By In 100 Greatest

No. 44: Pedro Martinez

Tony Pena still owns the house where he grew up in the Dominican Republic. The floor is dirt and you see bits of the sky as you look through the roof and the walls are as thin and brittle as graham crackers. But it still stands and Tony Pena comes by every so often to see it and to remember. His life is a miracle. That’s the thing he wants to remember. There was so little hope in that poor little town of Palo Verde. Life inescapably led to the banana fields. Only his life did not. Because … baseball.

The day he showed us the house there was a woman living there, and she is still there … she is a family friend and lives there for free. There is only one thing Tony Pena asks. She must not change things. This house must remain as it was because this house is what connects Tony Pena to a past he must remember. He was an All-Star catcher. He was a baseball manager. He has long been a bench coach for the New York Yankees. He is a hero to his people. He cannot accomplish all that he must do if he does not remember.

But even in this, the woman does not have to keep everything exactly the same. It is her home now.

“Right there,” Pena said as he pointed at a photo on the wall, “there used to be a picture of Jesus.”

The picture is now of Pedro Martinez.

* * *

Some stories get repeated so often that they lose their wonder. The story of Dominican baseball is such a story. There are roughly as many people in the Dominican Republic as in the state of Georgia. Since 1960, there have been three shortstops from the state of Georgia who have gotten 500 plate appearances in the big leagues. There have been 37 from the Dominican Republic.

There has never been a pitcher born in Georgia elected to the Hall of Fame — Kevin Brown is probably the closest and he didn’t even make it to the second ballot. There is a Hall of Fame pitcher from the Dominican Republic — Juan Marichal. And next year Pedro Martinez will become the second.

Martinez’s story is one of those one of those we have grown numb to; it is in its own way the essential Dominican Republic baseball story. Pedro’s father Paolino was by all accounts a brilliant sinkerball pitcher who simply could not afford to go to the Major Leagues. According to one version, Paulino could not even afford the necessary cleats. Paulino was from that time in the 1950s when Dominican baseball was still largely undiscovered and attempting to go to the Major Leagues was a bit like Magellan attempting to circumnavigate the earth. Paulino always said he was offered a tryout by the New York Giants. His friends Matty and Felipe Alou found their way to the tryout and they became Major League stars. The Alous would always say Paulino could have been a major league star too.

Pedro did not grow up with much more than his father. He grew up in Manoguayabo, just outside of Santo Domingo. Martinez talked often of playing baseball with doll’s heads and tree branches, fruits and pipes; he talked sometimes of the trash on his street. His home like Pena’s had a dirt floor with a crumbling roof but it did not have walls; sheets separated the rooms.

In a way, though, Pedro Martinez grew up in a very different time from his father; this was after Marichal and Joaquin Andujar and Mario Soto and Jose Rijo, when scouts were scouring the island looking for live arms. There was another pitcher who was pivotal to how scouts came to view Dominican pitchers, and he happened to be Pedro’s older brother Ramon. He was the true phenom. At 17, Ramon pitched for the Dominican Olympic team, which was chosen to replace the boycotting Cuban team.

That Dominican team was badly overmatched but Ramon Martinez left scouts awestruck. He was a whole new kind of Dominican pitcher. He was tall and lanky with a blazing fastball. Marichal had been barely 6-feet tall and his genius was in his slider and the way he changed speeds. Soto was also about 6-feet tall and was a pioneer of the circle change. Andujar, another 6-footer or so, would baffle hitters with various motions and arm angles.

But Ramon Martinez, at 6-foot-4, was a pure power pitcher. At age 22, pitching for the 1990 Dodgers, he finished second in the Cy Young Award voting. He went 20-6 with a 2.92 ERA, a league leading 12 complete games and 223 strikeouts in 234 innings. By then, his younger brother Pedro — who was not even 6-feet tall and seemed more in the mold of Marichal and Soto — was pitching for Great Falls in the Dodgers minor league system. In truth, Pedro was a new kind of pitcher. He had the magician’s dexterity of Marichal. But he had the overpowering fastball of his brother. The combination was breathtaking.

In 1992, Pedro made it to his first big league camp and was impressive enough that, according to Norm King’s well-researched SABR article, Dodgers’ executive Fred Claire insisted that he Martinez untouchable in trade talks. “I won’t trade Pedro Martinez, I don’t care who they offer,” he told a reporter from the Ocala Star Banner.

Well, it turns out, he did care. The fact the Dodgers traded Martinez a year and a half later just proves a point: people will do dumb things for dumb reasons. By the time the Dodgers traded Pedro, they had to know his brilliance. As a rookie in 1993, he pitched 107 innings, mostly in relief. He won 10 games. He struck out 119 — 10 per nine innings — and had a 2.61 ERA. That combination has only been done one time in baseball history by a rookie — Dwight Gooden. This was a once-in-a-lifetime arm and the Dodgers had to know that.

But the Dodgers could not get a gnawing image out of their heads: Martinez looked too small and frail to be a starter. They thought he would have to be a 100-or-so inning guy out of the pen and, so, not overly valuable. Years later, this exact reasoning would keep several teams from drafting Tim Lincecum out of college. The Dodgers in November 1993 — 18 months after saying they didn’t care WHO was offered — traded Martinez to Montreal straight up for Delino DeShields a tall second baseman from Delaware who was coming off a fine season with the Expos. DeShields hit .295 and had a .389 on-base percentage and played a solid second base.* He would play three ghastly seasons in Los Angeles before escaping to St. Louis and rebuilding his career.

*This is unrelated, but DeShields in 1993 had 562 plate appearances and hit .295, but he had only 29 RBIs all year. This seems exceedingly low so I looked it up. His total is low, but it pales in comparison with the astonishing season Luis Castillo had in 2000 for the Marlins. Castillo had a fantastic year in various ways. He hit .334 with a .418 on-base percentage. He stole a league-leading 62 bases and scored 101 runs. Even his .388 slugging percentage, while certainly low, is not a disgrace for a light-hitting batter who bunts a lot. He hit three triples and two homers.

Do you know how many RBIs Castillo had in 2000?


The trade, of course, is one of baseball’s all-time fiascos and perhaps a reason why the Dodgers have not come close to a World Series since 1988. The Dodgers, after winning 15 pennants between 1946 and 1990, did not win a single playoff game in the 1990s. Ramon Martinez was their Game 1 starter in both of the 1990s playoff series. In retrospect, Pedro might have been a better option.

You might recall, Martinez when he first got to Montreal was basically known for being a hothead so it is certainly possible the Dodgers had some questions about his character. Martinez hit a league leading 11 batters in 1994 and was thrown out of a game. In his second start for the 1994 Expos, he was throwing a perfect game and in the eighth inning he plunked Cincinnati’s Reggie Sanders, who charged the mound. Now, Reggie Sanders is a pretty sensible soul but he was convinced that Pedro hit him on purpose … convinced that making a statement was more important to the young Pedro than throwing a perfecto.

