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— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best

Monday, January 27, 2014

Randy Johnson

Eligible in 2015

DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2014 at 12:39 PM | 63 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2014 at 05:14 PM (#4646937)
I have him ranked as the 3rd best LHP of all time behind Grove and almost but not quite even with Spahn
   2. OCF Posted: January 27, 2014 at 06:05 PM (#4646968)
The three pitchers you name, by RA+ equivalent record.

Grove: 295-143, big years score 141 (MLB only)
Spahn: 340-242, big years score 58
Johnson: 275-162, big years score 98

That does put Spahn and Johnson close, with Spahn the career candidate and Johnson the peak/prime candidate. Neither Spahn nor Johnson can come within shouting distance of Grove.

On the other hand:

Yes, I know there's a tradition dating back to before any of us were born that separates starting pitchers into RHP and LHP and ranks within those groups. But why? It's all the same position. (Effectiveness versus specific players and even the lineups seen will vary for platoon reasons.)

I do remember Johnson appearing in relief in a World Series, and my immediate thought was, "That's exactly how Lefty Grove would have been used."
   3. DL from MN Posted: January 27, 2014 at 06:29 PM (#4646974)
I agree that it isn't an important distinction but the platoon advantage is real so it is an interesting comparison.
   4. John DiFool2 Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:42 PM (#4647008)
And relevant in the case of Unit, with his huge platoon advantage. The actual split (.662 vs. .572 OPS) understates the difference because only those lefties who could hit lefty pitchers ever got a chance to face him-88% of all PA's were by righties.
   5. Rickey! In a van on 95 south... Posted: January 27, 2014 at 07:54 PM (#4647014)
Yes.
   6. OCF Posted: January 27, 2014 at 08:57 PM (#4647035)
Yes.

Sticking our neck way out, are we?
   7. eric Posted: January 27, 2014 at 11:59 PM (#4647093)
How does Steve Carlton compare to Grove/Spahn/Johnson?
   8. Blackadder Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:08 AM (#4647100)
Sticking our neck way out, are we?


It's a trap!
   9. OCF Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:17 AM (#4647105)
Using the same language as in post #2:

Carlton: 328-252, big years score 58.

The majority of that big years score comes from a single season - and I bet you know which one that was. That's easily compared to Spahn, and is pretty clearly a step behind. So I have Carlton as a step behind both Spahn and Johnson.

Since the theme seems to be southpaws:

Plank: 303-197 [64] (in a very different world, of course)
Glavine: 284-206 [30]

(Then a pretty big gap)

Ford: 218-134 [34] (Not defense-corrected, so probably overrates Ford a little.)
John: 281-244 [3] (Definitely not a peak candidate!)
Koufax: 163-95 [63] (The very definition of peak candidate.)
   10. Russlan is fond of Dillon Gee Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:17 AM (#4647106)
Is he the best old pitcher of old time? 235-110, 3062 IP, 147 ERA+, and 4 Cy Youngs after the age of 30. He only had one year with an ERA+ of 135 before the age of 30. His career ERA+ is 135.
   11. OCF Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:28 AM (#4647111)
Is he the best old pitcher of old time? ... 4 Cy Youngs after the age of 30.

Try comparing him to the pitcher who was Cy Young.
   12. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 28, 2014 at 12:41 AM (#4647114)
Spahn himself was pretty solid after the age of thirty, but a lot of that was extreme durability combined with very good but not spectacular ERA+es; Spahn had only one truly great season after 30, and many, many very good ones.

