Tag: Randy Johnson

Inhuman Greinke, Kershaw Duo Unlikely to Replicate Schilling-Johnson Postseason

Incomparable. You’ve probably heard that word thrown around in connection with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, the dynamic duo that’s poised to pitch the Los Angeles Dodgers into October.

Certainly, the likes of Greinke and Kershaw don’t come around often, and even less frequently do such immense talents occupy the same rotation.

But there is a comparison for the Dodgers’ two-headed mound monster, if an imperfect one.

We’ll talk more about the “imperfect” part in a moment. First, let’s step into the wayback machine and set the coordinates for the autumn of 2001. (Yes, that was 14 years ago. And yes, you should feel old.)

That season featured a seemingly unbeatable pitching twosome who double-handedly carried a National League West club to a thrilling World Series victory.

The club was the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the arms they rode across the Fall Classic finish line belonged to Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

Johnson (2.49 ERA, 249.2 innings pitched, 372 strikeouts) and Schilling (2.98 ERA, 256.2 IP, 293 K) dominated in the ’01 regular season, finishing first and second in National League Cy Young balloting, respectively. But they flipped a switch in the playoffs, changing their settings from “superb” to “superhuman.”

Schilling went 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA in 48.1 innings and started Games 1 and 5 of the National League Division Series, Game 3 of the National League Championship Series and Games 1, 4 and 7 of the World Series.

Johnson went 5-1 with a 1.52 ERA in 41.1 innings and started Game 2 of the NLDS, Games 1 and 5 of the NLCS and Games 2 and 6 of the World Series. Then, for good measure, he came out of the bullpen in Game 7 to get four crucial outs and set the table for Luis Gonzalez’s game-winning single off the New York Yankees‘ Mariano Rivera in the ninth.

Johnson and Schilling wound up sharing World Series MVP honors. It was frankly impossible to place one above the other, just as it was impossible to imagine Arizona sniffing the Commissioner’s Trophy without its pair of aces. Baseball is a team sport in the truest sense, but that 2001 title run—the only one in the D-Backs’ brief historywas as close as any two men can come to carrying an entire franchise on their backs.

In 2011, the 10-year anniversary of Schilling and Johnson’s impossible-unless-you-witnessed-it feat, Gonzalez offered a firsthand perspective, per MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert:

It was awesome. They went out there and dominated the game. They quietly competed against each other. And you loved it when one of them had a fantastic game, because you knew the other guy was going to be amped up and ready to go and outshine the other guy. It was a great mix of those two guys. It was the yin and the yang, but they did it.

The question now is: Can Greinke and Kershaw do it too?

There are parallels. Greinke (1.65 ERA, 207.2 IP, 185 K) and Kershaw (2.18 ERA, 215 IP, 272 K) are in the midst of superlative seasons and could well finish one-two in Cy Young voting, though the Chicago Cubs‘ Jake Arrieta is in the mix.

They’re also a righty-lefty combo like Schilling and Johnson. Johnson was coming off two consecutive Cy Young seasons, and so is Kershaw, his southpaw counterpart. And, as Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times outlined, Greinke and Kershaw motivate each other with the same friendly-yet-fiery competition Gonzalez described:

After Kershaw flirted with a perfect game July 23 against the Mets in New York, [catcher Yasmani] Grandal recalled a conversation he’d had with Greinke after a spring game.

“Kershaw better watch out because I’m coming after him,” Grandal recalled Greinke telling him.

They’re pushing each other to rarefied air.

Whether they’ll push the Dodgers to their first championship in 27 years remains to be seen. But if they do, they aren’t likely to do it in the same wayor, more specifically, to the same extentas Johnson and Schilling.

Here’s a striking fact: In the 2001 postseason, Johnson and Schilling threw a combined five complete games. By contrast, Greinke and Kershaw have tossed only four complete games between them all season.

That’s the norm in today’s MLB, with its emphasis on pitch counts, relief specialists and late-game matchups. In 1998, Schilling led the majors with 15 complete games. In 1999, Johnson paced baseball with 12.

This season, four pitchers are tied for the lead with four complete games apiece.

One of those pitchers is Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, who turned back the clock last October and threw an astounding 52.2 postseason innings, breaking the record set by Schilling in 2001.

The Giants left-hander tossed 21 frames in the World Series alone, including a gutsy Game 7 relief appearance that sealed San Francisco’s third championship in five seasons.

So it is possible, even today, to shoulder the load. More than a template, though, Bumgarner was the exception that proves the rule. Part of the reason his performance glistened so brightly—besides its utter brilliance—is that it was an anomaly among anomalies.

Likewise, what Johnson and Schilling did in ’01 is a rarity in this or any era. Having a pair of top-shelf pitchers doesn’t correlate with postseason success, as Houston Mitchell of the Los Angeles Times outlined last September:

A check of other teams with at least two dominant starters since expanded playoffs began in 1969 says otherwise. Using the criteria of at least two starting pitchers who, like Kershaw and Greinke, have a WHIP of 1.16 or lower and an ERA+ of 125 (meaning they were 25% better than the average pitcher that year), 39 other teams have two pitchers like that. One of those are the 2014 Washington Nationals, with Tanner Roark and Jordan Zimmermann. Of the other 38, only 21 made the playoffs. Only four of those teams won the World Series, with nine teams losing in the first round of the playoffs.

The 2014 Nationals didn’t end up in the World Series, and neither did the 2014 Dodgers. In fact, after sweeping the Cy Young and NL MVP awards in the regular season, Kershaw tripped over his cleats in the playoffs, going 0-2 and raising his career postseason ERA to an unsightly 5.12.

