[Cross posted at Discord and Elaboration]
As a New York Mets fan I can’t help but marvel at the acquisition and the performance of Pedro Martinez this season. True, many doubted whether giving Pedro a 4-year deal given his age, loss of velocity, and recent injuries was a wise move by the Metsies, but so far the investment is paying off. It got me thinking–just exactly how good is Pedro? It seems to me that his antics over the years (the midgtet mascot, the Don Zimmer throw down, the threat to peg the Bambino in his *ss, etc.) has to some extent lessened the apprecatiation for just how dominant a pitcher Pedro has been in his era and historically. So following Patrick’s lead on the trustworthiness of statistics in baseball (a position I firmly agree with and endorse), I ran the numbers. What they seem to say is that even I underestimated just how good Pedro Martinez is. Arguably, he is the best ever…I tried to take the most relevant stats that are representative of individual performance for a pitcher (e.g. ERA, WHIP (walks+hits/innings pitched), strike outs/9 innings) as well as average number of wins per season and winning percentage (so as to normalize the statistics). As far as active pitchers go (those that pitched in 2004 and have over 1000 innings pitched), Pedro is number 1 in ERA (2.71), number 1 in winning percentage (.705), and tied for second in K’s/9 innings (10.4). As if that wasn’t enough, I ran some statistics which paired Pedro up against modern pitchers as well as all pitchers going back to 1871 (again, with at least 1000 IP’s). His dominance gets even scarier.
First lets look at ERA. Taking the entire league since 1871 reveals just how much of an advantage pitchers had before what I call the “Ruth-effect”. The first player to appear in the rankings who pitched after the 1940s was Hoty Wilhelm (2.52) at number 44. The next player–Pedro at 77 (2.71). Okay, so lets take a look at only modern pitchers (post-1940). I went ahead and removed prominent relievers from the mix (since I believe their statistics tell us something different about there performance as opposed to starters, but that is for another time…) Here are the rankings:
Career ERA leaders (post-1940, min. 1000+ innings
Pedro comes out number one overall. The next (and only) active pitcher to make the top 30 is Gregg Maddux at 14. Roger Clemens is 39 while Curt Schilling is in the late 70s.
Ok, so what about WHIP?
Against the greatest pitchers of the modern era, Pedro again finishes number 1.
Career WHIP leaders (post-1940, min. 1000+ innings)
Active pitchers fare far better in the WHIP category, but Pedro once again shows that he is among the greatest all time. Lets extend the analysis to all pitchers from 1871-2004. This puts Pedro at an extreme disadvantage give that pitchers before the 1940s didn’t have to deal with the DH, juiced balls (and players), smaller ballbarks and smaller strike zones. I won’t bog you down with another long chart, so instead I will simply list the top 10:
Pedro is number 3, led only by Addie Joss and Ed Walsh (if you know these names you are a bettern person than me). Aside from these two ‘memorable’ players, Pedro is better than two of the most celebrated pitchers in history–Christy Mattewson and Walter Johnson. Bob Gibson, who is widely touted as one of the greatest pitchers in history–one that played in a pitcher’s era–is 108. Yes, Pedro is that good.
Pedro is also quite studly when it comes to K’s per 9 innings and win percentage. Against the all-time greats, Pedro ranks 3rd since 1871 (.705) and 1st among modern-day pitchers for winning percentage and he ranks 2nd all time behind Randy Johnson for K’s/9 at 10.4.
Finally, I decided to create my own metric for comparing pitchers across time. It is an overall measure of a pitcher’s performance across eras. I took each pitcher and calculated their ranking in terms of Wins per year, SO/9 innings, WHIP, and ERA versus all other pitchers since 1871. The reasoning behind this was to normalize the statistics since different eras can skew pitchers’ stats in different ways–average help alleviate some of this. I took each player’s ranking for each category and added them together, so if someone had seperate rankings of 3, 2, 7, and 14 their total score would be 26. The lower the total score, the better the pitcher. So here are the top 30 pitchers all time according to my metric:
According to this, Pedro is indeed the number one pitcher when it comes to personal performance. The metric seems reliable since the names that accompany Pedro are among the most heralded to ever play.
Anyway, I am sure there are a number of problems with my measures but in either case I hope this illustrated just how dominant Pedro is in relation to the greatest pitchers of all time. We are certainly lucky to have him in NY even if it is the tail-end of his career. By the way, so far this year Pedro is 7-1 (and he shoud be 9-1 since the bullpen blew two leads for him late) with a 2.45 ERA, 104 K’s, only 13 walks and–wait for it–a WHIP of 0.67 which is, to say the least, ridiculous.