I didn't realize this, but Spahn lost time to the war. You don't hear it mentioned because it was near the beginning of his career, but after a disastrous cup of coffee at 21, Spahn spent three years in the Army and fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a combat engineer. He was given a battlefield commission at Ludendorff Bridge and a Purple Heart when he took shrapnel to the foot. Then he came back to the States and was right away one of the better pitchers in the NL. I have tended to think of Spahn as a guy who blossomed late, but what really happened was that he spent his age 22-24 seasons in the military.
   13. Chris Fluit Posted: January 28, 2014 at 09:22 AM (#4647153)
The lefty/righty distinction is mostly about roster construction. As a manager or a GM, you want both lefties and righties on your team. Writers will often pretend to be a GM when composing a best of all time roster article so, like a real GM, they make sure to have a lefty and a righty. It shouldn't matter in terms of HoF or HoM voting. We're concerned about actual value of results, not what side of the pitching rubber stood on. However, the lefty/righty distinction occasionally (and inappropriately, IMO) filters out to actual HoF voting. Some HoF voters carry over the imaginary exercise of "who would I want on my team if I was a manager?" when filling out their ballot. It comes up regarding the character clause (hurting the Dick Allen's of the world, and benefitting the Dale Murphy's- though not necessarily enough To get them over the line). Less often, it comes up for lefty/righty pitchers. I think it's the major reason why Andy Cooper was elected as part of the NeL commission. He apparently had the distinction of being the Negro League's best left-handed pitcher, even if that meant that several right-handed pitchers with better results were skipped over to make room for him.
   14. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: January 29, 2014 at 12:52 PM (#4647979)
Only two pitchers ever had seven seasons of >170 ERA+ and they both had surnames of Johnson and nicknames with the word big in them.



edit: Also one was 31 when he had his last 170 ERA+ and the other was 31 when he had his first.
   15. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: January 29, 2014 at 01:01 PM (#4647986)
One more interesting thing about the >170 ERA+, only six pitchers have done it at least 5 times and four of them are the usual suspects from the sillyball era.
   16. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: January 29, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4647996)
Cy Young, age 31-44

4380 ip, 295-194, 137 era+
   17. Chris Fluit Posted: January 30, 2014 at 03:55 PM (#4648859)
I think I've shared this story before but, with all the Pedro-love happening in the other thread, I wanted to mention that the single-most impressive performance I've seen in baseball came from Randy Johnson.

My wife and I had tickets to a Wednesday afternoon game in San Diego between the Diamondbacks and the Padres. There was a brief lightning storm the night before and a lightning bolt hit one of the towers at Qualcomm Park. The game was cancelled and rescheduled the next day as part of a doubleheader. We were pretty excited that we were going to see two games for the price of one.

Randy Johnson was the scheduled Wednesday starter so the D'Backs gave him the ball for the first game. However, they already played one inning Tuesday night before the lightning strike so they resumed the game in the second inning rather than starting over. Johnson technically entered in relief. (This was in 2001- if you look at his bbref page, you'll see that he pitched 35 games that year, but only 34 starts.)

Johnson proceeded to demolish the Padres. They had no idea what was coming. They swung months late on fastballs and missed curveballs by a mile. Phil Nevin swung so hard on one pitch- and missed so badly- that he cockscrewed himself into the ground, toppled over and fell on his butt. The Padres were completely overmatched. Johnson looked like he was taking on a team of midgets. He struck out 16 batters, setting a record for the most strikeouts in a single game in relief.

The Padres fared much better in the second game and we got to see Trevor Hoffman notch one of his 601 career saves.
   18. alilisd Posted: January 30, 2014 at 04:37 PM (#4648896)
Is he the best old pitcher of old time? 235-110, 3062 IP, 147 ERA+, and 4 Cy Youngs after the age of 30.


Becasue every thread should be a PED thread, how has Johnson missed any sort of accusation (unless I myself have missed said accusation) of PED use? Those four, straight, CY's were from 35 to 38 years of age! Then he's hurt at 39, but comes back at 40 to throw 245 IP, and lead the league in K's, ERA+, and WHIP! He goes on this run the year after he played in Houston with noted roiders Biggio and Bagwell. I mean come on! Clearly the Big Unit was the Big Needle in his later career. I'm being facetious, to be clear, but I am honestly wondering why there has been, afaik, no speculation about him considering his late career peak.

And Chris Fluit, great story, thanks for sharing!
   19. OCF Posted: January 31, 2014 at 03:26 AM (#4649146)
Another old power pitcher:

Dazzy Vance age 31-44:

2934 IP, 197-136, ERA+ 126. Led the league in strikeouts 7 years in a row, often by ridiculous margins. Let the league in ERA and ERA+ 3 times.

