We’ve discussed here as well as at Statistically Speaking with regards to Pedro Martinez’s pitching in 1999-2000 as perhaps the best we have ever seen, but another peak for a different pitcher in a similar span should not be overlooked. Though the numbers compiled in this peak may not be as impressive in the grand scheme of things they point to a domination of hitters. I’m speaking of Randy Johnson and his performance from 1999-2002.
For starters, here are some of his peripheral numbers in each of these seasons:
1999: 35 GS, 271.2 IP, 207 H, 75 ER, 70 BB, 364 K, 1.02 WHIP, 2.48 ERA, 2.75 FIP
2000: 35 GS, 248.2 IP, 202 H, 73 ER, 76 BB, 347 K, 1.12 WHIP, 2.64 ERA, 2.53 FIP
2001: 34 GS, 249.2 IP, 181 H, 69 ER, 71 BB, 372 K, 1.01 WHIP, 2.49 ERA, 2.12 FIP
2002: 35 GS, 260.0 IP, 197 H, 67 ER, 71 BB, 334 K, 1.03 WHIP, 2.32 ERA, 2.66 FIP
Let those babies sink in. Those are four absolutely ridiculous seasons. His 2000 campaign “looks” worse than the other three seasons yet his FIP of 2.53 comes in as the second lowest. In 1999 he led the NL in ERA, CG, IP, and Strikeouts. In fact, his 364 K outranked everyone by a very wide margin; second place was Kevin Brown and his measly-in-comparison 221 punchouts. He also finished second in WHIP by two-hundredths of a point.
The following season he again ranked in the top three in just about every category, finishing first in CG and K (347 to Chan Ho Park‘s 217); he also finished 2nd in ERA and 3rd in IP and WHIP. In 2001, he led the league in ERA, Strikeouts, and WHIP while finishing 2nd in IP to teammate Curt Schilling. And in 2002, he led in ERA, CG, IP, and Strikeouts while finishing 3rd in WHIP. Those are just the peripheral numbers.
In terms of Win Probability, here are his WPA/LI and REW numbers, as well as their ranks in each of these seasons:
1999: 5.04 WPA/LI (1st), 5.93 REW (1st)
2000: 4.41 WPA/LI (2nd), 4.82 REW (1st)
2001: 5.84 WPA/LI (1st), 6.25 REW (1st)
2002: 4.43 WPA/LI (2nd), 5.91 REW (1st)
We all know RJ as a strikeout machine, and his K/9 counts in these four seasons did not disappoint. 12.06 in ’99, 12.56 in ’00, 13.41 in ’01, and 11.56 in ’02. He of course led the league in each of these seasons. Equally impressive are his K/BB ratios; it isn’t as if he struck out a ton of batters but walked many as well. No, Johnson’s lowest K/BB in this span was 4.57 in 2000. In 1999 he clocked in at 5.20; a 5.24 in 2001, and a 4.70 in 2002. These ratios placed him either second or third in each season.
All told, Johnson led the league or finished no lower than third in all of these categories for four straight seasons. He is without a doubt a Hall of Fame pitcher and the kind of guy whose starts used to be considered “events.” While it usually takes a few years after a player retires to detach ourselves from the most recent performance—for instance, it’s tough to really remember every facet of Johnson’s peak when we see his most recent seasons on the Yankees and again DBacks—let’s not forget that the man who induced a Lou Collins flyout in the film Little Big League had arguably the second best peak in baseball history.
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