Whether Sanders was right or wrong is not the point. The point is that was how many people felt about Martinez. He was flashy and temperamental and a touch erratic. He was breathtaking — hopping mid-90s fastball, nasty slider and a change-up that was developing into perhaps the best in baseball history — but he was also less than the sum of his parts. He threw nine perfect innings against San Diego in 1995 (he gave up a hit in the 10th) but that year he also had some injuries and was an uninteresting 14-10 with a 3.51 ERA. The next year, he had a 3.70 ERA. For three years in Montreal, he was a very good pitcher, not a great one. But he was a pitcher batters recoiled from, a pitcher who made them uneasy and uncertain and filled with general dread. And it seemed like that, more than anything, was his goal in the early years.

Then, in 1997, the stars aligned and the tumblers clicked and the change-up locked in. For the next seven years — when not halted by various injuries and pains — Pedro Martinez was the greatest pitcher I ever saw. In those seven years, Martinez went 118-36 with a 2.20 ERA, a 213 ERA+, 1,761 strikeouts, 351 walks, and just 93 home runs allowed. Batters enjoying the greatest hitting conditions in more than a half century, managed only to hit .198/.253/.297 against Pedro over that time. There was simply never a pitcher quite like him.

What made Martinez so great? Bill James once referred to it as the power of exponentials. You probably know the story of wheat and the chessboard. There are countless versions of it, but the way I always heard it was that a man saved the king’s life and, in return, wanted to marry his daughter. The king said no, but he could have anything else in his kingdom. So the man pulled out a chessboard and said, “Then all I want is this. Give me one wheat stalk for the first square on the board, then double the stalks for every square after that. Give me one stalk for the first square, two for the second, four for the third, until the end of the board.”

The king of course says yes … even when you know how it ends it still sounds so utterly reasonable. But you know how it ends. There are 64 squares on a chessboard. By the 21st square, simply by doubling, we are over a million. By the 30th, we have crossed a billion. At the 39th square, the number crosses a trillion. By square 64, the number is: 9,223,372,036,854,780,000 — which is not QUITE as many stars there are estimated to be in the galaxy, but is a mere five zeroes away. I would say it’s probably a little bit more wheat than the guy has in his kingdom … or in the world … or in the known universe. The king, impressed by this display, allows the man to marry his daughter in the version I heard. A more realistic version would have the king executing the guy for making him look like a dumbass.

Anyway, the chessboard of wheat was Pedro Martinez. His fastball was great, then his slider was great so you double it, and his change-up was all-time great so you double it again. He was a fierce competitor — double it. He threw inside about as brazenly and as often as any pitcher ever — double it. He had a genius for pitching that often went unappreciated — double it. He got better every year — double it once more.

In 1997, Martinez won his first Cy Young. He went 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA, 13 complete games, 305 strikeouts, 67 walks. The only seasons you could really compare that one to — where a pitcher has a sub 2.00 ERA, strikes out 300 and hardly walks anybody — were those great Koufax seasons in the mid-1960s. Koufax threw a lot more innings each year but Koufax also pitched off Mound Fuji at Dodger Stadium and pitched in a time when the strike zone was high and weight training was low. Teams averaged barely four runs a game in Koufax’s prime. In 1997, teams averaged 4.6 runs per game, about — 15% higher.

Thing is, 1997 was not even close to Pedro’s best year. In 1999, pitching now at Fenway Park in a league averaging about 5.2 runs per game, Martinez struck out 313, walked 37 (this has to be a misprint), and allowed nine home runs all year. There was almost nothing to compare this season to … by Fangraphs WAR, this was the second-greatest season since 1900 behind only Steve Carlton’s famous 1972 season. It should be noted that Carlton threw 130 more innings in 1972; it was a different time. Inning-by-inning, no pitcher was ever as good as Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Unless … it’s Pedro Martinez in 2000. Baseball Reference, which figures pitcher WAR differently, ranks Martinez’s 2000 season as being considerably better than 1999. His ERA was a.1.74, he struck out fewer (284) but amazingly walked fewer too (32). His ERA+ of 291 — that’s the pitcher’s ERA measured against the league ERA — is the best ever recorded by a full-time starter. To offer a comparison, as good as Koufax’s seasons were, he never had an ERA+ of 200. The year Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA, his ERA+ was 258 … still not approaching that of Pedro in 2000.

He won the Cy Young both of those years, and if he had maintained anything close to that level of greatness for a few more years he would be in the Top 10 of this list. But he did not. The Dodgers were not entirely wrong about Martinez; he did put a lot of strain on his body and his arm and he was more or less done was a pitcher at 33.

Like Koufax, he was great — truly great — for seven or so years, though Pedro achieved more on either side of his prime. But I would say, as great as Koufax was, Pedro was even better at his peak. I’ve said it before; if the Devil ever gives me one pitcher to play for my soul, I’m taking Pedro Martinez around 1999 and 2000. He wasn’t just the greatest pitcher I ever saw. He was the one pitcher who would damn well move the Devil off the plate.

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103 Responses to No. 44: Pedro Martinez

  1. desorgher says:

    I’ve never seen a pitcher’s intelligence be less respected/understood. All you ever heard was how good his stuff was, but people who watched him day in and day out saw a guy who was as smart as any pitcher ever with his sequencing and approach. No one talks about Maddux’s stuff (throwing low 90s with unreal movement and pinpoint control), they just talk about his brains, but Pedro was his equal in that regard.

    • Corey says:

      This is a very good point, and I wonder how much of it comes down to physical apperance + racial stereotypes. Maddux was a bland-looking white guy with glasses, so his success MUST be due to outsmarting people rather than superior physical ability. Martinez was dark-skinned and tempermental, so he clearly succeeded only because of his innate physical talents and not because of intelligence. Etc. …

      • Dave says:

        To be fair, when you thrown 89-90 as Maddux did for his whole career, you have people asking “how he do dat?” Pedro had awesome stuff that made the “how” question easy to answer. It wasn’t until he lost his heater that people started appreciating how smart a pitcher Pedro was.

      • Joni says:

        Your article was exeenlclt and erudite.

    • Andrew says:

      Scouts, like most people, are slaves of the eyeball test. I remember Sports Illustrated dismissing Martinez when he was still in the minors as “a half-foot shorter than Ramon, including his fastball.”

