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Schilling, Smoltz among modern marvels

Updated: October 27, 2004, 6:16 PM ET
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
A moment before the first pitch was thrown in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series, somebody on television referred to Jeff Suppan as "the Cardinals' big-game pitcher."

Uh, no.

Before Tuesday night's outing, Suppan had started exactly three postseason games and won two of them. I could find, within five minutes, a dozen pitchers you've never heard of who nonetheless have more impressive postseason records. And, of course, Suppan didn't exactly burnish his credentials in his fourth postseason start.

A few hours earlier, somebody on television asked me if Pedro Martinez has established himself as a "big-game pitcher."

Uh, no.

Even including last night's impressive performance, Pedro still has only six wins and a 3.40 postseason ERA. That doesn't rank among the all-time best. Martinez could muscle his way into the conversation with a great Game 7 – on the off-chance the Series goes that far – or with two or three wins next October. But right now he's not there.

Humans have an astounding ability to focus on the recent past rather than everything else. This is deeply ingrained within most of us, probably a remnant of our early days as a species, when it was helpful to 1) forget that last year a sabre-tooth tiger swallowed your best friend whole, and 2) remember that mmmmm, last week that sabre-tooth tiger sure tasted good after we cooked it.

But when coming up with the best big-game pitchers, it's exceptionally helpful to remember that yes, they did play big games before October of 2004.

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