Today it was announced that Pedro Martinez will officially file for his retirement. Although he hasn't played in a game since 2009, and he only pitched in nine games that year, he hadn't made his retirement from the game official. Pedro is my favorite player of all time, and he is a major reason I am such a big baseball fan. Because of this, I am going to use this news as an excuse to discuss Pedro's greatness, if you don't mind.
In my humble opinion, the peak years of Pedro Martinez's career is the greatest peak in the history of the game. What he did from 1997 through 2003 was nothing short of amazing, especially when you consider that it was during the peak of the steroid era. Martinez possessed four plus pitches that he mixed in a way that made it virtually impossible to guess what was coming next. Despite his small frame, he was able to get his four-seam fastball into the upper-90s consistently. He also had a two-seamer that hung out in the mid-90s and darted in on right handers. His offspeed stuff were the pitches that really made him who he was, though. His curveball was the definition of 12-6 and dropped through the zone like few curves I've ever had the pleasure to witness. Finally, his best pitch was his circle-change. Pedro's changeup was definitely the best I've ever seen (Sorry Johan Santana. Yours was good at your peak, but not Pedro-good). The movement on the pitch was ridiculous, as the bottom completely fell out of it right before entering the zone.
On top of how visually appealing his pitching style was, Pedro also put up absolutely gaudy numbers. Because he dominated an era that saw the greatest offensive outburst since the '30s, he had five seasons in which his ERA+ topped 200. From '97 to '03, he finished in the top three of the Cy Young voting every year except 2001, in which he only pitched in 18 games due to injury. In 1999 and 2000, he finished in the top 5 of the MVP voting and should have taken home the trophy in at least one of those seasons. Those two seasons were absolutely bananas. In the two years, he combined for a 41-10 record with a 1.90 ERA, 265 ERA+, 597 strikeouts and just 69 walks. That equals a ridiculous 8.65 K/BB ratio. In the seven year span of his peak, Martinez finished the season with a FIP below 3 six times, thanks to his ridiculous control and his ability to keep the ball in the park (0.76 career HR/9). At the end of his career, he had compiled 89.4 fWAR and 75.9 rWAR. Oh, and he also helped the Red Sox win their first World Series since 1918 in 2004.
Of course, anyone that watched the Red Sox consistently during the Pedro-era knows that it wasn't just his ability that made him who he was. Martinez had, in my opinion, an ideal demeanor. On the days he was pitching, he was as intense as anyone in baseball. The way he stared into the catcher's mitt from the mound surely sent chills down many hitters' spines. However, on off days, Martinez was just a big ball of fun. He always seemed to truly enjoy what he did, which made it very easy to love him. Personally, my favorite moment will always be Nomar taping Pedro to the dugout post in '99. He had an ear-to-ear grin the whole time. Being just eight years old at the time, I will always remember how cool it was that professional baseball players were still having that much fun playing the game they loved. The picture is the background of this blog, my Twitter avatar, and the background on my computer. It is a moment I will truly never forget.
If I need any pitcher in history to win one game, I am taking Pedro. You guys can keep your Roger Clemenses and Bob Gibsons. However, regardless on your opinion on his place in history, it is a foregone conclusion that he will take his much-deserved place in Cooperstown in the near future, and hopefully number 45 will forever be on display at Fenway Park. Thank you, Pedro, for an awesome career. It was a pleasure being able to watch it unfold.