Example: in 1924, Vance, age 33, had 262 strikeouts, which was 7.9 K/(9 IP). Second place in both categories was Grimes, with 135, or 3.9 K/(9 IP).

Of course that's nearly the entirety of Vance's major league career. He had only about 60 bad innings before then.
   20. Cabbage Posted: January 31, 2014 at 03:49 AM (#4649149)
   21. gehrig97 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 09:11 AM (#4649164)
I have Randy Johnson as the second-best LHP of all time, behind only Grove. The comps to Spahn are interesting in that it reminds people (not that folks on these boards need reminding) of how great Spahn really was--if not for his military service, he had a legit shot at 400 wins. It just boggles the mind.

That said, Johnson clearly dominated his era to a greater extent than Spahn -- far as I can tell, Spahn comes within shouting distance in WAR based solely on volume, a direct result of usage patterns specific to their respective eras (and Johnson was among the most durable pitchers of his time--does anyone doubt he'd throw 300+ innings if he debuted 30 years earlier?). Johnson has a significant edge in peak, and an enormous edge in RAA (618 to Spahn's 367).

Again, not to denigrate Spahn in any way--he's a superb pitcher, a better version of Tom Glavine. RJ is a better version of Sandy Koufax. I love the fact that RJ and Pedro are going into the HOF together--what a photo op that will make.
   22. AndrewJ Posted: January 31, 2014 at 09:21 AM (#4649167)
17>> I looked up that game on BB-Ref, and "demolish" isn't the word. Had that been a start, RJ would have had a Game Score of 90.
   23. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: January 31, 2014 at 09:43 AM (#4649174)
if not for his military service, he had a legit shot at 400 wins.


Or blown his arm out and finished by 30 like Newhouser.
   24. Ron J2 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4649240)
From the peak/prime lists I've just started. LHP in the lively ball era. Sorted by prime. (nowhere near complete)

Period = decade whith the bulk of a player's peak.
Peak WAR = WAR in best 5 years. Need not be consecutive
Peak ERA+ = ERA+ in peak years
Prime WAR = WAR in best 7 year stretch, removing best and 2 worst years.
WAR 7+ = Years with WAR of 7 or more
WAR 5+ = Years with WAR of 5 or more



.               .       Peak    Peak    Prime  
Player          Period  WAR     ERA
WAR     WAR 7+  WAR 5+
Lefty Grove     1930s   49.8    184     38.2    10      13
Randy Johnson   2000s   47.2    187     35.8     7      11
Sandy Koufax    1960s   42.2    157     31.5     4       5
Hal Newhouser   1940s   40.9    160     29.7     3       5
Warren Spahn    1950s   38.5    141     29.0     4      10
Frank Viola     1980s   32.9    140     24.8     2       4
CC Sabathia     2000s   31.7    142     23.9     1       3
Clayton Kershaw 2010s   30.8    147     23.0     1       4
Steve Carlton   1970s   40.5    163     22.4     2       7
Mickey Lolich   1970s   30.6    114     22.0     2       3
Jim Kaat        1970s   29.1    125     21.3     2       3
Tom Glavine     1990s   30.8    147     21.0     1       3
Ron Guidry      1970s   30.7    140     20.7     1       3
Vida Blue       1970s   31.7    140     19.1     2       4
Whitey Ford     1960s   25.7    149     17.6     0       3
Tommy John      1970s   30.7    130     15.8     0       4 


Steve Carlton is probably the guy most affected by the decision to sort this by my definition of prime. And Newhouser of course gets two WWII years which shouldn't be taken at par.

As others have noted, I don't see any merit for treating handedness of starter separately for HOF purposes.


   25. alilisd Posted: January 31, 2014 at 12:53 PM (#4649274)
(and Johnson was among the most durable pitchers of his time--does anyone doubt he'd throw 300+ innings if he debuted 30 years earlier?)


