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+
All-Star, 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.