The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Thursday, February 07, 2008



Spurred by a reader email, I took a look at where the Mets' newly-minted Johan Santana-Pedro Martinez tandem fit in as far as great duos -- not necessarily in terms of how well they pitched as teammates but rather what they had done or would do over the course of their careers. I measured each pitcher based on his best five seasons according to WARP, a methodology not dissimilar from my JAWS definition of peak (which is seven best), but shortened since Santana's really only got five good seasons to his credit. Here's a taste:
Turning to consideration of the best tandem at the front of a rotation, the new Mets duo represents one of the few pairings of multi-Cy winning pitchers:

10: Roger Clemens (7), Tom Seaver (3)
6: Steve Carlton (4), Bob Gibson (2)
6: Greg Maddux (4), Tom Glavine (2)
5: Pedro Martinez (3), Johan Santana (2)
5: Pedro Martinez (3), Tom Glavine (2) (see Unfiltered)

Held back by the fact that the Cy didn't come about until 1956, that's too short a list to be very interesting, so instead we'll return to those five-year WARP peaks, where it's clear that Martinez and Santana (53.2 and 48.3 WARP by this methodology, for a combined 101.5) can be outdone by numerous other combinations. Strictly eyeballing these so as to save our data department some nightmares, what follows are some notable pairings that top their total.

132.0 (1st): Walter Johnson (81.7), Stan Coveleski (50.3)
122.9 (3rd): Walter Johnson (81.7), Hippo Vaughn (41.2)

The Big Train's dominance of all things WARP helps him top this list with the aid of pitchers nowhere near his stratosphere. After excelling for the Indians for the better part of a decade, Coveleski was traded to the defending world champion Senators (!) prior to the 1925 season and promptly helped them to a second consecutive pennant. The duo spent three years (1925-1927) together. Far shorter was Vaughn's stint with the Senators; it lasted just 12 games in 1912.

128.3 (2nd): Hal Newhouser (66.2), Bob Feller (62.1)
121.9 (4th): Bob Lemon (55.7), Hal Newhouser (66.2)
117.8 (6th): Bob Feller (62.1), Bob Lemon (55.7)
111.2 (11th-T): Hal Newhouser (66.2), Early Wynn (45.0)
107.1 (21st): Bob Feller (62.1), Early Wynn (45.0)

Feller (1936-1956 except for 1942-44), Lemon (1946-58), and Wynn (1949-57) were mainstays of a great Cleveland staff, but it was Newhouser's career-ending stint in Cleveland (1954-1955) which helps them make this list in every permutation but one (Lemon-Wynn, just shy at 100.7). Though he threw only 46 2/3 innings in the Tribe's 111-win season in 1954, Newhouser won seven games and saved seven more. He made just two appearances in 1955 before drawing his release.

118.8 (5th): Roger Clemens (61.8), Tom Seaver (57.0)

This was something of a passing of the torch, as Seaver's last gasp with the 1986 Red Sox allowed him to cross paths with the 23-year-old Clemens during the Rocket's breakout campaign, in which he garnered not only his first Cy Young but the AL MVP award as well.
In all I found 32 pairings that topped Santana-Martinez and one that tied them, but the duo is poised to climb the charts, at least a bit. A 7.7 WARP season from Santana would raise Santana's peak by 0.8, pushing them past the other Mets duo on the list, Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan, while a 10.4 WARP season from Santana -- equivalent to his average performance since 2004 -- would improve his five-year peak score by 3.6 WARP, moving them into 28th. After that, the climbing will be steeper, because getting beyond the 10.0 WARP level means eating more innings than most pitchers are allowed to nowadays. And no, I don't see Pedro upping his peak score; he'll need more than 9.1 WARP to do so, and he's not that cat anymore. Besides, he'd rather cockfighting.

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