This put me in mind of the neutralized stats available at BR. Johnson in 1966 Dodger Stadium terms puts his 1999-2002 seasons at an average of 22-7, WPct .757, with an ERA of 1.81 and 361 K's. Must have been awful to come into LA in the 60's knowing you were going to have to face Koufax. What might it have been like to know you were then going to face Johnson the next day?
   26. gehrig97 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 01:35 PM (#4649298)
Or blown his arm out and finished by 30 like Newhouser.


Fair point. For all the (deserved) war credit Feller gets, there's just no way of knowing if his arm would have held up had he been throwing 300+ innings a year over his age 23-25 seasons. He had averaged 320 IP over his age 20-22 seasons. His service may very well have saved his arm.
   27. gehrig97 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 01:44 PM (#4649305)
Yeah, silly R-L delineation aside, RJ cracks my all-time top-10. I'm not sure what to make of the fact that four guys active in the mid-80s to mid-aughts are on the list. Maybe its confirmation bias on my part, maybe it's a weird anomaly in game conditions that allows for four statistical outliers ... or maybe they were just that goddamned good.

I could see myself re-ordering 3-7 based on my mood at the time.

1. Clemens
2. W. Johnson
3. Grove (criminally underrated)
4. Maddux
5. Seaver
6. Alexander
7. R. Johnson
8. Mathewson
9. Gibson (for sheer terror)
10. Pedro (yeah I know... career is too short, blah blah blah. It's my list)

   28. AROM Posted: January 31, 2014 at 02:46 PM (#4649368)
Good list. I'd try to find a place for Satchel in there, but knowing where to put him is tough. I don't think it's impossible though, we have a good sampling on BBref of his stats in official Negro League games, and adjusting for context is probably not that much harder than doing so for pre-integration pitchers like Grove, and especially for deadball pitchers.

It just looks tougher because we have full season records for those guys.
   29. DL from MN Posted: January 31, 2014 at 03:30 PM (#4649419)
His service may very well have saved his arm.


OTOH the rapid increase of innings from three years of not pitching at all to 72IP in 1945 then 371IP in 1946 could have caused the arm problems that sapped Feller's effectiveness after age 28. I don't think any trainer would suggest going from not training to the heaviest workload possible is good for your arm.
   30. Rob_Wood Posted: January 31, 2014 at 03:47 PM (#4649437)
Did Cy Young run over your great-grandfather's cat or something? People can debate if Cy should be number one, but not having him in your top 10 is a little strange. By the way, luv your number one.
   31. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: January 31, 2014 at 03:54 PM (#4649440)

Example: in 1924, Vance, age 33, had 262 strikeouts, which was 7.9 K/(9 IP). Second place in both categories was Grimes, with 135, or 3.9 K/(9 IP).


You could make the argument that Vance was the most dominant strikeout pitcher in history. In 1924 he was responsible for 7.7% of all K's in the NL. Between 1923-1928 he was 5.9% of all NL K's. Ryan and Koufax never dominated at anywhere near that rate, never even hit 4% so the extra teams doesn't quite close the gap.

Here's the 1924 NL K leaders:

1. Vance (BRO) 262
2. Grimes (BRO) 135
3. Luque (CIN) 86
4. Morrison (PIT) 85
5. Kaufmann (CHC) 79
6. Keen (CHC) 75
7. Aldridge (CHC) 74
8. Donohue (CIN) 72
Nehf (NYG) 72
Ring (PHI) 72

He was to SO what Ruth was to HR.
   32. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: January 31, 2014 at 04:08 PM (#4649451)
gehrig, why do you say Grove is "criminally underrated"? Maybe by the average fan, but you could say that about alot of old timers like #6 on your list. I doubt anyone here doesn't consider Grove an inner-circle all time great.
   33. Ron J2 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 04:25 PM (#4649468)
#30 I can see a case for dropping Young a lot. Game conditions allowed him to pile up tons of innings. And (for instance) his 1900 should not be taken at par.

