As great as Greinke is ...

September, 23, 2009
9/23/09
4:23
PM ET
Sure, Zack Greinke's awesome. But in fairness, he's no Pedro Martinez:
 Greinke
 Martinez
    With a win over the Red Sox last night, Zack Greinke should have just about locked up the AL Cy Young award. Other pitchers are having good years, but no one has dominated like Greinke has. He's been the best pitcher in the league by a pretty good margin. His 2.34 FIP looks like something right out of Pedro Martinez's prime. But that thought process led me to look up Pedro's page, and as always, that led to my eyes popping out of my head when I saw his 1999 line. It's just not possible to look at his numbers from a decade ago and not be utterly amazed.

    213 innings. 160 hits. 9 home runs. 37 walks. 313 strikeouts. 1.39 FIP.

    1.39 FIP in a season where league average was 4.71. Pedro was 3.3 runs per nine innings better than a league average pitcher. Over 213 innings, that's 80 runs better than average, or about 100 runs better than replacement. A hundred runs. Pedro was worth something like +10 wins over the 1999 season. If it's not the greatest pitcher season of all time, it's in the discussion.

Tuesday night after Greinke knocked a few more points off his ERA, a friend e-mailed me to ask if any pitcher since the '60s had posted an ERA in the neighborhood of 2. Of course the answer is yes. In fact, a bunch of guys have done it. Since 1969, there have been 15 pitcher-seasons that included a sub-2.00 ERA and at least 200 innings. Dwight Gooden (1.53) leads the way, while Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens both did it twice.

As did Martinez, whose name was the first that came to mind as I read my friend's e-mail. Pedro's 1.74 ERA ranks just fourth on my list -- behind Gooden and the two Maddux seasons -- but of course that's apples to oranges, as Pedro's 2000 season came in the American League and squarely during the Power era.

If we look instead at ERA+, Pedro comes out on top, with his 2000 and 1999 seasons bracketing Maddux's 1994 and '95. And what of Greinke? His ERA (so far) ranks just 21st since '69, but his ERA+ jumps to the 11th spot. To join the Hall of Famers up there, though, he'll have to do it twice.

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