Big League Stew - MLB

As the decade winds down to its final days, Big League Stew is reflecting on the biggest baseball happenings of the 2000s. Next up are 10 pitching numbers that stood out over the past 10 years. From Pedro Martinez's(notes) dominance to Jose Lima's(notes) permissiveness, here are the statistics that stood out to Alex Remington, our resident numbers guy.

3.18 — The difference between the AL average ERA and Pedro Martinez's ERA in 2000. Put it another way: he had an ERA of 1.74, and every other AL pitcher combined for an ERA of 4.96 — nearly three times higher. Among full-season starting pitchers, his ERA+ of 291 that year is the highest in history, and his WHIP of 0.737 is the lowest in history. Pedro's 2000 was the most dominating pitching performance of the decade.

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9.58Curt Schilling's(notes) K/BB rate in 2002, the highest in history for a pitcher with over 200 innings. (Even in his otherwordly 2000 campaign, Pedro was at 8.88.) Schilling struck out 316 batters while walking only 33 — a mixture of both dominance and control unlikely to be equalled, not least because no one has struck out 300 men in a season since Schilling and his teammate Randy Johnson(notes) both did in 2002. Schilling is the all-time leader in K/BB in baseball's modern era with a career mark of 4.38.

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14.98Eric Gagne's(notes) strikeouts per nine innings in his Cy Young 2003 season, the all-time record for most strikeouts per nine innings. Remember how unhittable Eric Gagne used to be? For three years from 2002-2004, he was one of the best pitchers in the world. Each year, he pitched exactly 82 1/3 innings, was named to the All-Star team, and finished in the top seven for the Cy Young and in the top 12 for the MVP.  Then he floundered in Boston, his name was mentioned in the Mitchell Report and, well, we know the rest of the story ... 

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21 — The number of batters that Kerry Wood(notes) beaned in 2003, tied for 10th-most in history, and the most since Tom Murphy in 1969. The following season, while Wood was injured for part of the year, both Bronson Arroyo(notes) and his teammate Carlos Zambrano(notes) challenged him, winding up with 20 HBP by year's end, but neither pitcher has come close to Wood's total since then. (No one has hit more than 21 men in a season since Howard Ehmke plunked 23 in 1922.) Still, Wood in 2003 was the very definition of "effectively wild." He struck out 266 men, walked a cool 100, threw 24 home runs and 21 beanballs, and had a 3.20 ERA overall.

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6 — The number of balks Mike Pelfrey(notes) was charged with in 2009, the most since Bud Black had seven of them in 1992. (Don't ask me why, but the late '80s and early '90s were a golden age for balks. While umpires called exactly 138 balks in 2009, they called 924 in 1988, nearly seven times more. In 1988, Dave Stewart set the all-time record with 16 balks.)

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711 — The number of relief appearances made by the rubber-armed David Weathers(notes) over the past decade, 57 more than LaTroy Hawkins(notes) and 60 more than Mariano Rivera(notes), his closest competitors. The 39-year old Weathers has been in baseball since 1991, but his '90s were mostly forgettable, as he greeted the millennium with a 31-36 record and a 5.37 ERA as a swingman. Then, in every year of the 2000's, he made at least 60 appearances and was league-average or better — the only player to do so in each year of the decade. (Rivera appeared in only 45 games in 2002.) Weathers is nowhere near Jesse Orosco's record of 1,248 appearances — he has just 895 and counting — but there's a good case to be made that David Weathers was one of the best, and certainly one of the most reliable, relievers of the '00s.

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0.94 — Mariano Rivera's ERA in 86 postseason innings this past decade. Those 86 innings came in just 57 appearances, during which he saved 26 of 30 opportunities. Despite memorable meltdowns against the D-backs in 2001 and the Red Sox in 2004, Mo was still the most reliable cold-weather meal ticket in the game. (Then again, in 47 1/3 playoff innings in the 1990s, he saved 13 of 14 and gave up a grand total of two earned runs, for an ERA of 0.38.) This decade, the best remained the best.

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48 — The number of homers served up by Jose Lima in 2000, second only to Bert Blyleven's 50 in 1986. That same year, Pedro Martinez gave up only 44 runs, 42 of them earned. Lima went 7-16 with a 6.65 ERA in 2000, just one year after he became an All-Star and finished fourth in the Cy Young while winning 21 games for the Houston Astros. Over the course of the decade, Jose Lima made 146 starts, logged 860 innings, and posted a 6.00 ERA, the worst of any pitcher with at least 100 appearances. How's that for Lima time?

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15 — The number of pickoffs by Greg Smith(notes) in 2008, tied for fourth-most in history behind Jerry Garvin and two different Steve Carlton seasons. Smith was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks and traded in the Dan Haren(notes) deal to the Oakland A's, who immediately slotted him in the rotation. He had a decent year on the mound —a 7-16 record, but a 4.16 ERA and 99 ERA+, just fine for the back of the rotation — but his number of pickoffs was eye-popping. The A's immediately traded him to the Rockies in the Matt Holliday(notes) deal, and he struggled mightily before being shut down with shoulder troubles. It will be fun to see whether the premier pickoff artist of the modern era can pick up where he left off in 2010.

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47 — The number of complete games pitched by Roy Halladay(notes) since 2000, the best in the bigs. Halladay is also the major league leader in shutouts, with 14 over the same span, a good reason he's the hottest trade prospect this winter. Unsurprisingly, he was also the leader in innings per start, averaging 6.9 for each of his starts since 2000.

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