Saturday, January 17, 2015

Who Had the Best 1-2 Punch?

With all this talk about Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez’s election to the Hall of Fame, I was reminded of something.

When Curt Schilling was traded to the Diamondbacks to join Johnson in the rotation, somebody (probably ESPN) ran a poll asking what the best #1/#2 starting pitcher combination in the majors was. The first choice was, of course, the newly minted duo of Johnson and Schilling. I don’t exactly remember all the other choices, but they were the likely candidates…Clemens/Pettitte, Maddux/Glavine, probably Hudson/Mulder. The last choice was “Pedro Martinez and any other Red Sox starter.” I remember getting a chuckle out of that one. Especially since it was getting some votes. Of course, it was just a silly choice. The idea that Pedro and Jeff Fassero, for example, would be the best #1/#2 combo in the majors was good for a laugh. Although, it did speak to just how good Pedro was at the time that they even suggested it. It wasn’t “Maddux and any other Braves starter.” It wasn’t even “Johnson and anybody else.” It was telling, but obviously just a throwaway entry.

Or, was it?

Just for fun, I thought I’d see just how close those entries would have been. After all, any time spent browsing around Pedro’s baseball-reference page is time well spent. I decided to use WAR for the comparisons because, well, why not?

The top five that year for “combined WAR” between two pitching staff members, not including any Red Sox entries, were:

13.2 Randy Johnson-Curt Schilling
12.2 Kevin Brown-Chan Ho Park
12.2 Randy Johnson-Bryan Anderson
11.5 Greg Maddux-Tom Glavine
9.8 Randy Johnson-Greg Swindell

So, there you go. Obviously, Johnson’s massive 8.1 number allowed him to team with a few people to get a bigger number.

How about Pedro and his rotation-mate?

Baseball-reference lists six pitchers for the Sox that year as “starting pitchers.” Going with Pedro and ANY other starter, the worst combination is actually him and his brother. That year they combined for a WAR of 11.4. If you look at the list, that would place them fifth. Amazingly, that’s because Ramon actually had a negative WAR that year, and dragged down Pedro’s unbelievable 11.7. (Side note…Ramon finished the season with the second most starts on the Sox, behind Pedro, even with his -0.3 WAR. Imagine if the Sox had another even average starter?) On his own, Pedro would have finished fourth. So, while the combination of Pedro and “any other starter” shouldn’t have won the poll, it was clearly deserving of the mention after all.

How crazy is that?

Just for even more fun, what if we didn’t just use the worst starter on the Sox? How would “Pedro and starter X” do in the comparison? I’m glad you asked. Here’s the new major league top five, if you include Red Sox pitchers.

14.0 Pedro Martinez-Tomo Ohka
13.4 Pedro Martinez-Jeff Fassero
13.2 Randy Johnson-Curt Schilling
12.6 Pedro Martinez-Pete Schourek
12.6 Pedro Martinez-Rolando Arrojo

Are you friggin’ kidding me? So thanks to Pedro, Tomo Ohka was part of the best #1/#2 punch in the majors? Let that sink in for a minute. Jeff Fassero was part of a better #1/#2 combination than Johnson/Schilling? Pete Schourek teamed up with Pedro to beat out two first-ballot Hall of Famers?


Pedro was good.

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