Johnson’s Domination

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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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


4 Responses to “Johnson’s Domination”

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  1. Alex says:

    Can someone explain rew to me i can’t seem to find it anywhere

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  2. Eric Seidman says:

    Alex, REW measures the amount of wins a player contributed based on shifts in Run Expectancy, not Win Expectancy. It’s essentially the BRAA (Batting Runs Above Average) turned into a win-based metric.

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  3. Guillermo says:

    Eric,

    Best peak Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux?

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  4. Eric Seidman says:

    Hmm, that’s tough, plus I’m biased since Greg Maddux is my baseball idol. Equally disturbing is that Maddux’s best seasons, 1994-95, were strike shortened. I think I’d be inclined to say that the 99-02 of Johnson was probably better than the 92-95 or 93-96 of Maddux, but that Maddux has the more impressive career.

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