The Contact Tales: 2002

Starting Pitchers (Min IP: 100)

The Best:
Randy Johnson 66.1%
Matt Clement 68.4%
Pedro Martinez 70.2%
A.J. Burnett 72%
Curt Schilling 72%

Fitting how the Big Unit tops out as the least hittable starter of 2002. A future Hall of Famer is joined by two others – Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling – who are flanked by two (at the time) high-upside young arms who spent time with the Florida Marlins.

Burnett’s inclusion is expected. During this season his average velocity was a tick shy of 95 MPH and he leaned heavily on his heater and curve. In many ways, 2002 was also the breakout season for Burnett as he posted his first FIP under 4 and began flashing scintillating strikeout ability.

Clement is the odd man here. He never threw hard and at the time his supporting arsenal existed of a slider and little else. Clement’s fastball had movement, though, and as such he generated a good number of groundballs. Not only was 2002 the breakout year of Clement’s career but also a career-best season when judged by FIP.

The Worst:
Kirk Rueter 88.6%
Aaron Sele 88.3%
Ismael Valdez 86.3%
Scott Erickson 86.1%
Esteban Loaiza 85.9%

And on the opposite end of the stuff spectrum is Rueter. He pitched until 2005 and those four seasons of velocity information result in an average fastball velocity of 84.7 MPH. Give Rueter credit for throwing the pitch nearly 80% of the time yet somehow posting a 3.23 ERA over 203 innings. While you’re at it, give credit to that Giants defense and ballpark, too.

This was the season before Loaiza exploded back onto the scene with the White Sox, in large part thanks to learning a cutter that helped extend his career.

Relief Pitchers (Min IP: 40)

The Best:
Eric Gagne 61.5%
Dave Coggin 63.1%
Ugueth Urbina 64.2%
Luis Vizcaino 65.4%
Scott Williamson 65.8%

Much like the presence of Johnson and Pedro, Gagne topping the list should surprise no one. It’s almost hard to believe so much time has passed since Gagne became one of the Dodgers’ biggest attractions. Between the goggles, the Guns N’ Roses entrance music, and Game Over shirts, Gagne-mania mimicked the Hollywood adoration of closers. Gagne’s flame-throwing ways and story of triumph fit right in.

2002 remains Coggin’s shining moment, as he missed most of 2003 and never returned to the Majors. 2007 appears to be his final season in organized ball. Williamson always battled with injuries and the last time he threw on a Major League stage his once solid velocity (93.5 MPH in 2002) was reduced to a measly 89.1 MPH.

The Worst:
Terry Mulholland 88.1%
Chad Zerbe 87.8%
Jeff Farnsworth 86.9%
Jeff Tam 85.8%
Rolando Arrojo 85.8%

Fun fact: two of these pitchers would never pitch in the Majors again. Unlike the guys who missed bats, it wasn’t because of injury.

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6 years 6 months ago

I don’t care how overrated saves are–55 for 55 is still impressive.

6 years 6 months ago

Man how I miss the days of Gagne and “Game Over”. It was great while it lasted, but I wish he hadn’t been injured in 2005, he might have still stayed pretty useful for the Dodgers :(