February 5, 2003
There are 3 main reasons why today's entry involves reader mail.
#1) I got some really good emails in response to yesterday's entry about Randy Johnson.
#2) I want to encourage everyone to send me emails anytime they feel like it.
I love reading what you have to say and I am always willing to respond.
#3) I absolutely had to find a reason to use the following picture...
Letter number one comes to us from Heidi K.:
"Aaron you sexy thing, I am so sorry to hear about you dropping a window on your finger. It is too bad I don't live in Minnesota or I would come over to your dorm room and kiss it and make it better."
Heidi, thanks for the email.
Your...um...laptop looks very lovely in that picture.
As for my finger, it is actual feeling a lot better than yesterday and I suspect it isn't as badly injured as I initially feared.
That said, anytime you are in Minnesota, Heidi, you are welcome to come over and kiss it. I'll even give you a tour of the Aaron's Baseball Blog Mansion, where you can see the window that dropped on my finger.
Our next letter comes to us from Rick:
Good article on Randy Johnson. Interesting idea that he may be using a [splitter] more. Another way I thought of to see this is to look at his percentage of balls in play..
Year BF BIP BIP%
2000 1001 549 54.8
2001 994 514 51.7
2002 1035 591 57.1
As you can see, Johnson's % of balls in play has increased. He is allowing more balls in play and getting more ground ball outs.
Thanks for the interesting article (and giving me something to do at work 😉 )
Thanks for the email Rick.
I am always glad to keep production down at various offices across the country.
As for the BIP figures...that is just another way of expressing what I was talking about, which is that Randy Johnson was striking out less guys in 2002.
As the Ks go down, the BIP% goes up.
I probably should have included that table in my entry yesterday, along with his K rates, GB/FB ratios and pitches/PA...they all go together to help support my little theory.
By the way, Rick included a picture of him typing his email to me, similar to Heidi's, but I decided against using it.
Believe me, you're all better off having not seen it.
Our final letter comes to us from Devin:
Interesting comparison between Johnson and Koufax, but I'm not sure it's as close as you think. I'm not entirely sure about this, but I think Koufax's ERA+ may represent better pitching than Johnson's, because of the level of offense in their leagues. As I understand it, ERA+ is a comparison of the pitcher's ERA (adjusted for park) to the league-average ERA, with the league-average set to 100. Now, in an extreme pitchers' era (the mid-60s), the league-average is quite a bit lower than in an extreme hitters' era (1999-2001, at least). But there's a limit to how good a pitcher can be - theoretically at a 0.00 ERA, and more reasonably a bit above that. And Sandy's numbers start out a lot closer to that limit than Randy's do. Randy has more room to work with, so it's easier for him to raise his ERA+ to a high level.
I would argue that Sandy's ERA+ of 190 is more impressive than Randy's. Of course, a) Randy is 39, Sandy was 32, b) in any case, Pedro's been better than both of them over the past 4 years, and c) my understanding of the math may be cockeyed anyway. I think ERA+ is a useful stat in most situations, but when you're comparing extreme conditions, you have to take these things into account.
In any case, thanks for yet another interesting article. I hope your finger gets better. (And you're not that much of an idiot. A friend of mine broke his hand punching a wall in anger. And he was sober at the time.)
Thanks for the email Devin.
And, believe me, I am that much of an idiot.
For I am Gleeman...LORD OF THE IDIOTS!
Anyway, I completely agree with what Devin said.
While, theoretically, a pitcher could get his ERA as low as 0.00, the real limit is likely close to 1.00.
The higher the league ERA is, the more room there is to separate yourself from the rest of the pack.
At the same time, I want to stress that I didn't mean to imply that I thought Randy's 1999-2002 was better than Koufax's final 4 seasons.
I just wanted to point out that the argument could certainly be made.
My main point in the Johnson/Koufax comparison was that Koufax is thought of as perhaps the greatest pitcher ever in a short time frame.
People say, "He didn't have a long career, but those 4 years were so awesome..." and stuff like that.
I just wanted to point out that, while those 4 seasons were unbelievably good, Johnson's most recent 4 years were damn good too and could possibly even be considered as good or better.
Plus, Randy had many other very good seasons prior to 1999, which is why I think he has to rank among the all-time greats, more so than even Koufax.
Devin also mentions Pedro Martinez in his letter and that gives me an opportunity to add Pedro to the Koufax/Johnson comparison.
Here is that table from yesterday, with Koufax's final 4 seasons and Randy Johnson's 4 most recent seasons:
Year IP ERA+ Year IP ERA+
1963 311 161 1999 272 178
1964 223 187 2000 249 177
1965 336 160 2001 250 184
1966 323 190 2002 260 190
Now, here is a table with Pedro's last 6 seasons:
Year IP ERA+
1997 241 221
1998 234 160
1999 213 245
2000 217 285
2001 117 189
2002 199 196
That is amazing. Using ERA+ to measure, 5 out of Pedro's last 6 seasons have been as good or better than Koufax's final year, which is often considered one of the greatest single season pitching performances of all-time.
Obviously, Pedro has not pitched nearly as many innings as Koufax and has had some injuries, but still...
I truly believe that Pedro Martinez's 1999 and 2000 seasons are the best back-to-back seasons ever by a Major League pitcher and I also think that his 2000 season is the greatest of all-time.
Since 1900, Pedro's 2000 ERA+ of 285 ranks #1 and his 245 in 1999 is #8.
