November 6, 2002

The Big Unit

Randy Johnson won his 4th straight (and 5th overall) Cy Young Award yesterday.

That wasn't really much of a surprise, as Johnson was pretty clearly baseball's best pitcher in 2002.

The surprising part, to me at least, was that Johnson received every single first-place vote.

He deserved to get all of them, but I just figured there would be a couple of Phil Rogers type sportswriters (read: idiots) that would either give their 1st place vote to Curt Schilling or even John Smoltz.

But, I seemed to have underestimated the voters for once.

It seems to me that the big question with Johnson now becomes what his place among the all-time great starting pitchers is.

He still has, what would seem to be, some very productive years left in his arm, but at the age of 39 it is definitely late enough to start looking at his career.

I have been looking at it tonight, and it is pretty damn impressive.

Randy Johnson was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 2nd round of the 1985 draft.

He pitched a total of 418 innings in the Montreal minor league system:

 IP    ERA    W    L    SO    BB     H   HR      SO/9   BB/9    H/9

418 3.51 28 26 445 327 316 21 9.6 7.1 6.8

Now, those are some interesting numbers.

Randy struck out more than a batter per inning.

He also walked nearly a batter per inning and gave up fewer hits than walks!

I am not quite sure what I would have thought about Johnson as a prospect if I would have been thinking about such things in 1985 (I was 2 at the time, so it probably wasn't real high on my priorities list).

Nick Neugebauer, a rookie for the Brewers this season, had very similar minor league numbers the past several seasons and I am pretty skeptical about him, so I would suspect I would have been about Johnson too.

Randy Johnson made his Major League debut with the Expos in 1988, making 4 starts and going 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA.

He pitched another 30 innings for Montreal in 1989 and then was traded to the Seattle Mariners, along with Brian Holman and Gene Harris, for Mark Langston and a PTBNL that turned out to be Mike Campbell.

Campbell never pitched an inning and Langston ended up making a grand total of 24 starts for the Expos (all in 1989) and spent the majority of the rest of his career with the California/Anaheim Angels.

So, what did the Mariners gets for 177 innings of Mark Langston?

I think they did okay.

Brian Holman pitched a total of 545 innings for the Mariners over the course of 3 seasons.

He went 32-35 with an ERA right around league average and was out of MLB in 1991, at the age of 26.

Gene Harris pitched 94 innings in a Mariners uniform, all in relief.

Randy Johnson pitched a total 1,838 innings over 10 seasons in Seattle.

He won 130 and lost only 74 (a .637 winning %), had a 3.42 ERA and racked up 2,162 strike outs.

And, as if that weren't enough, the Mariners received several valuable players (mainly Freddy Garcia) from the Astros when they traded Johnson to Houston in the middle of the 1998 season.

Johnson only started 11 games for the Astros that year, but he made them count.

He pitched 85 innings, won 10 games, lost only once, struck out 116 batters and had a 1.28 ERA.

The Astros won the NL Central Division after going 36 and 16 with Johnson on the roster (but only 26 and 15 in games he didn't start).

RJ left Houston in the off-season and signed a long-term deal with the then 2nd year Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Big Unit won his first National League Cy Young Award in his first season with the D-Backs and led them to a 100-62 record, which was a massive, 35 game improvement over their 1st season.

Johnson has won the Cy Young Award in all of his seasons in Arizona and the D-Backs have had a winning record in each of those years.

Here are his combined #s in 4 seasons as a D-Back:

 GP     IP    ERA    W    L     SO    BB     H

140 1030 2.48 81 27 1417 288 787

Not a bad free agent signing!

He has pitched in exactly 35 games in each of the 4 seasons.

Won 17, 19, 21 and 24 games.

Struck out 364, 347, 372 and 334 batters.

Pitched 272, 249, 250 and 260 innings.

Had ERAs of 2.49, 2.64, 2.49 and 2.32.

And won 1 World Series Championship.

Plus, at 39 years old, he is as dominant as ever.

Randy Johnson's career totals:

  G    GS     IP    ERA     W     L     SO     BB      H

436 426 3008 3.06 224 106 3746 1231 2310

The Big Unit ranks 4th in the history of baseball in strikeouts.

He is #1 all-time is strike outs per 9 innings (by a pretty huge margin).

6th all-time in hits allowed per 9 innings.

9th all-time in career winning percentage.

Back in August I put together a list of my top 20 pitchers of all-time.

I ranked Randall David Johnson 14th overall.

Being the 14th greatest pitcher in the history of baseball is a pretty amazing accomplishment, but I have a feeling that, when all is said and done, Johnson will be a lot closer to #1 than he is to #14.

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