    • Brian says:

      One time I remember that he did get his due for the mental side of the game was the 1999 ALDS against Cleveland, when he came on in relief in Game 5, sore shoulder and all, and completely shut down the Indians for the final six innings. Everyone knew he wasn’t quite right physically at the time and held the game up as a testament to his intellect.

      • The thing about that 1999 ALDS game is that he came in with the score tied at 8-8 in the fourth inning, so it’s not as if he was facing the Little Sisters Of The Poor. This was a totally loaded lineup — Alomar, Thome, Manny and all — and he had been pulled from game 1 with a bad shoulder.

        And he was unhittable — six no-hit innings, three walks, no hard hit balls even. Just other-worldly.

        And a few days later he made Clemens and the Yankees look like Little Leaguers.

  2. Dave says:

    As a Mets fan, I never appreciated how good a PITCHER he was until he came to Shea. He was a genius, even when he clearly didn’t have the stuff he’d had previously. Double that again… He was a joy to watch at work. If only he could have stayed healthier.

  3. George says:

    Wisdom of Crowds had Pedro 36th in the Poz Prediction Contest. This drops WoC from 2nd to 3rd. Still pretty impressive how close it’s been so far.

    • Ross says:

      Thanks for the update! I was wondering how our pal WoC was doing. I also would have had Pedro a few spots higher myself, but don’t have a big issue with him being here.

  4. math nerd alert: you’re talking about exponentials, not factorials. but either way, Pedro was unbelievable in his prime.

  5. Dave says:

    My favorite Pedro memory was the 1999 postseason. In game 5 of the division series the Indians pounded Bret Saberhagen and Derek Lowe (two pretty good pitchers, both of whom had very good seasons in ’99) all over the park for three innings: 7 hits, 3 homers, 8 runs. Pedro, who had left game 1 with an injury and was not expected to return in the series, pulled a Willis Reed; he relieved in the 4th inning and proceeded to throw 6 hitless innings of baseball. This was against a club that scored more than 1000 runs and easily led the AL in scoring that season.

    Five days later in the ALCS, he threw seven innings against the Yankees, allowing 2 hits, 2 walks, no runs, and striking out 12. He left with the score 13-0 in what would his only appearance, and not coincidentally the Sox only victory, in the series. The Yankees had scored a measly 900 runs in the regular season.

    I don’t know how to choose between Pedro 1999 and Pedro 2000, but I would take either of them over any version of any other pitcher in history.

    • Dave says:

      I should have added…that Yankee game was the ONLY game NY lost in the entire 1999 postseason. 11-1. Champs. One season removed from perhaps the greatest season in MLB history. And Pedro just toyed with them.

    • buddaley says:

      And talk about smart, he had no fastball in that game. I think he topped out at 88 or so. And he walked 3 batters (8 Ks) clearly because he was nibbling and knew he could not throw the fastball anywhere close to the plate. But he was a magician. The Indians were baffled.

      I agree with Joe. The greatest peak of any pitcher I ever witnessed, going back to the 1950s in my case.

  6. hazzard says:

    All Pedro does is make me cry, yet again, for my beloved Expos.

  7. Gee Tee says:

    As always, loved it, Joe.

    People who try to say that Koufax was more dominant than Pedro just don’t get it.

    In 2000…

    Pedro led the AL in ERA at 1.74. Rogers Clemens was second, at 3.70.

    Pedro led the AL in WHIP at 0.737 (!!!). Mike Mussina was second, at 1.187.

    Pedro led the AL in K/BB ratio at 8.875. David Wells was second, at 5.355.

    There was simply no one close to being on his level.

    • Dave says:

      And the environment in which the 2 pitchers played could not have been more different. Koufax pitched in the NL (no DH) during one of the weakest offensive eras in all of MLB history, and his home park at that time was one of the most pitcher-friendly in MLB history. Pedro pitched in the AL, in Fenway, in perhaps the most run-friendly era in baseball history (you could argue for the 1890s, or the late 20s-early 30s).

      One can legitimately argue for Koufax on a quantity basis I suppose (more games, more innings, more complete games), but on a quality/dominance basis, absolutely not.

    • bill fallon says:

      I’ve always thought these numbers were the best indication of just how good he really was. It’s impossible to compare players who played 35 years apart (Koufax/Martinez), there are to many variables. When compared to the other players of his day Martinez is truly dominant. Bob Gibson’s amazing numbers in 1968 come up way short of Pedro’s 2000 season. Gibson’s ERA 1.12 vs #2 Bob Bolin 1.99, Gibson’s WHIP .853 vs #2 Seaver .978 and K/BB ration Gibson was #2 (4.323) to Juan Marichal (4.739).

  8. JB says:

    If you have one game for your soul, you better hope it only goes seven innings because Pedro isn’t going nine.

    • Corey says:

      This was really only true after he started to wear down in 2001. From 1996-2000 he averaged 224 IP and 6 CG per season and he lead the league in CGs in 1997 with 13.

    • Dave says:

      Except this is nonsense, spouted by people who remember 1 game (game 7 of the 2003 ALCS). Pedro in fact pitched plenty of complete games in his career, including 28 in the 4 year span Joe references (1997-2000). I believe only Randy Johnson threw more during that time.

      Complete games are a thing of the past in baseball for strategic reasons; you can bet yourself that if Koufax, Gibson or any great pitcher of the past were in the game today, they would be completing no more than 3-5 games per season.

    • LuisLozada says:

      And that Grady Little isn’t managing the game for you!

  9. Corey says:

    There are so many great Pedro games. The 99 playoffs alluded to above is one. I’m particularly fond of the Gerald Williams game in 2000, where he hit Williams in the game’s first AB, sparking a bench-clearing brawl, and then retired the next 24 in order before allowing a single in the ninth, finishing with 9IP 1H 0R 0ER 0BB 13K.

  10. Zac Schmitt says:

    Can you imagine Pedro pitching full time in Dodger Stadium? As a Yankee fan who practically goes into fits remembering what he used to do in hitter-friendly Fenway, I almost don’t want to.

    • Anon says:

      I was going to post the same thing – what if the DOdgers don’t trade him? Can you imagine him putting up something like a 1.30-1.40 ERA in 2000?

      • MisterMJ says:

        Lasorda would have dug an early grave for Pedro’s career. Just ask Ramon. Or Fernando. Or Orel, Hideo, Ismael, etc.

  11. Jan says:

    Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling are the only two pitchers to strike out 3.000 batters and give up less than 3,000 hits. Schilling gave up 2,998 hits in 3261 innings. Pedro gave up a ridiculously low 2221 hits in 2827.1 innings. It is no coincidence that they are #2(Schilling) and #3 (Martinez) in strike out to walk ratio. While both guys don’t have the 300 wins, these were both great pitchers.