Overall league quality issues can be summed up by what happened to Kid Nichols. Slightly better than Young in the 1890s he ends up in Kansas City for two years not because he couldn't cut it in the majors but because he could make more money in KC. We tend to assume a more or less straight meritocracy in the majors, but even leaving aside the whole issue of colored players nothing close to all of the best players were in the majors in Young's day.

That said, his durability, work ethic and ability to throw strikes means that he'd likely be successful in any era. He had pretty good stuff when he came up (the "Cy" is short for Cyclone -- though Rusie and Meekin threw harder), "never" had a sore arm.

"My arm would get weak and tired at times, but never sore. I credit it to my legs and my off-season conditioning."

"I ran regularly to keep my legs in shape. In the spring I'd run constantly for three weeks before I ever threw a ball. And I worked hard all winter on my farm, from sunup to sundown. [...] Swinging an axe hardens the hands and builds up the shoulders and back."

In addition he had his six "Rules for Pitching Success"

[Rule 2] Cultivate good habits: Let liquor severely alone, fight shy of cigarettes, and be moderate of tobacco, coffee and tea [...] A player should try to get along without any stimulants at all: Water, pure, cool water is enough for any man.

[Rule 3] A man who is not willing to work from dewy morn until weary eve should not think about becoming a pitcher.

Articles of his day made it clear that Young was *quite* unusual in the care he took of himself.
   34. gehrig97 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 04:40 PM (#4649475)
Did Cy Young run over your great-grandfather's cat or something? People can debate if Cy should be number one, but not having him in your top 10 is a little strange. By the way, luv your number one.


Yeah, I gave Cy a lot of thought... he's a good #11 (but if anyone has him in their top-3, I can't really argue). He doesn't crack my top-10 because the playing conditions were just so different the first half of his career. He was literally playing a different game as we understand it today. You could make the argument, to a lesser extent of course, for any of the pre-integration guys -- but that's more about the level of competition.

Satchel Paige has a very, very strong case for top-5, but there's just no way to really quantify it.
   35. gehrig97 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 04:41 PM (#4649476)
gehrig, why do you say Grove is "criminally underrated"? Maybe by the average fan, but you could say that about alot of old timers like #6 on your list. I doubt anyone here doesn't consider Grove an inner-circle all time great.


Yep--I meant to the average fan. Obviously not around these parts ; )
   36. Rob_Wood Posted: January 31, 2014 at 04:41 PM (#4649478)
I agree with your points and readily admit that evaluating Cy Young is a challenge. I have him as the 5th greatest pitcher of all time. My only point was that any list of top 10 pitchers that does not have Cy Young *somewhere* in the top 10 is going to be questioned.

Peace.
   37. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: January 31, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4649489)
And (for instance) his 1900 should not be taken at par.


Do you mean 1901, because his 1900 is a little pedestrian (for him), and as I understand, a very tough league, as the NL had just contracted 4 teams. If anything, 1900 should be given more weight.
   38. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: January 31, 2014 at 04:55 PM (#4649492)
I agree that it's hard to keep Cy Young out of a top ten, I mean they named a pitching excellence award after him. Of course it should be called the Walter Johnson award, but that doesn't sound as good.
   39. Gonfalon B. Posted: January 31, 2014 at 05:00 PM (#4649498)
But "Big Train Award" sounds better.
   40. gehrig97 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 05:02 PM (#4649499)
Cy Young IS an awesome baseball name. And again, I can't really argue against anybody including him in their top-3, 5 or 10. He just didn't crack my list (but might, if I did it again tomorrow)
   41. OCF Posted: January 31, 2014 at 05:07 PM (#4649506)
I'd try to find a place for Satchel in there

And also Smokey Joe Williams. Approximate contemporary of Johnson and Alexander.
   42. Ron J2 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 05:14 PM (#4649516)
#37 Yeah 1901. As you note 1900 was probably the strongest league Young pitched in.
   43. DL from MN Posted: January 31, 2014 at 05:16 PM (#4649518)
Here's my top 8 using my HoM system

Walter Johnson
Roger Clemens
Pete Alexander
Lefty Grove
Smokey Joe Williams
Cy Young
Greg Maddux
Tom Seaver

