What he did: On the surface, Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season is impressive enough: 18-6 record, 1.74 ERA, 284 strikeouts, and the best WHIP of all-time, 0.737. Of course he was the American League Cy Young, and Martinez even finished fifth in MVP voting. Usually, these kinds of years for pitchers come during times that favor them, the Deadball Era, the pitching Golden Age of the 1960s, and such. But Martinez did his thing at the height of the Steroid Era when offense reigned supreme. His ERA+ was an almost-comical 291, courtesy of an AL average ERA of 4.91.
In 1931, Lefty Grove dominated in similar circumstances, overcoming one of the greatest offensive years in baseball history. This was the season the Yankees scored 1,067 runs and still finished second, where Babe Ruth had an OPS+ of 218 and didn’t come close to winning MVP. That went to Grove who finished 31-4 with a 2.06 ERA, leading most major statistical categories for pitchers, and taking his Philadelphia Athletics to the World Series. If he’d been in a pitcher’s era, there’s no telling what Grove might have done. And given the similarities between Grove and Martinez, both men temperamental, brilliant flamethrowers, it makes me wonder how Martinez might have fared in his place.
Era he might have thrived in: We’re putting Martinez on the last great team Connie Mack managed before the Great Depression forced him to scuttle his dynasty. The ’31 A’s boasted the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Mickey Cochrane, went 107-45 in the regular season, and then took the Gashouse Gang St. Louis Cardinals to seven games in the World Series. I don’t know if Martinez could have filled in for Grove’s 31 wins, given that he pitched more than 200 innings just seven times in his career. In most other departments, though, Martinez would be a dominant force in 1931.
Why: First off, I ran Martinez’s 2000 numbers through the stat converter on Baseball-Reference.com. With the A’s in 1931, his stats convert to a 19-3 record with a 1.83 ERA and 264 strikeouts. I’ll admit I don’t always trust the B-R converter for pitching stats, and in this case, it has Martinez throwing just 202 innings in a year that Grove had to throw 288 (which later contributed to him blowing out his arm and becoming a junkballer his last several seasons.) That being said, a lot of things still seem to favor Martinez thriving in 1931, assuming of course we suspend disbelief about his dark skin keeping him from playing in the majors prior to 1947.
He’d have a great team, an iconic, underrated one in historical terms, really. He’d have a legendary manager who guided Hall of Fame pitchers like Rube Waddell, Chief Bender, and Grove and who loved to use his hurlers for both starting and relief. Martinez thrived in both capacities through the course of his career. And in the ’30s, Martinez would be pitching in a time where a young flamethrower didn’t need a complex repertoire of pitches. Really, before Grove hurt his arm, he was a thrower more than he was a pitcher, someone who could just chuck fastballs. Martinez could do likewise. Would it be enough to silence the bats of men like Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer and others? I don’t know. But it might be enough to secure a Hall of Fame plaque for Martinez who in his own era doesn’t quite seem a lock for Cooperstown.
Any player/Any era is a Thursday feature here that looks at how a player might have done in an era besides his own.
Others in this series: Al Simmons, Albert Pujols, Babe Ruth, Bad News Rockies,Barry Bonds, Billy Beane, Billy Martin, Bob Caruthers, Bob Feller, Bob Watson,Bobby Veach, Carl Mays, Charles Victory Faust, Chris von der Ahe,Denny McLain, Dom DiMaggio, Don Drysdale, Eddie Lopat, Frank Howard, Fritz Maisel, Gavvy Cravath, George Case, George Weiss, Harmon Killebrew, Harry Walker, Home Run Baker, Honus Wagner, Hugh Casey, Ichiro Suzuki, Jack Clark, Jackie Robinson, Jim Abbott, Jimmy Wynn, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Posnanski, Johnny Antonelli, Johnny Frederick, Josh Hamilton, Ken Griffey Jr., Lefty Grove, Lefty O’Doul, Major League (1989 film),Matty Alou, Michael Jordan, Monte Irvin, Nate Colbert, Paul Derringer, Pee Wee Reese, Pete Rose, Prince Fielder, Ralph Kiner, Rick Ankiel, Rickey Henderson,Roberto Clemente, Rogers Hornsby, Sam Crawford, Sam Thompson,Sandy Koufax, Satchel Paige, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, The Meusel Brothers, Ty Cobb, Vada Pinson, Wally Bunker, Will Clark, Willie Mays