    • Ian R. says:

      They’re actually not the only two such pitchers – they’re just the only two who ended their careers with over 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 3,000 hits. Other pitchers have reached 3,000 Ks before they reached 3,000 hits allowed.

      For instance, here’s Nolan Ryan’s line at the end of the 1980 season: 2925.0 innings, 3109 strikeouts and an even more ridiculous 2094 hits. He wound up giving up over 3,000 in his career only because he went ahead and pitched into his forties.

      Randy Johnson actually picked up his 3,000th strikeout before he gave up even 2,000 hits. Here’s his line as of the end of the 2000 season: 2498.2 IP, 3040 K, 1932 H.

      And here’s Roger Clemens at the end of the 1998 season: 3274.1 IP, 3153 K, 2732 H.

      You’re absolutely right about their ridiculously low walk totals, though. The only other 3,000-K pitcher with fewer than 1,000 walks is Maddux, who walked an amazingly low 999 in over 5,000 innings.

      • Pat says:

        … I’m curious whether Nolan Ryan had more or fewer than 3,000 walks at that point….

        (Kidding! obviously. But only sort of.)

        • Ian R. says:

          Fewer, of course, but still a very impressive 1,744. If Ryan had retired at the end of the 1980 season, he’d be fifth all-time in walks, behind only Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, Early Wynn and Bob Feller.

          …I’m surprised to see Feller on that list, given the relative brevity of his career and the era in which he played. A Feller who never went to war would almost certainly have passed 2,000 walks (barring injury), and while Ryan would still be #1 all-time, his lead wouldn’t be anywhere near as huge.

  12. Player A

    IP 1408 ER 2.21 HR/9 0.59 WHIP incl. HBP 0.99 SO/9 11.26


    Player B

    IP 1283.2 ER 2.21 HR/9 0.50 WHIP incl. HBP 1.04 SO/9 8.22

    Except the SO/9 – pretty similar don’t you think? Pedro Martinez 1997-2003 vs Marano Rivera career numbers

    • Before I’m misunderstood – I’m using this to prove how unbelievably great Pedro was for those 7 years

    • MikeN says:

      Are you sure you did that right? I find it hard to believe Rivera hit a batter every two innings, or Pedro two every five.

      • The comment’s formatting makes it difficult to read, so I assume you’re making the same mistake I did at first. The HBP is not a standalone statistic up there but instead is treated as part of WHIP. So Player A gave up 0.99 Walks + Hits + HBPs every inning.

  13. Steven says:

    Joe, sorry to nitpick, seriously, because I really enjoyed this article but Pedro did not throw a slider. I doubt he ever threw a slider in his major league career. His breaking ball was a curveball. I’m kind of at a loss why you would mix these two pitches up but it’s nothing in the grand scheme of things or about Pedro’s career. I seriously loved Pedro’s curveball, even more than his changeup so I just had to interject. The amount of rotation he could impart on that thing was incredible. One thing I always loved about his curveball was how he never intentionally bounced it in the dirt to get batters to chase. In fact, he never did not with all of his pitches. He threw his pitches in the zone or just off the plate and got out hitters “cleanly.” In a way, it made proceedings look more effortless.

    Anyway, I’m also not sure Pedro’s mind for pitching was underappreciated. Of course the sheer quality of his arsenal doesn’t push his pitching acumen to the front of his profile or narrative but I thought he was widely known for his artistry on the mound, for his willingness to throw any pitch in any count and keep hitters off balance. If it was underappreciated, it had to be nationally because in New England, he was widely admired for his pitching intelligence.

    One regret I have about his career is that maybe his prime would’ve lasted longer if he didn’t max out during most of his games. The 1999 postseason showed what Pedro could do if he expended something like 85 percent effort with the same release point and arm angle. He didn’t need 95 mph velocity and the extra oomph of arm speed on his off speed pitches to dominate. A 88-91 mph FB with devastating movement, still fantastic off speed pitches and expert pitching sequence held up just fine. If Pedro could have motored through games giving 85 percent effort and only dialed it up when he needed to, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he could’ve lasted much, much longer. The level of effort he expended in his 17 K game against the Yankees in 1999 versus the level of effort he expended in his 12 K, 7 inning, 0 ER game against the Yankees in the 1999 postseason is eye popping.

    • jposnanski says:

      I’m going to have to strongly disagree with you here.

      From the Neyer/James guide to pitchers:

      Pitch selection
      1. Fastball
      2. Slider
      3. Change
      Source: 1994 Montreal Expos Media Guide

      Pitch selection
      1. Fastball
      2. Circle change
      3. Cut fastball (looks like a slider)
      4. Slider
      5. Curve
      Source: 1998 and 2000 Scouting Notebooks

      In my memory of watching Pedro, everything moved fast except for the change-up .That’s part of what made the change-up so wonderful. I really don’t think he started throwing curveballs at all until late in his career, and then as sort of a crutch because of his diminishing fastball. Others may want to weigh in here, but I don’t believe his curveball was particularly special.

      • desorgher says:

        His curve ball was incredible when he had the feel. Watch Rickey Ledee’s at bats in the 17K game in the Bronx. Or rewatch the Indians game 5.
        I watched almost every start he threw in a Boston uni and I don’t think he had a slider. Announcers always said he did, but he threw two FB a change and a curve. I’d bet he threw a cutter from time to time, but he never really used the slider until he was late in his career.

        • desorgher says:

          I wonder if we’re talking about the same pitch…it had a 12-6 movement and came out of his hand like a curve, but maybe it was actually a slider.

      • James says:

        It was a curveball, and according to this list on ESPN, the greatest ever.

        And here is the NY Times write-up of the 17 strikeout 1 hit game against the Yankees, with references galore to the unhittable curve.

      • Steven says:

        Joe, I can’t believe you think he only started throwing curveballs later in his career. This makes me question whether you watched him at all and whether your appreciation /evaluation of him comes from his statistics. It is impossible to have watched his prime and say he didn’t throw a curveball.

        Check out this curveball he threw to Sammy Sosa in the 1999 all-star game. It’s an absolute 82 mph yakker that made Sosa’s knees buckle. It’s at the 50:25 mark.

        Or check out his 1999 postseason start against the Yankees, also featuring Roger Clemens. Plenty of curveballs were thrown.

        Also, Pedro did not throw everything fast besides his curveball. Am I to infer that you think his breaking balls registered in the high 80s. I’m baffled.

        At his prime, this was his arsenal:

        91-97 FB, usually sat 92-94, capable of hitting 97 or 98 in a big situation

        77-82 Curveball

        79-84 Changeup

        89-91 Cutter

        His arsenal did not change from the time he got rolling in Montreal to his final start witht he Phillies. As his arm slot go lower and lower, I wished he would’ve added a slider or even a split to compensate for the diminish effectiveness of his change but he never did.