Warren Spahn, Randy Johnson, Mathewson, Paige, Niekro, Carlton, Feller, Gibson and Pedro are in the next bunch. I can see any of them taking the last two slots in a top 10 but I'm not sure how someone constructs a top 10 list without those top 8.
   44. gehrig97 Posted: January 31, 2014 at 05:50 PM (#4649549)
I love this Cy Young stat: Over his career, he completed more games than all but three pitchers started.
   45. Jeff R., P***y Mainlander Posted: January 31, 2014 at 08:02 PM (#4649627)

You could make the argument that Vance was the most dominant strikeout pitcher in history. In 1924 he was responsible for 7.7% of all K's in the NL. Between 1923-1928 he was 5.9% of all NL K's. Ryan and Koufax never dominated at anywhere near that rate, never even hit 4% so the extra teams doesn't quite close the gap.

Here's the 1924 NL K leaders:

1. Vance (BRO) 262
2. Grimes (BRO) 135
3. Luque (CIN) 86
4. Morrison (PIT) 85
5. Kaufmann (CHC) 79
6. Keen (CHC) 75
7. Aldridge (CHC) 74
8. Donohue (CIN) 72
Nehf (NYG) 72
Ring (PHI) 72

He was to SO what Ruth was to HR.


When somebody completely laps the competition like that, there's usually a reason--they're doing something completely different than everybody else. Babe Ruth, of course, had an upper-cut swing and hit for the fences when everybody "knew" that would only get you a bunch of flyouts. Did Vance have a ridiculous fastball? A cutter, slider, some kind of pitch that nobody else was throwing?
   46. Misirlou is on hiding to nowhere Posted: January 31, 2014 at 09:27 PM (#4649659)
When somebody completely laps the competition like that, there's usually a reason--they're doing something completely different than everybody else. Babe Ruth, of course, had an upper-cut swing and hit for the fences when everybody "knew" that would only get you a bunch of flyouts. Did Vance have a ridiculous fastball? A cutter, slider, some kind of pitch that nobody else was throwing?


Might have just been an accident of history. Looking at K/9 he was very good, the best of his time, and at that point, one of the best of all time. But not Ruthian. He had a high of 7.6 in 1924, and 2 other seasons of 7.5. In the AL at the same time, Lefty Grove was putting up 6.7's. In 1911, Rube Marquard and Smokey Joe Wood had 7.7 and 7.5. Walter Johnson topped 7.4 twice. Rube Waddell topped 8 a couple of times. I think it was mainly a combination of Vance being very good, and the NL being very sparse at the same time.
   47. Mickey Henry Mays Posted: February 01, 2014 at 09:26 AM (#4649739)
Well his teammate Burleigh Grimes was 2nd in the league and both he and Vance had a pretty big home split advantage in strikeouts. That still doesn't really explain why Vance had more road K's than anybody else had on the whole season. Maybe Ol' Stubblebeard taught him the spitter.
   48. puck Posted: February 01, 2014 at 01:51 PM (#4649821)
#33--where are those Cy Young quotes from? They're pretty awesome.
   49. Gonfalon B. Posted: February 02, 2014 at 01:19 AM (#4650012)
Why, they come from Cy Young. (Oh, if only all questions were as easy to answer!)
   50. Baldrick Posted: February 02, 2014 at 03:22 AM (#4650018)
From 1895-1911, a period covering 5500 (!) innings, Cy Young gave up 91 home runs.

From 1986-1987, Bert Blyleven gave up 96 home runs.

It was a different game back then, huh?
   51. Ron J Posted: February 02, 2014 at 04:11 AM (#4650021)
#47 Vance in a 1926 interview said that he was one of the few pitchers in the league who threw "straight overhand" and that most pitchers throw at least somewhat sidearm. "I pitch somewhat sidearm myself, when I feel like it, but when I'm really in a hole and have got to bump up my back and get out of it, I pitch overhand."

