At 200 wins, Martinez's artistry at its peak

Originally Published: April 17, 2006
By Ken Shouler | Special to ESPN.com

The most effective 200-game winner in baseball history.

Pedro Martinez
Martinez
Now you can add that distinction to Pedro Martinez's bulging dossier of career notes. Martinez's lifetime mark of 200-84 (.704) gives him the highest winning percentage of any 200-game winner in baseball history. Whitey Ford had been the percentage leader among 200-game winners for more than four decades, finishing with a record of 236-106 (.690) in 1967.

Now in his 15th season, Martinez, 34, has fit many descriptions. Once best known as the younger brother of Ramon, his teammate on the Dodgers and then the Red Sox, Pedro has since been labeled as an intimidator, a headhunter and a supreme artist on the mound.

Into the beginning of the century, Martinez fired 95-mph heat. His high-octane fastball set off a knee-buckling curve that made him as untouchable as any other pitcher. Now he often tops out in the 88-89 mph range, with occasional pitches in the mid-90s.

Though the artist's brush strokes are a little slower of late, the dabs he makes are more precise and the pallet has more colors. "He still has the full package," says Leo Mazzone, pitching coach for the Baltimore Orioles. "He has movement, he has change of speeds, change of directions."

Mazzone knows well the record that Martinez is about to break. Long before he was a pitching coach in Atlanta, nurturing the likes of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, Mazzone was a Yankee fan growing up in Westernport, Md. His favorite Yankee? Whitey Ford. Like Ford, Mazzone was a 5-foot-10 left-hander growing up.

"He had the greatest nickname of any pitcher -- 'The Chairman of the Board'," Mazzone says.

Like Met fans, Mazzone has been watching the New York edition of Martinez over these last two seasons. He still sees the same traits in Martinez that he had in Montreal a decade ago: "He is one of the smartest, most confident pitchers in the game," Mazzone says. "He has attitude. Call it mound presence. He knows he can stick it to you," referring to Pedro's confidence in his ability to get hitters out.

Anyone watching the Mets' edition of Martinez over the last two seasons has been treated to an artist pitching masterfully despite a loss of velocity. He not only throws circle changeups to set up other changeups, but a three-quarter arm position is now his norm. Opposing hitters mumble about the difficulty of picking up his deliveries. He varies arm angles and speeds and weaves in and out like a boxer working his hands high and low.

"He's the best I've ever seen," said Jim Palmer, Hall of Fame pitcher and current Baltimore broadcaster. "I always said you need four things to be a great pitcher -- location, movement, velocity, and deception. He's got all those. Now, you add the intelligence he brings to the mound and we're not talking about a mere mortal here."

Pitching for the Red Sox in 2003, Martinez complained that he was tired of all the talk of a curse and the comparisons to the Yankees. So it is oddly fitting that Martinez has broken a record held by a Yankee. Ford is the only post-World War II-era pitcher in the Baseball Hall of Fame to stand under six feet tall. Martinez, a three-time Cy Young award winner and a diminutive 5-foot 11 and 170 pounds, is sure to join him in that distinction.

The following chart ranks the top 10 200-game winners according to winning percentage.

Winning Percentage Leaders Among 200-Game Winners
PITCHER TEAMS RECORD PCT.
Pedro Martinez
(1992-pres.)
L.A. Dodgers; Montreal; Boston; N.Y. Mets 200-84 .704
Whitey Ford
(1950-67)
N.Y. Yankees 236-106 .690
Bob Caruthers
(1884-1892)
St. Louis (AA); Brooklyn (AA); St. Louis (NL) 218-99 .688
Lefty Grove
(1925-41)
Philadelphia (AL); Boston (AL) 300-141 .680
Christy Mathewson
(1900-16)
N.Y. Giants; Cincinnati 373-188 .665
Roger Clemens
(1984-05)
Boston, Toronto, N.Y. Yankees, Houston 341-172 .665
Randy Johnson
(1988-pres.)
Montreal; Seattle; Houston; Arizona; N.Y. Yankees 265-137 .659
John Clarkson
(1882-94)
Worcester (NL); Chicago (NL); Boston (NL); Cleveland (NL) 328-178 .648
Mordecai Brown
(1903-16)
St. Louis (NL); Chicago (NL); Cincinnati (NL); St. Louis (FL); Brooklyn (FL); Chicago (FL) 239-130 .648
Grover Alexander
(1911-30)
Philadelphia (NL); Chicago (NL); St. Louis (NL) 373-208 .642

In addition, judged by adjusted ERA (measuring a pitcher's ERA -- adjusted to his ballpark -- versus the league as a whole), Martinez owns the most dominant individual season since 1900. In 2000 with Boston, he finished 18-6 with an ERA of 1.74. Factoring in the 2000 American League ERA of 4.91 and ballpark factors, his adjusted ERA was 288 -- with 100 being above average. Many observers say that his 1999 and 2000 seasons are the most dominant back-to-back seasons in baseball history.

The following chart shows the most dominant seasons in adjusted ERA:

Single-Season Leaders in Adjusted ERA (since 1900)
PITCHER TEAM YEAR ADJUSTED ERA
Pedro Martinez Boston 2000 288
Dutch Leonard Boston 1914 280
Greg Maddux Atlanta 1994 277
Greg Maddux Atlanta 1995 265
Bob Gibson St. Louis 1968 258
Walter Johnson Washington 1913 258
Mordecai Brown Chicago (NL) 1906 254
Pedro Martinez Boston 1999 241
Walter Johnson Chicago (NL) 1912 240
Christy Mathewson New York (NL) 1905 230

In addition, Martinez ranks first among active pitchers in the following:

Winning percentage: .704

WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning pitched) 1.021 (third all-time, behind Addie Joss and Ed Walsh)

Hits allowed per nine innings: 6.82 (third all-time, behind Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax)

ERA: 2.72

Strikeout-to-walk ratio: 4.31 to 1 (second all-time, behind Tommy Bond)

Besides holding the highest winning percentage among 200-game winners, Martinez is also first all-time in adjusted ERA: 166.

It is difficult to make the case that Martinez is the greatest pitcher of all time. But what cannot be denied is that even as he loses velocity, he still wins games by learning more about his art. That pitching intelligence should only add to his list of records in the years to come.

Ken Shouler has written three books on baseball.

Ken Shouler is the editor and a writer for "Total Basketball: The Ultimate Basketball Encyclopedia." Shouler has also written three baseball books and served as a panelist for the "DHL Presents Major League Baseball Hometown Heroes" project.

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