        • David Berg says:

          I assume Neyer/James and the scouting notebooks were basing their classifications off of some formal system, whereby the 80mph velocity and relatively short, sharp break put Pedro’s breaking ball in the “slider” category. I always thought of it as a curve because it had a lot of vertical break and little horizontal break.

          This happens to hard throwers a lot. Kerry Wood threw his curveball 85mph so everyone called it a slider. FanGraphs rates Jose Fernandez as throwing a lot of curveballs and a lot of sliders. In reality, it’s one pitch, which is right on the line between slider and curve, and can easily get classified either way. I mean, the speed and break does vary some — one may be more slider-y and another more curve-y — but it’s not two different pitches.

          With the Mets, Pedro actually did throw a pretty normal-looking slider with minimal but late break, as well as a slow curve. The pitches looked nothing alike, and could easily be distinguished from each other (and from the breaking ball he threw in his prime).

          Steven, I don’t recall seeing Pedro throw a cutter in 1999-2003; there’s not a one shown in any of his 1999-2000 highlight videos.

  14. Keane says:

    Also, look at Lincecum now. Hardly the same as he was. Were those five dominating years worth it? Probably.

  15. Pedro was an absolute magician with a baseball in his hands. As a Mets fan, I was sad that his best days were behind him, but even a diminished Pedro was an artist.

  16. Steve says:

    Great piece of writing, Joe. I have said it before: Pedro’s performance against the Yankees on September 10, 1999 was the greatest pitching I ever saw, even better than the perfect games. It was like Pedro was throwing a frigging whiffle ball. The Yankees were helpless against him.

  17. George says:

    Even if Lincecum’s career ended today, you take that output from a top 10 pick anytime. Sure in hindsight, they’d rather have had Kershaw from that draft, but Lincecum was still a great pick.

    • Robert says:

      I think the Lincecum career arc could be the new paradigm for pitching prospects: Get them up young and healthy, get what you can out of them because they will break down or at a minimum wear down, and that is a guarantee.

      I truly believe we’ll see pitching get younger and younger as teams try to maximize their investments in them.

    • LuisLozada says:

      Or exercise more and smoke less. There is a rumor that Timmy’s teammates begged him to workout but he wouldn’t do it. Like many others he thought we could get by on talent forever.

    • Paul Yeager says:

      World Series titles:
      Lincecum 2 Kershaw 0

      This Giants fan wouldn’t rather have drafted Kershaw.

  18. Bob Hertzel says:

    Concerning RBI … I offer Enzo Hernandez who, in his rookie year, had 618 plate appearances, 122 hits … and 12 RBI. Over first two years 987 plate appearances and 27 RBI. Of course, he just couldn’t hit, .224 career average and 2 HR, but ….

  19. bl says:

    So much of what needed to be said has already been said. But there is one thing that I always thought made Pedro completely unique. Of all the pitchers who were considered intimidating and who made batters nervous in the box, Pedro seems to be the only one who seemed to also be having fun. You think of Bob Gibson or Randy Johnson and you picture angry, scowling men. Pedro played with joy, like a kid on the playground. He smiled and joked and generally seemed to enjoy himself. Absolutely my favorite baseball player.

  20. buddaley says:

    As a Yankee fan in 1973, my nightmare memory about a hitter without RBIs is Matty Alou. We did not consider context much in those years, so Matty’s 28 RBI over 538 plate appearances and a .296 BA seemed proof that he could not hit in the clutch. Remember, of those 538 PAs, 323 came as the 3rd place batter! Another 205 came as the #2 hitter. I wonder how often a #3 hitter ends up with so few RBIs.

  21. tim says:

    In 1992, Rob Deer had 32 home runs and 64 RBI. That’s impressive!

  22. Graham Reeper says:

    I’m an atheist, but I could be swayed by Pedro.

  23. Ross says:

    A minor regret I have about Pedro’s career is that I wish his brilliant season stretch lasted one more year to 2004 and therefore would have included a championship season.

  24. MisterMJ says:

    Pedro still had “PEDRO” elements during his first year with the Mets. The Mets in 2005 were middling – hovering around .500 all season long – and fans had to suffer through painful (sometimes literally) outings by Victor Zambrano, Kaz Ishii, and downside-of-career Glavine. Also Mets fan endured Steve Trachsel for a couple years. They can be best characterized as “laboring.” The first time I saw Pedro at Shea was mid-July in 2005 against Atlanta. Atlanta threw out Mike Hampton and he got cratered early. Since the Mets took a healthy lead, Pedro pitched only six innings, gave up a couple hits and walked none. Couldn’t have been more than 60 or so pitches. He made it look so easy.

  25. W.R. says:

    Second nerd alert. 9,223,372,036,854,780,000 is actually about 30 million times more stars than there are in our galaxy. Add the five more zeroes and you get a number more or less like all the stars in the observable universe, with its hundred billion or more galaxies.

  26. doncoffin64 says:

    ALDS, October 1999. Boston has just won Games 3 & 4, 11-9 and 23-7. I scalp a ticket for Game 5 for its face value–Cleveland fans were bailing. At the end of 3, it-s 8-7, Cleveland. Boston ties the game at 8 in the top of the 4th. Martinez–who had come out of Game 1 early (4 IP, 0R) with a back injury–comes in and throws 6 innings of *no-hit* ball–8 Ks and 3 Ws, nothing hard hit (2 soft infield line drives, three medium fly outs). Perhaps the most amazing exhibition of pitching I have ever seen. It looked like he was in pain with every pitch. But he carved Cleveland up with his command of the zone, and with an extraordinarily intelligent job of pitching. Boston won those last three games by a combined 45-24, put it was Martinez’s pitching in Game 5 that won it. Boston lost the ALCS to the Yankees, with Martinez getting the only win, in Game 3, 7 IP, 2 H (singles), 0 R, 2 W, 12 K…

  27. Faye Schlift says:

    There is a side story that figures into the Pedro-DeShields trade.
    In 1993 Jody Reed was the Dodger 2nd baseman. Due to be a free agent, the Dodgers offered Reed a three year extension for $7.8 million.
    Reed (yes, it rhymes with greed) turned it down. The Dodgers seemed
    to think they were now in desperate need of a 2nd baseman and sent
    Pedro to Montreal for DeShields. Although Pedro would go on to have
    a potential HOF career, it must be noted that while DeShields was
    terrible on the field, he at least was a complete malcontent in the
    clubhouse. (In the last 20 years no Dodger has been located who admits to being involved in the trade. Both Fred Claire & Tommy Lasorda claim to have been shopping with their wives during the negotiations).

