 3.69 5.8 2.87 112
Bob Welch 3.47 1.27 3.71 5.7 3.7 106

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.

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+ DF
Ryan 3.19 1.247 2.97 9.5 3.1 112
2nd Best 3.47 1.256 3.33 7.4 3.7 112
Disparity 0.28 0.009 0.36 2.1 -0.6 0 2.149

1991 through 2005

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+
Pedro Martinez 2.93 1.054 2.91 10 4.77 154
Greg Maddux 3.16 1.143 3.26 6.1 4.54 132
Roger Clemens 3.12 1.173 3.09 8.6 5.8 143
Randy Johnson 3.29 1.171 3.19 10.6 4.74 135
Tom Glavine 3.54 1.314 3.95 5.3 3.36 118

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.

ERA WHIP FIP K/9 PWAR/Season ERA+ DF
Martinez 2.93 1.054 2.91 10 4.77 154
2nd Best 3.12 1.143 3.09 10.6 5.8 143
Disparity 0.19 0.089 0.18 -0.6 -1.03 11 9.829

Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@jonsaidstuff

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