In the history of Major League Baseball, there are few names that have stood out from the rest. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig, and Walter Johnson are a few of those names. In the height of the steroid era, names such as Ken Griffey, Jr., Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens dominated the headlines. These individuals dominated through their great strength, flashy ability, and intimidation. However, one name should not be forgotten, and that is Pedro Martinez. From 1997-2003, there was not a better pitcher in baseball. While home run hitters will mashing balls and selling tickets, thus making the game explode in popularity, Pedro was making them look like grade school kids at the plate. Since the recording of advanced statistics is shaky at best for Pedro's time, here's a more traditional look at that seven year stretch Martinez produced on average:
201 IP/ 2.20 ERA (213 ERA+)/ 0.940 WHIP/ 5.59 K/BB (8.5 WAR)
Wow. To say it simply, Pedro was 113 points in ERA+ better than the league average (insane), was a lock for 200 innings (he got hurt one year and only pitched 116 innings), struck out batters almost 6 times as often as he walked them, and allowed less than one baserunner per inning over 1,400 innings and seven seasons.
Dominance thy name is Pedro Martinez.
And remember, this is at the height of the steroid era. This is when offensive players were mashing the ball at unbelievable rates. In Martinez' epic 2000 season, the average AL player put up the following slash line:
.276 BA/ .349 OBP/ .443 SLG/ .792 OPS
How did they do in 2011, you ask?
.258 BA/ .323 OBP/ .408 SLG/ .730 OPS
Pedro Martinez dominated his competition in a far stronger offensive AL. Nobody today could even hold a candle to Pedro's 7 year performance. For reference, let's look at what this year's AL Cy Young winner did:
251 IP/ 2.40 ERA (170 ERA+)/ .920 WHIP/ 4.39 K/BB (7.0 WAR)
In what was wildly considered the best season in the AL by a pitcher in 2011, which wowed media members, Justin Verlander was not even as close to the average Pedro Martinez season (and with that WAR value, consider Pedro had a season where he only pitched 116 innings).
What made Pedro so good? Why was a 5'11 170 lb skinny Dominican kid able to come up and beat down on some of the best sluggers of all time? He had incredible finesse and control. Not only did Pedro have a great fastball that he could control extremely well, but he had a devastating slider to go along with it. However, what really put Pedro Martinez over the top is a pitch that I consider to be one of the best ever: his change-up. It is unfortunate that win values for individual pitches aren't available before 2002, but from what I have to look on, I can only imagine how valuable the pitch would have been in Pedro's best seasons in 1999 and 2000. Here are the win values from Pedro's 2002-2005 seasons just on his change-up:
Those are win values for Pedro at the ages of 30-33, so I can only imagine how amazing the pitch would have been when Pedro was 25-29. If I were to guess, I would say that Pedro would have been able to put up around 75 win values on his change-up alone in that span. Pedro used this change-up along with his amazing control on his fastball to walk a grand total of 315 guys over 7 seasons. Nolan Ryan walked 364 batters in two years (1973-1974). This amazing control allowed Pedro to shine the brightest in a time where sluggers dominated the landscape. Fortunately, I was able to see Pedro once during this 7 year span of dominance, and that was in 2003 at Fenway against the Angels. Pedro is well on his way to Cooperstown. In fact, you'll see him there in roughly 5 years.
When you think of dominance, think of Pedro Martinez.