Greg Maddux's 1994 ERA+ of 273 ranks 3rd and his 259 in 1995 is tied for 4th, so Maddux could also be considered for that honor.
No other pitcher has back-to-back seasons in the top 20.
The closest is Walter Johnson, who's 1918 and 1919 each rank tied for 21st at 214.
As far as Pedro's 2000 being the greatest single season by a pitcher of all-time, that is obviously up for debate.
Many people would point to Bob Gibson's 1968 season and I can't say that I would be against that either.
Gibson had an amazing 1.12 ERA in 1968, which ranks 4th all-time and #1 since 1914.
However, Gibson's ERA+ for that season is "only" the 6th best since 1900, because the environment and era he was pitching in was extremely low scoring.
According to Baseball-Reference.com (which is where I got almost all of the stats I am using for this discussion), the league ERA for Bob Gibson in 1968, adjusting for his ballpark and his league, was 2.90.
Pedro's league ERA in 2000 was 4.97.
This is exactly the sort of situation that Devin was talking about in his email.
Bob Gibson had a lot less room with which he could separate himself from the league.
His 1.12 ERA was good for a 258 ERA, but to get it up to Pedro's level in 2000 (285) he would have had to cut his actual ERA down to about 1.00.
On the other hand, there were quite a few other pitchers that posted very impressive ERAs in 1968:
Luis Tiant 1.60 (258 IP)
Sam McDowell 1.81 (269 IP)
Dave McNally 1.95 (273 IP)
Denny McLain 1.96 (336 IP)
Tommy John 1.98 (177 IP)
Bobby Bolin 1.99 (177 IP)
Bob Veale 2.05 (245 IP)
Stan Bahnsen 2.05 (267 IP)
Jerry Koosman 2.08 (264 IP)
While Gibson's 1.12 ERA is extraordinary, it does not appear at first glance to be that much better than quite a few other pitchers in 1968, mostly because of how scarce runs were in that environment overall.
Gibson's ERA+ in 1968 was 258.
Tiant's was 184, McDowell's was 163 and McLain and John tied at 154.
That closer look at the numbers does reveal that, because Gibson's ERA was so incredibly miniscule in 1968, the other ERAs, while also amazing, were still a pretty big percentage higher than Gibson's.
Meanwhile, Pedro posted a 1.74 ERA in 2000.
Here are the other top ERAs from that year:
You'll notice that not one of the top ERAs (besides Pedro's) came from the American League, which is where Pedro pitched.
Here are leaders from the 2000 AL:
Pedro had a 1.74 ERA in 2000 and not a single other pitcher in the AL that pitched enough to qualify for the ERA title had an ERA lower than 3.70.
Roger Clemens was 2nd to Pedro and his ERA was 112% higher than Pedro's!
In contrast, Bobby Bolin finished 2nd in NL ERA race in 1968 with a 1.99 ERA, which was 77% higher than Gibson's.
If you look at both leagues though, as we did in Gibson's case, it gets a lot closer.
Martinez's ERA+ was 285.
Randy Johnson's was 177, Jeff D'Amico's was 169 and Kevin Brown's was 167.
To do a quick recap:
Bob Gibson's 1968 ERA = 1.12
Pedro Martinez's 2000 ERA = 1.74
Bob Gibson's 1968 ERA+ = 258
Pedro Martinez's 2000 ERA+ = 285
The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th best ERAs in 1968, compared to Gibson's, were 43%, 62%, 74%, 75% and 77% higher than Gibson's.
The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th best ERAs in 2000, compared to Pedro's, were 48%, 52%, 53%, 72% and 80% higher than Pedro's.
The next best ERA+ totals to Gibson's 258 in 1968 were: 184, 163 and 154.
The next best ERA+ totals to Pedro's 285 in 2000 were: 177, 169 and 167.
Gibson led the NL in 1968 with a 1.12 ERA, the next best ERA in the NL was 1.99, 78% higher.
Martinez led the AL in 2000 with a 1.74 ERA, the next best ERA in the AL was 3.70, 112% higher.
Oh, and just in case you thought I was forgetting about how many innings they each pitched...
Gibson pitched a whole lot more innings in 1968 than Pedro did in 2000, but that is largely due to the differences in the two eras.
Gibson pitched 305 innings in 1968, while Martinez pitched only 217 in 2000.
However, when put in context with the rest of baseball, those innings pitched totals are a lot closer:
Gibson was 3rd in the National League in innings, about 7% fewer than the league leader (Juan Marichal)
Martinez was tied for 7th in the American League in innings, about 9% fewer than the league leader (Mike Mussina).
I am sure this debate could go on forever and it is definitely a lot of fun to look back at some of these stats from 1968 and even 2000.
As of right now, I will stick to what I have been saying, which is that Pedro's 2000 season was the greatest of all-time.
By the way, for more of my thoughts on the greatness of Pedro Martinez, I urge you to check out my entry from August 5th entitled, simply, "Pedro."
This blog started on August 1st, so that Pedro entry was written in its first week of existence, but it remains one of my favorite pieces that I have written on this site.
This website went over the 30,000 visitor mark early this morning.
I think I've made announcements at 5,000, 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 and 25,000, so I figured I might as well continue the pattern.
Thanks to everyone that visits the site on a regular basis and a special thanks to everyone that sends me emails (especially you, Heidi)!
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****