Top 50 Sox Seasons #45: Pedro Martinez, 1998

19-7, 2.89/1.091/.222, 233.2 IP, 251 K, 67 BB, 9.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 3.8 K/BB, 163 ERA+
Postseason: 1 G, W, 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

All-Star, CYA – 2

In the midst of likely the greatest run of regular-season pitching in the history of the sport (1997-2003), this was Pedro Martinez’s off-year, his transition to the American League – a transition that electrified Fenway Park, led the Boston Globe to print game stories of his starts in Spanish, and made Boston a northern cousin of Santo Domingo.

What an inauguration for the lanky righty who came to Boston at the cost of the club’s best prospect and the richest contract for a pitcher in baseball history – and a host of questions about his makeup, his talent and his physique: Seven shutout innings in his Boston debut, a 12-strikeout shutout in his third start. In the end, his “off year” should have been a 20-win campaign, as he sat with 18 wins entering the month of September, reeled off four straight quality starts and won none of them. It wasn’t quite the Pedro who would erupt in the next two seasons to post the most dominant seasons in baseball history, but he still struck out batters at a higher rate than any Sox pitcher in 10 years and finished second in Cy Young voting to the ace he replaced in Boston.

Key game: April 11. Making his debut in an electric Fenway Park filled with fans waving Dominican flags and chanting his name, Martinez shuts out Seattle on two hits, walking two and striking out 12. He finds his groove early – no strikeouts through 1.2 innings; five strikeouts through 3.1.

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