Top 50 Sox Seasons #8: Pedro Martinez, 2002

20-4, 2.26/0.923/.204, 199.1 IP, 239 K, 40 BB, 6.5 H/9, 10.8 K/9, 6.0 K/BB, 202 ERA+
CYA — 2

Pedro Martinez had only himself to blame. Returning from an injury-plagued 2001, Martinez’s last two healthy seasons had been among the best in the history of the sport. Yet in 2002, he lost the Cy Young to Barry Zito, he didn’t manage to win any of the player or pitcher of the year awards given out by any other agencies, and the season on the whole is overlooked when considering Martinez’s dominance as a member of the Red Sox. This, obviously, is a disservice to the baseball history we witnessed.

Indeed, 2002 was an historic year. Since the introduction of the live baseball, just 47 times in 87 years has a pitcher posted a WHIP below 1.000 and an ERA below 2.30. In 2002, Martinez joined Sandy Koufax and Greg Maddux as the only pitchers to do so four times. But Pedro became the only pitcher to do so with an ERA+ over 200 all four years. In the American League, a pitcher has posted a sub-1.000/sub-.2.50 line 24 times since 1920. No one’s done it since 2002; no one’s done it more than once, except Martinez (three times), and it had been done three times in the previous 20 years before Pedro did it three times in four.

Granted, this was not Martinez’s 1999 or 2000. But, removing Martinez’s own previous seasons, his 2002 would have been the 12th-best in AL history ranked by ERA+. As it is, it ranks 15th. It certainly featured an un-Pedrolike start – hammered on Opening Day and an ERA near seven after three starts. But never fear. From April 19 to Aug. 10, Martinez was unbelievable. He was 15-2 in 21 starts, giving up just 27 earned runs for a 1.67 ERA. He struck out more than seven hitters for every walk, and threw two strikes for every ball. Martinez capped the run with 35 scoreless innings. He wasn’t quite the old Pedro, rarely going longer than eight innings in a game and never throwing a shutout, but he walked more than two in a game just four times. He never struck out fewer than four in a ballgame, and never walked more than four.

Amazingly, all four of Martinez’s losses occurred despite quality starts, while he didn’t win a single non-quality start. Overall, however, luck was his friend: Of his six no-decisions, only one was a quality start. Despite Martinez’s sheer dominance in nearly every pitching category, Zito won the Cy Young award, the voters likely wowed by his 23 wins and 30 more innings – a terrible decision that made 2002 historic in another sense: Martinez became the first pitcher to lead the league in ERA, strikeouts and winning percentage to not win a Cy Young.

Key game:
July 25. With the pennant race heating up, Pedro does, as well. Six starts removed from a gem against San Diego, Martinez duplicates the feat against Tampa Bay. He goes eight innings, allowing just three baserunners – two hits and a walk – while striking out 11. It’s the first eight scoreless innings of a 35-inning streak, the longest of his career and the longest by a Red Sox since Luis Tiant’s 40-inning streak in 1972.

8 comments… add one
  • I still think that Zito winning the CY in 02 was one of the all-time dumbest votes in MLB award history.

    SF March 26, 2008, 6:17 am
  • It was the biggest travesty in Cy Young voting in my lifetime. Pedro was half an ERA lower than Zito, had a WHIP of 0.923 (compared to Zito’s 1.13). Pedro had 57 more K’s (in 30 fewer innings) and had only 30 starts compared to Zito’s 35. Zito also had twice as many walks.

    Atheose March 26, 2008, 10:42 am
  • While I agree that Zito’s Cy Young Award win was absurd, Pedro had four strikes against him in ’02:
    (1) As Paul noted, he’d set the bar incredibly high for himself based on prior years.
    (2) Voters love wins. See Clemens v. Bob Welch, 1990 CYA voting.
    (3) He likely split votes with D-Lowe, who also had an outstanding W-L record that year.
    (4) The failure to pitch 200 innings. If he’d won, Pedro would have been the first – and only – starter (in either league) to win a CYA while pitching less than 200 innings in a non-strike-shortened season. (Caveat: Sutcliffe won the ’84 NL CYA with a 16-1 record over 150 innings. BUT, he pitched 94 innings in Cleveland before being traded over to the Cubs.)
    Seems crazy that 2/3rds of an inning would mean the difference between winning and losing major pitching awards, so I think the “voters love wins” factor had the most weight.

    Columbus-SF March 26, 2008, 12:44 pm
  • Definitely, Columbus. It’s pretty crazy, considering Wins and Losses depend on a lot more than just the pitcher’s skill.

    Atheose March 26, 2008, 1:15 pm
  • Agreed, Atheose. The best example, in my opinion, of that point – and my pick for biggest CYA travesty in my lifetime – was the 1990 CYA race. Clemens was absolutely robbed by the voters. Since we haven’t seen Clemens’ 1990 season in Paul’s excellent series (I assume it’s somewhere in the top 7), I hope he’ll forgive me for mentioning it now, rather than in a subsequent post.
    Welch went 27-6 in 35 starts over 238 innings, with a 2.95 ERA for a powerhouse Athletics team (McGwire, Canseco, R. Henderson, and D. Henderson).
    Clemens went 21-6 in 31 starts over 228 innings, with a 1.93 ERA with our Sox led by Boggs, Greenwell, Burks, and an aging Dwight Evans.
    Both teams were division winners, but there was clearly an imbalance of power: Oakland scored 733 runs and won 103 games. Boston scored 699 runs and finished at 88-74.
    How badly was Clemens robbed? Well, he beat Welch in Complete Games (7 to 2), Shutouts (4 to 2), Quality Starts (27 to 24), Strikeouts (209 to 127), WHIP (1.082 to 1.223), and ERA+ (213 to 126), just to name a few. Clemens posted the first full-season sub-2.00 ERA in the AL since Guidry in 1978. He posted the best ERA+ in the AL since Lefty Grove in 1931.
    In Welch’s 11 non-quality starts, he had a 6-5 W-L record (in his 24 quality starts he went 21-1, with 2 NDs). In Clemens’s 4 non-quality starts, he had a 1-3 record (20-3, with 4 NDs in quality starts).
    The A’s scored 176 runs, or 5 per game, when Welch started. The Sox scored 131 runs, or 4.23 per game, when Clemens started. If you remove their two highest scoring starts (12-7 and 10-0 for Welch; 13-1 and 14-3 for Clemens), the runs per game averages drop to 4.67 for Welch and 3.59 for Clemens.
    What did Welch have going for him? Wins: 27. The most in baseball since Carlton in 1972 (and most in the AL since McLain in 1968). And that’s about it.
    Even the MVP award voters recognized that Clemens outperformed Welch, placing Clemens 3rd and Welch 9th (one spot behind his teammate Dave Stewart).
    It’s unpopular to defend Clemens these days, and also hard in light of the way he crapped the bed in the 1990 ALCS, but he should have at least one more CYA in his trophy case.

    Columbus-SF March 26, 2008, 1:53 pm
  • Between Clemens in 1990, Pedro in 1999 and 2002, and Williams in 1941 and 1949, the Red Sox seem to have been jobbed quite a bit in the awards voting over the decades. It’s a mixture of circumstances (Williams’ personality, Welch’s aberrational season, George King being a d-bag) — but it’s striking, especially when you work through a series like this.

    Paul SF March 26, 2008, 3:36 pm
  • What was Pedro jobbed for in 1999? The MVP?

    Atheose March 26, 2008, 3:52 pm
  • Yes. Details to come in one of the Top 6 seasons…

    Paul SF March 26, 2008, 4:03 pm

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