    Reed postscript: He earned $2,875,000 for the remainder of his career.

  28. DaveInSLO says:

    I didn’t think I’d hit any of these on the nose, but I nailed Pedro at 44 on my list.

  29. I rooted for the Yankees during Pedro’s prime, but there was a joy, an expectation, a feeling that you were watching magic whenever Pedro pitched.

    I would have loved for Pedro’s prime to have extended a few more years, for the absolutely greedy reason that watching him pitch was as goood as it could possibly get as a baseballl aesthete and fan.

  30. Great write-up, Joe. I’m a Red Sox fan. Pedro joined the Red Sox when I was 10 and left when I was 17. I grew up watching him pitch, and he will forever be my favorite ballplayer. With the days of Boston’s title drought long gone, it’s easy to forget how COOL it was when Pedro joined the team. We were still counting our blessings, and landing Pedro felt like winning the lottery. We were reeling from Roger Clemens’s departure and subsequent resurgence in Toronto. Pedro’s outings were as big as any annual event to us, only they were every five days. It was magical.

    It’s very easy for nostalgia to lead to hyperbole, but not in Pedro’s case. Watch video of any of his best outings during his prime, and you’ll see that his stuff still defies belief. There were times when all his pitches were absolutely on point and he would seemingly throw any pitch at any time in the count, knowing the batter would not have a chance. It was joyful, damn near artistic pitching. I am still grateful to have gotten to watch him pitch for my team when he was at his best.

  31. Pat says:

    I’m paraphrasing myself here (but if Plato is a fine red wine…). I think it’s pretty clear that Pedro Martinez in ’99 and 2000 ranks as the best two-year span by any pitcher in the modern era, and Pedro Martinez from ’97 to ’03 is the best seven-year bid any pitcher’s ever put together. His ’99 to ’03 is possibly the best five-year span, but some other candidates are there. The point is, how one defines the breadth of “peak” is going to prejudge a lot of who you think has the best one, but Pedro Martinez has an argument no matter how you define it.

    As for how high the peak was: Joe mentioned Sandy Koufax never had an ERA+ over 200; another way of saying that is he never had a season where his ERA was under half of the league average. (No one has ever had an ERA one-third of the league, but Pedro came closest, with his ERA+ of 291 in 2000.) Maddux did it, and in fact did it twice, in ’94-’95; Walter Johnson four times; Clemens three times; Matthewson twice. (The most recent guy is Greinke in his Cy Young season.) No one else ever did it more than once—Cy Young, Three-Finger Brown, Addie Joss, Lefty Grove, Charlie Radbourn, Pete Alexander, they all did it once.

    Pedro Martinez did it five times.

  32. Patrick Bohn says:

    Pedro’s 1999 was unreal. This is the most insane thing to me. Pedro struck out 313 batters, 209 more than the second-place pitcher on the Red Sox. I wonder if that’s the biggest disparity between the top two strikeout artists on the same team?

  33. MikeN says:

    Speaking of exponential, I think the Phillies should have taken a chance and held Pedro out for Game 7 against the Yankees. He needed every bit of rest he could get.

    Take a chance with whoever for Game 6, and maybe the Yankees still have no World Series in 15 years.

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      That would have been Cole Hamels on short rest. Given how Hamels fell apart in Game 3, and how well Pedro pitched in Game 2, that’s a really tough call to make.

  34. Michael says:

    Doesn’t no.44 seem low for someone at the top of the list for pitchers?

    • Jaunty Rockefeller says:

      Yes and no. He doesn’t have nearly as much career value as a lot of pitchers who, while not quite as brilliant, were much more durable. Plus, there are still a LOT of position players who hand bonkers numbers left to be ranked. Not sure how many pitchers remain on the list, but if Pedro ends up being somewhere in the vicinity of 10th or 12th best pitcher ever, that seems about right.

      But in the rankings of my heart he’s #1, now and forever amen.

      • Patrick Bohn says:

        This is about as high as I’d rank a guy with only 409 starts, absurd peak or no. Most of the guys who are probably going to be ahead of him, like The Johnsons, Maddux, Clemens, Mathewson, Seaver, Grove, and perhaps some of the pre 1900s guys will have longevity AND great peaks. The 10-12 ranking for pitchers seems about right

        • Michael says:

          thanks for the replies! i guess i tend toward valuing peak over longevity.

          • DM says:

            I don’t have the list in front of me, but the WOC predicts 12 more pitchers remaining, which would put Pedro @ #13. The predicted 12 remaining are Spahn, Gibson, R. Johnson, Seaver, Paige, Mathewson, Alexander, Grove, Maddux, Young, Clemens, and W. Johnson, not necessarily in that order. I think that’s it.

  35. otistaylor89 says:

    I’m a high peak guy over longevity and would have put Pedro way up there.
    I guess this means that Bob Gibson will be the next pitcher, eh?

  36. Herb Smith says:

    I’m glad to see so many references to that spectacular ’99 Game 5 against Cleveland in the playoffs. Because it wasn’t a World Series game, and because the Red Sox went on to lose to the Yankees in the next round, I had kind of thought that that game had been forgotten about.
    And because i had watched it alone, while doing tasks around the house, I had nobody to share it with. Now I know I wasn’t alone.

    The Tribe’s offense, one of the greatest of all time, was slaughtering the ball, so I was only half-watching, at first. And then Pedro came in.

  37. DM says:

    I apologize for the length of this post, but I’ve been chewing on this for a little bit…..

    We’re about 5 months into this journey through Joe’s top 100. It occurs to me that, in doing this list, Joe not only is providing his take on the top 100, but also, as a by-product, of how he ranks the greatest at each position. What I’d like to do is take a trip around the diamond to see how each position is unfolding, and with the help of our friendly neighborhood Wisdom of Crowds (WOC), take a predictive look at what’s still ahead. Because of the length of the posting, I think I should only do one position at a time, or it will be too lengthy to read and react. This one is especially long because I’m outlining the method…..others will be shorter.

    What I propose is to take a look at each position with the following 5-point outline:

    1. “Poz-to-Date” – This is a summary of who Joe has selected so far (in order). I’ll also provide Joe’s overall rank and the players’ rank within the position (assuming that the WOC correctly predicts the remaining players):

    2. “WOC Crystal Ball” – This will outline who the WOC predicts is still to come. I re-ranked the WOC predictions based on recent Joe postings. For example, the WOC predicted Eddie Mathews at 46, but we’re now down to 44 and Mathews hasn’t been mentioned yet So, Mathews is re-ranked at 43, and all others have been re-ranked accordingly.

