14-4, 2.22/1.039/.218, 186.2 IP, 206 K, 47 BB, 9.9 K/9, 4.4 K/BB, 7.1 H/9, 210 ERA+
Postseason: 4 G, 1-1, 4.76/1.27/.264, 28.1 IP, 23 K, 7 BB
CYA – 3
If only one could divorce the seventh and final season of Pedro Martinez’s historic run as baseball’s most dominant pitcher from the way the season ended in the seventh and final game of that season’s ALCS. At the time Grady Little – too late, oh so late – trudged to the mound that second time to remove the ball from Martinez’s hand, we had no way of knowing that just one year later it would all be better. Not forgotten, but better.
Unfortunately, Little’s disastrous decision to leave Martinez in for 123 pitches (a total neared or surpassed just four times in his 29 regular-season starts) overshadowed what in fact was another dominant season for the aging ace. It was, indeed, the last time Pedro would be Pedro.
For the fourth time in five years, Martinez led the league in ERA – Lefty Grove the only other AL pitcher ever to do so with such frequency. By leading the league in ERA+, Martinez became just the third AL pitcher do so four times in five years, joining Grove and Roger Clemens. Martinez also joined Greg Maddux as the only pitchers in baseball history to record a 160 ERA+ in seven straight seasons – but while Maddux posted a 191 ERA+ from 1992-98, Martinez posted a 213 from 1997-2003, the best seven-year peak in baseball history.
In those seven years, Martinez pitched six full seasons, and five times posted an ERA+ over 200 — or better than twice as good as the rest of the league. His 210 ERA+ in 2003 gave him the all-time record for most 200 ERA+ seasons by one player, topping the great Walter Johnson. Consider it this way: A pitcher has topped 200 just 32 times in baseball history (by 21 pitchers); Martinez holds 22 percent of those seasons.
When talking about 2003 itself, don’t let the 14 wins fool you. In Martinez’s 11 no-decisions, he posted a 1.75 ERA, allowing just 13 earned runs. Only 51 other pitchers have received fewer than 18 decisions while starting at least 29 games, and only Elmer Dessens for the 2002 Reds (142) recorded an ERA+ better than 140. It’s a safe assumption that in 2003 Martinez may have received the worst luck in baseball history at turning results into wins – certainly of any pitcher in Red Sox history and likely any pitcher since the birth of relief specialization.
Certainly some of this was caused by Martinez’s increasing inability to throw beyond 100 pitches, but consider these six no-decisions:
- March 31, Game Score 74: Martinez allows one unearned run in seven innings and leaves ahead 4-1. The Red Sox lose, 6-4.
- April 5, Game Score 76: Martinez allows one run in eight innings, leaves trailing 1-0. Red Sox lose, 2-1.
- April 27, Game Score 66: Martinez allows two runs in seven innings, leaves ahead 4-2. Red Sox give up the lead before rallying to win 6-4.
- June 21, Game Score 70: One run, seven innings. Sox lose 6-5.
- July 7, Game Score 74: One run, seven innings. Sox lose 2-1.
- July 12, Game Score 72: One run, seven innings. Leaves with game tied at 1.
Consider also that Martinez only had six starts in which he did not throw at least six innings or record a game score of 50, yet in 15 games he couldn’t record a win. On a playoff team with an historic offense, no less.
Key game: May 5. Consider this the final game of the Pedro Martinez Era. Pedro had plenty left in the tank that season and in 2004. He won a World Series game and a ring the next year, after all. But, excepting a shutout of the Devil Rays the next season, this is the last time Martinez utterly dominates an opponent. Back-to-back hits by Minnesota in the fourth are all to mar this gem, as Martinez gets plenty of run support to back his five-hit, one-run, no-walk, 12-strikeout performance. It’s the last time Martinez will strike out a dozen batters as a member of the Red Sox.
Oh, there’s that other game, too, and it’s probably more reflective of the frustration of the season. But you can read more about it here. I still don’t have the stomach.