|Anything Goes: Big Unit|
Written by Adam Adkins (Contact & Archive) on June 06, 2009
Okay, guys, come on, if you think 300 wins makes Randy Johnson a Hall of Famer, then you don’t know baseball all that well, or have any real understanding of what pitchers are responsible for.
But you need me to explain, don’t you?
So, the moral is, do use strikeouts and walks (I personally enjoy K/9, BB/9 and K to BB ratio) along with home runs (HR/9 will be more than okay) to study a pitcher. Do not use win-loss record or ERA (unless the above three have been factored in).
Okay, so, Randy Johnson, (this is before his Thursday start, by the way), he of 4,091 innings, a career strikeout rate of 10.7 every nine innings, coupled with a 3.3 walk per nine rate.
(A quick note: Anything above 8 strikeouts per 9 is dominant, anything below 3.5 is good for walks per 9, and any K to BB ratio above 2.75 is good. And, HR/9, well, don’t go much over 1. Okay, look at it like this:
CC Sabathia’s career K/9 rate is 7.5. Andy Pettitte’s is 6.6. And, since Pettitte lost some stuff in the last few years, his rate has fallen. Strikeout rate doesn’t guarantee being good or bad, but it indicates dominance, since the pitcher controls who he strikes out.
I care a lot about walk ratio. You should too. And WHIP, but WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched) has hits allowed tossed in, and I don’t want no defensive-dependant stats in my article.
Home Run rate is a wonderful way to see if someone is on fire. Zack Greinke has an ERA of 1.10. That’s great. Really good. Phenomenal. But it might change once God allows the batters he faces to hit home runs. Zack, you, even you, can’t allow zero home runs over a whole season.)
What the heck makes you think Johnson wasn’t a Hall of Famer on Wednesday, or the Wednesday before that, or a year ago, or five years ago? Considering we put luminaries like Catfish Hunter in the Hall. Come on, Unit was in after 2004.
But, what about Johnson as the best left-hander in baseball history? That I cannot go for. But on a per-inning basis? I’m intrigued. How about a little game?
Johnson: 4,091 IP, 10.7 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9
Mystery Left-Handed Legend #1: 5.3 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
Mystery Left-Handed Legend #2: 4.4 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
Mystery Left-Handed Legend #3: 7.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9
See? Per-inning, Johnson blows all of them but #3 out of the water. Heck, the first two look like bad Sidney Ponson impersonators. Care to guess who #1 is?
You might be thinking, gee, maybe that’s Andy Pettitte or something. Perhaps it’s Jamie Moyer, who’s not great but good, and since he’s been around since Adam and Eve, it would make sense for his rates to fall a bit.
#1 is Tom Glavine.
What about #2?
#2 is Warren Spahn.
It would only be fitting if #3 is...
Now, all three threw more innings than Unit, especially Spahn and Carlton, who threw several hundred more. But Glavine, he’s hardly above him. If I had to rank these 4, I’d go, from best to worst, Carlton, Johnson, Spahn and Glavine. Johnson’s dominance -- seriously, he was unbelievably awesome, like Johan Santana in 2004 times two over a long period -- pushes him past Spahn and miles above Glavine.
And, just for kicks and grins, let me give you final mystery lefty.
#4: 9.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 0.8 HR/9
Number four... Sandy Koufax.
Congratulations, Unit, you are the freaking man.
(Oh, and if we include Koufax in our list from above? He’s fifth. 2,324 innings is about 1,700 short. That counts. For a lot.)