Sunday, December 26, 2010

Greatest Red Sox Pitching Performances of the Last 25 Years

I really don't want this blog to revolve around the Red Sox, so these types of posts will be rare.  I got this idea after reading someone else's post on a bulletin board I frequent.  I'm adapting his idea slightly by focusing on the last 25 years, rather than the last 50 years.  I made this decision due to the great number of tremendous pitching performances the Red Sox (and their fans) have experienced in the quarter of a century.  The initiator of the bulletin board post is a regular reader of this blog, so I want to give him credit for coming up with such a great idea.  (I'd give him props for coming up with the idea even if he didn't read the blog as well.)  Without further adieu, here are the top ten greatest Red Sox pitching performances of the last 25 years.

10.  Pedro Martinez 1998 - This was Pedro's inaugural season in Boston, and he didn't disappoint.  He went 19-7 with a 2.89 ERA (3.40 FIP), 9.67 K/9, 3.75 K/BB, and 6.7 WAR in 233.2 innings.  He came in second place in the Cy Young Award voting to Roger Clemens who achieved the pitching version of the triple crown for the second consecutive year. 

9.  Roger Clemens 1988 - Clemens was terribly underrated in 1988, which was largely due to the number of losses (12) he accumulated.  Clemens put up his best strikeout season at the time, which would only be bested in 1997 when he was with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Clemens finished the season 18-12 with 2.93 ERA (2.17 FIP), 9.92 K/9, 4.69 K/BB, and 10.0 WAR in 264 innings.  Criminally, Clemens finished sixth in the Cy Young balloting behind pitchers who were far inferior, including winner Frank Voila and eventual winner (1992) Dennis Eckersley.  Clemens led the league in complete games, shutouts, strikeouts, K/9, K/BB, and WAR. 

8.  Roger Clemens 1987 - 1987 was somewhat of a lost season for the Red Sox, but Clemens kept them afloat.  During this season, he won his second consecutive Cy Young Award on the strength of a 20-9 record, 2.97 ERA (2.91 FIP), 8.18 K/9, 3.18 K/BB, and 9.3 WAR in 281.2 innings.  He led the league in wins, complete games, shutouts, K/BB, and WAR.

7.  Josh Beckett 2007 - Josh Beckett willed the team to it's second championship in four seasons through a series of unbelievable shut down performances.  During the regular season, he was pretty great too.  He finished second in the CYA voting (and rightly so), and finished with a 20-7 record, 3.27 ERA (3.08 FIP), 8.70 K/9, 4.85 K/BB, and 6.5 WAR in 200.2 innings.  Beckett led the league in wins.

6.  Pedro Martinez 2002 - Pedro's 2002 season looks almost pedestrian when compared to his 1999 and 2000 seasons.  Still, despite some stiff competition from teammate Derek Lowe (who just missed making this list), Pedro recaptured his spot as the best pitcher in the major leagues.  He went 20-4 with a 2.26 ERA (2.24 FIP), 10.79 K/9, 5.98 K/BB, and 8.3 WAR in 199.1 innings.  Pedro finished second behind Oakland's Barry Zito in the Cy Young Award voting despite having better statistics in every category but Wins.  Pedro led the league in ERA, ERA+ , FIP, winning percentage, strikeouts, K/9, K/BB, WHIP, and WAR. 

5.  Curt Schilling 2004 - What didn't Curt Schilling do in this year.  He not only carried the Red Sox to the playoffs, but carried them on a wounded ankle through the postseason to their first World Series championship in 86 years.  His contributions to the team can not be understated.  He finished second in the Cy Young Award voting (and rightly so) going 21-6 with a 3.26 ERA (3.11 FIP), 8.06 K/9, 5.80 K/BB, and 7.3 WAR in 226.2 innings.  Schilling led the league in wins, winning percentage, and K/BB.

4.  Roger Clemens 1986 - Only number four?  Yeah, but that's only because Clemens 1990 season and two transcendent Pedro seasons beat it out.  Clemens started out 14-0 as he steamrolled his way to the Cy Young Award, MVP, and a near World Series championship.  While a lot of people will never forgive him for supposedly asking to come out of the Game 6 (never confirmed to be true), the truth is that the Red Sox never would've made the playoffs, let alone the Series without him.  He finished up the season with a 24-4 record, 2.48 ERA (2.81 FIP), 8.43 K/9, 3.55 K/BB, and 8.0 WAR in 254 innings.  He led the league in wins, winning percentage, ERA, ERA+, FIP, and WHIP.

3.  Roger Clemens 1990 - This is often the forgotten season for Clemens, and it's a shame because it was his best in Boston.  I can't think of any logical reason why he didn't win the Cy Young Award this year.  Voters were blinded by Bob Welch's eye popping 27 win total.  Unfortunately, those wins were pretty hollow as they were propped up by run support and a fantastic bullpen.  Clemens on the other hand went 21-6 with a 1.93 ERA (2.18 FIP), 8.24 K/9, 3.87 K/BB, and 8.7 WAR in 228.1 innings.  Also, he led the league in ERA, ERA+, FIP, shutouts, K/BB, and WAR.  Not bad for someone who finished second in the CYA voting.  The winner?  Oh, he led the league in wins...and that's it.

2.  Pedro Martinez 2000 - I originally had this at number one, but decided to move it down to number two.  Really, it could go either way.  Pedro's 2000 season could best be described as transcendent, and is one of the four or five greatest pitching seasons of all time.  Many might point to Sandy Koufax's run from 1963-1966 as being more dominant, but he didn't pitched an environment that heavily favored pitchers.  Pedro's dominance (1997-2003) occurred at the height of the greatest offensive era in baseball history.  Pedro won his third Cy Young in four seasons going 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA (2.17 FIP), 11.78 K/9, 8.88 K/BB, and 10.1 WAR in 217 innings.  He led the league in ERA, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, strikeouts, K/9, K/BB, WAR, and shutouts.

1. Pedro Martinez 1999 - See above.  In this case, he was even more dominant.  This is far more dominant than any season I've ever witnessed, and it's certainly more than anything done since World War 2.  Just as an example of how dominant Pedro was, he registered double digit strikeouts in 19 of his 29 starts.  He also had nine strikeouts in three of his starts.  His final stats were 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA (1.39 FIP!!!), 13.20 K/9, 8.46 K/BB, and an astounding 12.1 WAR in 213.1 innings.  He led the league in wins, winning percentage, ERA, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, strikeouts, K/9, K/BB, and WAR.  He finished second in the MVP balloting because two sports writers (George King and LaVelle Neal) left him off of their ballot entirely because they felt a pitcher should never win the MVP award.  King's no vote was incredibly hypocritical (and controversial) because he'd voted for Rick Helling and David Wells just one season before.

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