    3. “Close but no Cigar” – No, not a tribute to the re-emergence of Ms. Lewinsky. This would be my thoughts on who would would be viable alternatives at each position. I’ll suggest the “next 5” at each position that is neither named by Joe nor by the WOC. For pitchers, since they’re more plentiful, I think we should go 10. This is NOT meant to criticize Joe or his selections, because there is no right or wrong. This is merely to give recognition to those that, in all likelihood, didn’t miss the cut by much. In fact, when this is all done, I’m hoping Joe shares with us who some of his “close calls” were.

    4. “Maybe Down the Road” – This would take a speculative look at current players that might (emphasis on “might”) one day be seriously considered for top 100 status. This would exclude anyone such as Jeter, Pujols, Suzuki, etc. that has already been named by either Joe or the WOC.

    5. “Guilty Pleasures” – I didn’t know how else to describe this one, but here goes. This would be a place to mention someone who is clearly short of top 100 status, but who maybe would be in consideration for top 150 to 200, but who never gets much notice in the sweep of history, and kind of gets lost in the shuffle. For position players, this might be someone who is more top 15-20 at a position rather than top 10, or maybe top 40-50 for pitchers rather than top 25.

    My criteria for a “guilty pleasure” would include that the player NOT be in the Hall of Fame. The player might be someone that had a short but eventful career, or just someone that is maybe better than generally acknowledged. Above all, it someone who you connect to in some way for some reason. For example, my guilty pleasure among catchers is Bill Freehan. In my opinion, he’s not top 10. I would have him comfortably behind Bench, Gibson, Berra, Campanella, Piazza, Carter, Cochrane, Dickey, Rodriguez, Fisk, and probably Hartnett too. But, I think he’s in the next tier down, he’s underrated by history because he played in a low-scoring era, but he was a very valuable player defensive and offensive catcher, and he was notorious in some way as he finished high in MVP voting behind 2 of the more well-known seasons of the last 50 years – he was 3rd in MVP voting in ’67 (Yaz’s triple crown year, the last one until Cabrera) and 2nd to his battery mate Denny McLain in ’68 (the last 30-game winner). To me he is the quintessential guilty pleasure.

    This is a place to give some props to those players who are on the outside looking in. Everyone’s contribution is encouraged.

    Since this is under Pedro’s post, let’s do pitchers first. Here then is the rundown on pitchers:

    1. “Poz-to-Date”
    Name – Overall – Poz Rank at Pitcher
    Curt Schilling – 100 – 26
    Mariano Rivera – 95 – 25
    Old Hoss Radbourn – 92 – 24
    Robin Roberts – 91 – 23
    Bullet Rogan – 89 – 22
    Nolan Ryan – 87 – 21
    Gaylord Perry – 83 – 20
    Smokey Joe Williams – 79 – 19
    Bert Blyleven – 68 – 18
    Kid Nichols – 65 – 17
    Steve Carlton – 53 – 16
    Bob Feller – 48 – 15
    Sandy Koufax – 46 – 14
    Pedro Martinez – 44 – 13

    2. “WOC Crystal Ball”
    Name – * Rank – * Rank at Pitcher
    Bob Gibson – 39 – 12
    Warren Spahn – 38 – 11
    Randy Johnson – 30 – 10
    Christy Mathewson – 29 – 9
    Pete Alexander – 28 – 8
    Lefty Grove – 23 – 7
    Tom Seaver – 21 – 6
    Satchel Paige – 20 – 5
    Cy Young – 15 – 4
    Greg Maddux – 14 – 3
    Roger Clemens – 11 – 2
    Walter Johnson – 6 – 1

    3. “Close but no Cigar”
    Since it’s pitchers, I’m naming 10 instead of 5 as with the other positions to come. I would go with the following as strong alternatives to some of the lower ranked pitchers on the list;
    Phil Niekro
    Carl Hubbell
    Fergie Jenkins
    Juan Marichal
    Jim Palmer
    Eddie Plank
    Mike Mussina
    Ed Walsh
    Roy Halladay
    Tom Glavine

    Niekro’s ommission seems to be the one most readers have latched onto, undoubtedly because of his high WAR. I think Niekro would have been a fine addition somewhere in the 80-100 range. I never thought of him as a “great” pitcher, but more as a valuable pitcher who pitched well for a very long time and accumulated a lot of innings. I think he’s in a group with Gaylord Perry, Bert Blyleven, and Nolan Ryan in terms of their WAR, their # of seasons, their ERA and ERA+, and the # of innings they accumulated. Incidentally, it also seemed like all 4 of those tended to end up on pretty bad teams for a fair amount of their careers.

    I think if I had to pick 2 pitchers I would have liked to have seen included, I’d probably go with Niekro and Hubbell.

    4. “Maybe Down the Road” – Among current players, I’m not getting a real strong vibe of any really strong candidates. I guess if I had to go with someone, I’d pick Kershaw with his 3 early ERA titles, but he’s a long, long way off. Sabathia is young enough that he could last long enough to get to 300 wins, but I don’t see him as top 100 material. Besides, he hasn’t been looking too good lately. Verlander? He’s good, but I’m just not feeling it. Nobody is really jumping out at me as obvious top 100 material.

    5. “Guilty Pleasure” – I have two guilty pleasure pitchers. Neither is to be taken seriously as top 100….but maybe they can make a top 150-200 list someday. 🙂

    a. Wes Ferrell
    If you use 7-year peak WAR (part of the “JAWS” equation and exclude the pre-1900 pitchers, Ferrell comes out as the #15 pitcher in terms of peak WAR. Now, I suppose that a chunk of that is due to his success as a hitter, which is one of the reasons I like him so much. He doesn’t have the prettiest record – his ERA was over 4.00 and he walked more batters than he struck out – but as many (including Bill James) have pointed out, he pitched in high run environments, so he was actually pretty decent (ERA+ of 116). He pitched on generally bad teams, but managed a .600 winning pct. and won 20 games 6 times. In context, he was actually a pretty decent pitcher. But the hitting is what really gets me. In what essentially amounts to 2 full seasons (about 1,200 AB’s), he hit 38 HR’s, 57 2B’s, 12 3B’s, 208 RBI, and 129 walks. In other words, he was hitting on the same annual level as roughly 19 HR’s, 29 2B’s, 6 3B’s, 104 RBI, and 65 walks. His batting line was .280 / .351 / .446. Imagine the attention a player like that would get today.

    b. Wilbur Wood
    Definitely not an all-time great, but he does rank 40th among post-1900 pitchers in peak WAR. Which, when you consider that he really only had about 12 years in his career, and about half of that was as a reliever, ain’t bad. The thing that gets my attention about him (aside from being the best left handed knuckleballer ever and winning 20 games his first 4 years as a starter) is this:

    There are 112 seasons in which a pitcher achieved a WAR of 10 or higher. More than half (60) of those were pre-1900.

