I’ll admit, watching Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson get enshrined into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame this past weekend had me frolicking down memory lane.
Growing up a lefty pitcher myself, ‘The Big Unit’ was a player I naturally idolized watching baseball. And it was hard to not love Pedro approaching the game with an unmatched fearless attitude during his 17-year career.
During the heart of their careers, Johnson and Martinez were two players you knew without a doubt that a call from Cooperstown would come.
Now that their baseball careers are officially closed, it makes you wonder if we’ll see their achievements matched anytime soon. Specifically, by active pitchers.
Without question, it’ll be tough for anyone to equal the dominance of Randy Johnson.
Between 1999 and 2002, The Big Unit won four consecutive Cy Young Awards, totaled 81 wins and amassed 1,400-plus strikeouts during the heart of the steroids era – pitching in the same division as Barry Bonds.
Starting in 1991 and ending in 2004, Johnson had more strikeouts than innings pitched every single season. His K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) rate is the best in the history of baseball. You know who’s 3rd?
Other than that, Pedro’s career is best summed by this little nugget.
Pedro Martinez had 7 straight seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA. 6 of the 7 were under 2.40, and 2 were sub-2.00. Absolutely ridiculous.
— Peter Hahn (@Big_Bear11) July 26, 2015
Simply ridiculous. Same with his 117-37 record during 7 seasons in Boston. Bottom line: The two best pitchers 90’s kids grew up with are easily two of the best all-time.
It’s unlikely any of the MLB’s active pitchers will ever reach Randy/Pedro status, but you know who’s currently on a similar tear?
The Dodgers ace is only in his eighth season at the age of 27 and already has three Cy Young awards and an MVP to his name. He’s posted a sub-3.00 ERA in six of his seven completed seasons, turned in a 1.83 and 1.77 in each of his last two Cy Young seasons respectively, and is on track to post another sub-3.00 mark in 2015.
If we’re being completely real with ourselves, Clayton Kershaw will have his bust in the baseball Hall of Fame one day. And it’s not really up for debate.
Felix Hernandez is a case where he’ll likely make it there eventually, you just aren’t sure about betting the mortgage on it. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with Felix himself as much as it is the place he’s pitched throughout his 11-year career.
Take King Felix off of the Seattle Mariners during the 2000s and you have the greatest pitcher of our generation. But because of how people blindly value wins, he’s often gone overlooked for how truly good he is.
At only 29, he’s already surpassed the 2,000 career strikeout mark and boasts a career ERA of only 3.05. Not only did he win the 2010 Cy Young, he’s finished top five in the voting three other times and 2015 will likely be the fourth.
If Hernandez were to maintain his 162-game strikeout average (218), he’ll surpass the 4,000 career strikeout mark at age 38 (for perspective, Johnson did it at 40). He may lack the recognition of Kershaw, but I doubt we see Cooperstown not pick up the phone for Felix Hernandez one day.
Aside from Kershaw and Felix, does anyone else have a real shot at the Hall of Fame?
Chris Sale (26) is a player whose short career has mimicked that of Hernandez’s. An extremely talented pitcher capable of racking up strikeouts while keeping pitch count and ERA low, but plays for a team that has never helped him out offensively.
Madison Bumgarner is turning into one of the premiere postseason pitchers in Major League Baseball. At only 25 years old, he has three World Series rings and arguably the greatest single series ever turned in by a pitcher. But his regular season stats don’t exactly scream Cooperstown.
Cole Hamels? Zack Greinke? David Price?
Right now, baseball is littered with a lot of damn good pitchers – but not all-time greats. Guys we love to have on our fantasy baseball teams and are exciting to watch every fifth day.
However, being able to identify the line between good, great, and transcendent is damn near impossible task for even the most well-versed baseball fan. And in that, my humble opinion can only muster the cases for Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez.
They’re your modern day Randy and Pedro. At the very least, they’re the closest thing we’ll see for a long time.
And for that, we really should cherish what we’re watching.