"Most pitchers try to save their arm. They won't put much stuff on the ball except in the pinch. I generally put a lot of stuff on every thing I throw". (though he goes on to say that he tries to have a little bit in reserve for emergencies)

In other words, the prevailing theory of pitching was still pitch to contact. Vance didn't do it -- with spectacular success.

Exceptional fastball, in 1932 Ray Kremer (in the discussion for fastest fastball in the NL) said that Vance still threw harder than anybody else in the NL. James/Neyer rate him with the best fastball in baseball from 1920-1924 and second best (behind Grove from 1925-29)

And he had an exceptional curve. Plenty of people describe it as the best they'd ever seen. (May be hyperbole, James/Neyer don't rate his curve in the top 20, but still it was pretty impressive)

Oh he also used a knuckleball (about 4 times a game) as a changeup. Supposedly a nasty one.

As for the home/road split according to Riggs Stephenson the Dodgers built a high mound. Certainly helped the Dodger pitchers in the 60s and there's no reason that wouldn't help Vance. Another big power pitcher.

And while I'm not aware of any spitter accusations, Stephenson said, "he'd cut his shirt around the right arm so you couldn't pick up the ball with those shreds of a sleeve flapping around."

(mostly from the Neyer/James Guide to pitchers)
   52. Tuque Posted: February 02, 2014 at 04:16 AM (#4650022)
I met Randy Johnson today! There was this random tall guy in very skinny jeans standing on the streetcorner on the USC campus and as I went walking by I saw his face and connected thirty dots at once and suddenly, uncontrollably blurted out "Oh my god are you Randy Johnson?!" He was like "uh, yeah" and then turned away from me and I didn't know what else to say so I just said "Cool!" and kept walking. It was great! He should be in the Hall of Merit.
   53. Ron J Posted: February 02, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4650086)
Further to #51 it's worth noting that the pitchers in the early 20s reached the majors (or advanced through the minors) based on their ability to command the spitter. And most of them lost the right to throw it legally. Pitching to contact was the best a lot of them could do.
   54. gehrig97 Posted: February 02, 2014 at 03:01 PM (#4650109)
#52: Nice to know Randy is still a bit of a tool.
   55. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 02, 2014 at 03:29 PM (#4650115)
Spahn averaged a 20-12 record over 17 seasons (1947-63), never fewer than 245 innings in a season - that's just crazy.
He was an amazingly good combination of smooth mechanics and a very quick pace.
   56. Morty Causa Posted: February 02, 2014 at 06:02 PM (#4650163)
Spahn was also lucky to almost always have a very good offense behind him.
   57. Tuque Posted: February 03, 2014 at 03:59 AM (#4650586)
#54: I don't think he was being a tool. I hear his daughter is at USC, so my guess is he was just visiting his kid and wandering around his old alma mater and didn't feel like being shouted at by unexpected and overenthusiastic short people. I've always liked Johnson because of how bad he supposedly felt about killing that bird. He doesn't need to be super friendly all the time.
   58. Moeball Posted: February 03, 2014 at 06:27 PM (#4651021)
Cy Young, age 31-44

4380 ip, 295-194, 137 era+


You know how Bill James has said that if you split Rickey Henderson in two, you'd have two HOFers?

Sounds like you could say the same thing about Cy Young.

Phil Nevin swung so hard on one pitch- and missed so badly- that he cockscrewed himself into the ground, toppled over and fell on his butt.


Don't recall if it was this game or a different bit of embarrassing futility against RJ, but Nevin has talked about how silly he felt sometimes trying to hit that damned slider of Johnson's. Nevin says that one time when he was guessing that the 100 mph fastball was coming, he started his stride forward early, shifting weight onto the front foot, but saw the release point of the pitch (when RJ dropped the arm to almost sidearm as he frequently did)and thought the pitch was going to be outside, so Phil tried to hold the bat back and check his swing. Turns out it was Mr. Nasty coming, and the pitch broke late heading towards the plate. So Nevin practically threw the bat at the ball, missing wildly, while the pitch broke down and in, actually heading towards Nevin's back foot. So then Nevin tried to pull his back foot out of the way rather than get hit by a 90 mph pitch, but with his weight already shifted he looked positively comical:

A)hopping on his front foot
B)almost losing his grip on the bat swinging wildly
C)at a pitch that almost hit him

Of course, a lot of batters looked really overmatched against Johnson, so Nevin shouldn't feel too badly. Not many pitchers dominated Tony Gwynn, but RJ was one who did and Tony has talked about how difficult it was to hit Randy, because:

1)He was so tall - with those long arms and legs he was much closer than 60 feet, 6 inches when he released the pitch so that fastball was really on top of the batter in a hurry and
2)Because he often threw sidearm it made it look like the pitch was coming from first base and not the pitcher's mound, which really stretches the peripheral vision for a left handed batter. Hitting lefty vs. a lefty pitcher is already tough enough without having to deal with that, too. Tony has said he had to open up his stance much more than usual to try to pick up Johnson's pitches.
   59. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 03, 2014 at 07:31 PM (#4651057)
That said, his durability, work ethic and ability to throw strikes means that he'd likely be successful in any era.


14 times had the lowest walk rate in the league

7356 is an outlier even for when he pitched- Galvin is at 6000- but Galvin's career was mostly in the 1880s, Baseball was evolving very rapidly in the 19th century, the 1880s were very different from the 1890s which were very different from the 1900s (Galvin threw 4948 innings in just 10 years, 1879-1888, but lead the league in IP just once)

In 1893 the pitching rubber was moved back 10 feet to the current distance. From 1883 to 1892 the average league leading # of IP was 582, the next ten years, 1893 to 1902, the average league leading total was 403, still extremely high by today's standards but a massive decline from before 1893. The average league leading IP figure then slowly declined to right around 300 by the late 1920s- and stayed there, dipping slightly under 300 by 1960 or so (1955 to 1964 had a 10 year average of 286 IP, that was the, 10 year average was up to 329 by 1968-77, the 10 year average has declined continuously since then (a remarkably smooth curve, when you adjust for the strike years, every 10 year period has seen a decline, 69 to 78 was less than 68 to 77, 70 to 79 was less than 69 to 78..., from 2004-2013 the average league leader is ow down to 241 IP - the curve is flattening out, losing only about 1 IP a year now.

Anyway, Young's 7356 IP was just about 20 times the average league leading figure for his era (he was top 10 in IP 19 times).
We had a raft of 5000 IP pitchers, Niekro, Ryan, Perry, Sutton, Carlton- but league average DURING there careers was up around 300- in fact relative to league Spahn at 5243 might come closest to Young...

Until Greg Maddux
5008 IP
average league leading # during Maddux career (1987-2008)? 250ip

Greg Maddux = Cy Young
   60. Ron J2 Posted: February 04, 2014 at 03:30 PM (#4651527)
#59 Maddux/Young is a natural comp. Like Maddux when in a jam he rarely opted for power. And even for the day Young was very economical with his pitches -- generally throwing aiming for weak contact.

He also apparently didn't like to throw to first when a runner was on. His preference was to simply look the runner back. His theory apparently was that there are only so many pitches in a pitcher's arm and he wasn't going to waste one on a pickoff throw. Probably made him a bit easier to run on, but that was certainly true of Maddux, and it's far from the end of the world. (As a digression, how many top pitchers were really good against the running game?)

Young also rarely took the full number of warmup pitches available.
   61. kthejoker Posted: February 04, 2014 at 03:56 PM (#4651548)
#52: Nice to know Randy is still a bit of a tool.


Hey, some people just, you know, like skinny jeans, okay? Lay off.
   62. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: February 04, 2014 at 04:01 PM (#4651553)
Greg Maddux, 1988-2002, 3563.2 IP, 265-134, 2.68 era, 153 era+

That's an average of 237.5IP, and an 18-9 record for 15 straight years.

He was pretty good.
   63. AndrewJ Posted: March 22, 2014 at 07:58 PM (#4675495)
Career numbers-wise, I've determined that Randy Johnson=Sandy Koufax+Johan Santana...

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