    Of the 52 post-1900 10+ WAR seasons, 13 were by lefty starters. They were:

    Name – 10+ WAR Years
    Lefty Grove – 2
    Randy Johnson – 2
    Sandy Koufax – 2
    Steve Carlton – 2
    Wilbur Wood – 2
    Dick Ellsworth – 1
    Hal Newhouser – 1
    Rube Waddell – 1

    No doubt, a lot of his WAR result was attributable to his ability to pitch a high number of innings.

    Wood was “sort of” like a couple of others in his knuckleball fraternity…..a little bit Phil Niekro as a starter, and a little bit Hoyt Wilhelm as a reliever. He led the league 3 straight years in appearances as a reliever, and also led the league in games started 4 straight years as a starter. His injuries and weight no doubt kept him from pitching as long as other knuckeballers, but he remains one of my favorite “guilty pleasures”

    That’s it for me on pitchers. I’ll put together summaries on the other positions and post them where/when it seems appropriate. In the meantime….interested to hear other’s contributions.


  38. bepd50 says:

    That is a fabulous post; I have copy pasted the text here,

    so people can comment over there too if they want.

  39. Blackadder says:

    To be super pedantic, Joe makes a rounding error in his recounting of the bushel story. The number on the last square is 2^63, which is 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. You can tell without doing any calculation that the number Joe wrote is incorrect, since it is has a “0” as its last digit, which implies that it is divisible by 10. But no power of 2 is divisible by 10.

  40. Michael Green says:

    An incredible pitcher, no question. But, as a lifelong Dodger fan, I would like to make a couple of points.

    One is that the Dodgers needed a leadoff man and second baseman. DeShields seemed to be the answer, granting that, obviously, he wasn’t.

    The other is that the Dodgers had another young pitcher around that time, John Wetteland. He was quirky–liked to play his guitar in the clubhouse. As I heard the story, the Dodger manager at the time didn’t like him because he was quirky and didn’t see Pedro as material for his pitching staff.

    Does anybody remember that said manager was Tommy Lasorda, and that he liked characters if they were traditional practical jokers, but not if they were actual characters? I am convinced that Fred Claire knew that Lasorda wouldn’t want them around anyway, so why not let them leave and, in Pedro’s case, get something in return?

  41. bepd50 says:

    my off-the-radar pitcher is Dazzy Vance. In 1924 he struck out 7.6 per 9, in a league that averaged 2.8 per 9. His numbers in other years are great also, but thats just an illustration. In terms of performance relative to your peers, I think you can make a good argument that his 1924 is the 3rd most dominant pitcher season ever, only behind Pedro 1999-2000 (of course).

    • David Berg says:

      Agreed. Here are the only guys ever to double the league K rate over a two-year span:

      1924-1925 Dazzy Vance 274%
      1955-1956 Herb Score 212%
      1976-1977 Nolan Ryan 212%
      1999-2000 Pedro Martinez 202%
      1972-1973 Nolan Ryan 201%

      Actually, Vance did it every year from 1923-1926, averaging roughly 260% — he was the ONLY guy racking up Ks in the 1920s. Apparently he mostly threw fastballs — probably deserves to be in the “best fastball ever” conversation.

  42. bepd50 says:

    this post reminds me a little of the one from a couple days ago, pointing out the absurdity of errors; i.e., everyone agreed the ball should have been caught, but everyone also agreed it shouldn’t be an error.

    if you ask the question, which pitcher had the highest peak, does anyone believe its someone other than pedro? no.

    then does everyone agree he’s the greatest pitcher of all time? no.

    its cognitive dissonance. putting seaver (or matthewson, or gibson, or alexander, or spahn) ahead of pedro is like putting Neal Schon (Journey) ahead of Jimi Hendrix, because he sold more records; when you’re that much better than everyone around you, when you are the default for an entire generation to define greatness… 44th is way to low (I have him 17th).

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      Curiously, are there any pitchers ahead of him on your list?

      • bepd50 says:

        yes; Maddux (16), L. Grove (15), Cy Young (6), W. Johnson(5).

        but thats not necessarily what I think, but my prediction for Joe’s list. I wouldn’t have Grove so high, but otherwise that looks about right to me if it were my list.

  43. David Berg says:

    My Pedro Martinez memories:

    1) I remember Tim McCarver before he was old and repetitive; at one time, he was one of the sharpest minds in baseball media, especially when it came to pitching. He had great stories about catching great pitchers in his career, and talked to all the modern pitchers he could. Sometime around 2000, McCarver said that possibly the best conversation he’d ever had about pitching was a recent one with Pedro Martinez. In addition to mentioning how incredibly intelligent Pedro was, McCarver made it sound like Pedro had more control over making the baseball do what he wanted than just about anyone ever, dragging his long fingers across the seams in just the right way during release. If McCarver’s in awe, you can bet I am too.

    2) Has anyone else thrown a high-velocity fastball that consistently runs, pitch after pitch? Pedro could start it 5 inches off the plate to a righty and let it catch the corner. I’ve seen other pitchers pull that off at times… but never AT WILL while THROWING 95.

    3) Years later, Pedro told reporters that his shoulder never felt completely right after 1999. Those efforts against the Indians and Yankees took their toll. In his transcendent 2000, perhaps he became even MORE of a “pitcher”, being able to rely less on blowing his fastball by people. Anyway, look at those stats from 2000-2003 and consider that this was a guy who was already past his physical peak.

    4) I’ve seen plenty of baseball players mature over the years — Fernando Tatis had a poor attitude in his 20s, but was pure hustle in his mid-30s comeback — but I’ve never seen someone go from nasty head-hunter to startling goofball to sage the way Pedro did. As a Mets fan, I didn’t get to watch Pedro much while he was still great (though his 2006 numbers belie how great a start he got off to before hurting himself), but he was BY FAR the best interview on the team. Scratch that — in my last 10 years of obsessively watching baseball coverage, Mets-era Pedro was the best interview PERIOD. He never seemed like he didn’t want to be there in front of the cameras and microphones, even when the topic was today’s bad pitching performance, his father’s death, steroids, a losing streak… in fact, the tougher the interview, the more impressive he was. He was always able to bring an aura of calm, a big-picture perspective, a thoughtful analysis, a funny joke, a snippet about baseball life that most fans don’t get to know. And not infrequently, I’d think “This guy is a better master of the English language than anyone on his team AND HE DIDN’T LEARN IT UNTIL HIS 20s.”

    A genius in more ways than one.

  44. Good use of fable, Joe — but why read when you can watch?

  45. Face says:

    not sure if this question has been answered, but, Pedro definitely threw a curve ball. There is no doubt about that.

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