This is the first of a series of historical articles I will be putting out. I will be doing all-franchise teams for Major League Baseball, starting with the Boston Red Sox. Since the Sox are the best, I will go more in depth with them and cover the top five players at each spot. These picks will combine all factors, longevity, peak, influence, etc. To kick things off I will cover the 5 greatest right-handed starting pitchers in franchise history.
Pedro is the most dominating pitcher I have ever seen. Pitching during the height of the steroid era while in the AL East, Pedro went on an historical run. Between 1999 and 2000 he was 41-10 with a 1.90 ERA, striking out 12.5 batters per 9 innings. He threw in the upper 90s and had the best changeup in the game. His curveball would have been a normal pitcher’s best pitch, it was his third best. Witnessing a game pitched by Pedro Martinez at Fenway Park was an event.
During the 1999 All-Star Game at Fenway Park Pedro famously struck out 5 batters in 2 innings. He once 1-hit the Yankees in Yankee Stadium and struck out 17 of their hitters. Many refer to this game as possibly being the greatest pitched game they have seen. Then there is the 1999 postseason, when Pedro came on in relief, injured, and no-hit the dangerous Indians lineup for 6 innings. There is no end to the marvels of the greatest pitcher in my lifetime.
The man for whom the best pitcher trophy is named for, Cy Young is in a tie for the most wins in franchise history with 192. He averaged a 24-14 record with an ERA of 2.00 and a WHIP of 0.97 during his time in Boston. Cy led the league in wins in each of his first 3 seasons with the Americans/Red Sox and won the pitching Triple Crown in 1901. He had five seasons with an ERA below 2.00. There is a reason they named the award after this guy.
“The Rocket” was the best pitcher in baseball during the late eighties and early nineties. From 1986-92 Clemens averaged a season of 19-9 with a 2.66 ERA and 239 strike outs. During that stretch he won 3 Cy Young Awards and an MVP Award. He also came in 2nd in another Cy Young vote and 3rd in yet another. He is tied with Cy Young for most wins in franchise history while holding the distinction as team leader in strikeouts with 2590.
In 1986 Roger Clemens set a Major League record by striking out 20 batters in one game. A decade later he matched the feat, striking out 20 Detroit hitters in one of his final starts with the Red Sox. During that time Clemens led the league in wins twice, ERA four times, strike outs three times and WHIP twice. Regardless of what happened afterwards, Clemens is an all-time great for the Red Sox.
Smoky Joe Wood was possibly the hardest thrower in the league in his day. The great Walter Johnson once said, “Listen, mister, no man alive can throw harder than Smoky Joe Wood.” Wood tied an American League record in 1912 by winning 16 straight decisions. He accomplished this en route to an all-time great season, winning 34 games against just 5 losses. Wood had a 1.91 ERA that year, threw 35 complete games and 10 shutouts!
Unfortunately Wood’s reign at the top was short lived. He broke his thumb while fielding a ball in July of 1913. This was just the start. According to accounts of his shoulder injury he later sustained, modern physicians believe Wood tore his rotator cuff. Remarkably, while pitching through a probable torn rotator cuff in 1915, Joe Wood led the league with an eye popping 1.49 ERA! Without injury, it is possible Smoky Joe would be considered a top 10 pitcher of all-time. He retired after 1915 due to the pain, ultimately returning with the Indians as a hitter. He finished his Red Sox career with a 117-56 record and 1.99 ERA.
“El Tiante” as he was affectionately known. Tiant’s career was on the scrap heap when he was signed by Boston. He had battled injuries and wasn’t thought to have much left. After a 1-7 record in his first season with the Sox, Tiant bounced back to lead the league with a 1.91 ERA in 1972. He would go on to win 20 games three times with the Red Sox. Tiant finished in the top 6 in three Cy Young votes during his time in Boston, pitching to a 122-81 record and 3.36 ERA. In his one postseason with the team he went 3-0, winning 2 games during the 1975 World Series.