I’ve been meaning to write something about this for quite a while, and thankfully all the Mitchell Report madness has given impetus to this very post. Just last week, Pedro Martinez proclaimed he dominated the Steroids Era cleanly, and added that he’s damn proud of it. I’ll gladly note that he’s the second Hall of Famer to recently say he dominated the Steroid Era cleanly. While I haven’t gone through every outstanding individual season of all-time, I have a pretty solid foundation for the history of the game. That being said, given the context of the era in which Pedro peaked, his 1999 season could very well be the most dominant season in the history of the game. Allow me to make my argument.
In 1999, names like Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Jason Giambi, and Ivan Rodriguez dominated the offensive categories, just to give you some context. In 1999, Pedro Martinez went 23-4 in 29 starts. He threw five complete games over 213.3 innings, walking a measly 37 batters the entire season. Oh yeah, he also set a career high with 313 strikeouts — a nice 8:1 ratio for those of you keeping score at home. In those 213.3 innings, a year in which 2,635 home runs were belted (the 2nd most in AL history according to my calculations), Pedro gave up just nine of them. His ERA was only 2.07, almost three full runs lower than the league average of 5.02 (also the 2nd highest in AL history according to my calculations).
The second closest pitcher to Pedro in ERA was David Cone at 3.44, almost a run and a half lower. Pedro had a 2.07. Three players with ERAs in the 4′s made it in the Top 10 of the league that year. Get that? An ERA in the 4′s meant you were having a really good season. Pedro’s WHIP was 0.92 — the next closest wasn’t even sub 1.2 — it was Eric Milton at 1.22. Pedro struck out over 13 batters per nine innings pitched. The next closest was Chuck Finley at not quite eight and a half.
I remember watching Pedro pitch that year and knowing it was special. It was news only when he lost; you always expected him to win that year. Pedro’s pitching prowess was unrivaled during his prime. Some people may say other pitchers had more dominant seasons, or that certain batters had more impressive years. Rather than fawn over the way Barry Bonds cartoonishly made a mockery of the record books in his super-human (steroids-aided) form of 2001 and 2002, I’d rather marvel at the 5’11″ 170lb specimen of a man who made all those hulking roiders look foolish like nobody else did.
If you have a suggestion as to what the best individual season was in history, please feel free to add it and defend it in the comments. I’m going with Pedro Martinez in 1999.
Other baseball posts you might enjoy:
The End of the 300 Game Winners
Johan Santana Doesn’t Make the Mets a World Series Winner