That doesn’t mean Kershaw will fade this year. But it does prove that even the greats can wilt under baseball’s brightest glare.

In all likelihood, if the Dodgers are going to spray champagne and dump confetti for the first time since the waning months of the Reagan administration, they’ll need the offense, which has scored the third-fewest runs in baseball since the All-Star break, to click. They’ll need another starting pitcher (Alex Wood? Brett Anderson?) to chip in. And their frequently wobbly bullpen must rise to the occasion.

Los Angeles is right to expect a lot from Greinke and Kershaw. They’re the studs in the stable, after all. And Dodgers fans can be forgiven for closing their eyes and letting visions of Schilling and Johnson dance in their heads.

It’s a scintillating comparison, no question.

In the end, though, some things are simply incomparable.


All statistics current as of Sept. 23 and courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

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Randy Johnson Gifted a 51-Inch Corndog by Diamondbacks for Retiring His Number

Hall of Famer Randy Johnson played in the league for 22 years, eight of which were for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He won a World Series with the club in 2001.

On Saturday, the Diamondbacks retired his No. 51, and they made the Big Unit a 51-inch corndog. That’s a lot of calories, but he deserves it after an epic career. Eat up, Randy!

[Arizona Diamondbacks]

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Inside Randy Johnson’s Transformation from Awkward Enigma to ‘The Big Unit’

My all-time favorite Randy Johnson story involves grocery shopping and orange juice. In Indianapolis.

Seriously. You were thinking, perhaps, his heroics in the 2001 World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks? His no-hitter in 1990? His five Cy Youngs, 4,875 career strikeouts (second only to Nolan Ryan)? His perfect game in 2004?

I’ll spot you all of those. I’ll take what one of Johnson’s former minor league roommates told me a couple of years back during a discussion of the evolution of one of baseball’s all-timers from a wary and awkward prospect into the man waiting for a phone call from Cooperstown on Tuesday.

This was in the late 1980s, before Johnson debuted for the Expos at age 25 in 1988. He and Rex Hudler were teammates—and roommates—in Indianapolis, home of Montreal’s Triple-A affiliate.

As roomies, the two of them would go shopping together. Then they would return to their apartment, where Johnson would place his groceries on one side of the refrigerator, his side, and warn Hudler to stay out of his stuff.

“I’d play with him and drink his orange juice,” Hudler, now a broadcaster for the Kansas City Royals, told me. “He’d tape a line on the carton where the orange juice level was, so that when he came in he could make sure I hadn’t been drinking it, that the juice level hadn’t dropped below where the tape was.”

Hudler roared as he told that story, laughing hysterically at the memory. Can you blame him?

The point is, not all Hall of Famers arrive already fully built. Sometimes, the transition from a gangly, self-conscious, 6’10” kid into a fully mature strikeout machine takes a bit longer than anyone would like.

The Expos made Johnson their second-round pick in the 1985 draft. Four years later, they shipped him to Seattle along with pitchers Gene Harris and Brian Holman in a blockbuster deal that netted them ace lefty Mark Langston and a player to be named later (pitcher Mike Campbell).

In 1989, the Expos were in win-now mode, trying to save their franchise. And Johnson was a temperamental project who was far from a sure thing.

The Atlanta Braves had drafted Johnson in the fourth round in 1982, seeing the potential, but instead Johnson accepted a scholarship to the University of Southern California.

“I think all of us who played with him are ultra proud at what he turned into because the light didn’t click on for him until late,” said Damon Oppenheimer, one of Johnson’s regular catchers at USC who today is the New York Yankees’ amateur scouting director. “He wasn’t a dominating pitcher in college. It wasn’t like he was the best pitcher in the Pac-10.

“He showed you glimpses of what he could be, but it wasn’t like he was best guy in league. By far. He probably wasn’t the best guy on our staff either year.”

No, in 1984 Johnson ranked behind right-hander Sid Akins, who was Texas’ third-round pick that summer. In 1985, right-hander Brad Brink, who would be the Phillies’ first-round pick in 1986, was USC’s go-to guy.

By the time Montreal got him, Johnson had the overpowering fastball, all the tools any scout could want…and a fiery temper that often blew.

“Randy really battled inconsistency,” said Orrin Freeman, the Expos’ national cross-checker from 1988 to 1991 and current special assistant to the general manager for the Miami Marlins. “The reason he was a second-round pick instead of a first-rounder is that he’d throw in the mid-90s in the first inning, but in the second inning he’d be in the middle 80s.

“I had a friend who coached him [in a summer league] in Anchorage, Alaska, who said it was the same thing there. People would ask him, ‘Is your arm hurt?’ ‘No.’ ‘Is your arm sore?’ ‘No.’ That’s probably why he didn’t go in the first round, given the kind of arm he had and being left-handed.

“As he matured, he got more consistent. It wasn’t immediate. You look at his career until age 25, and he was never even .500.”

Early in the 1988 season, on the verge of being summoned to the majors for the first time, Johnson tried to catch a Jeff Blauser smash up the middle with his pitching hand during a game against Triple-A Richmond. At the time, Johnson was throwing well enough that some Montreal executives had traveled to watch him pitch.

Worried that his knuckle was broken, Indianapolis manager Joe Sparks removed Johnson from the game. Livid, Johnson promptly threw a right cross at the bat rack upon entering the dugout.

“So now he had X-rays on his pitching hand, and those were OK,” Joe Kerrigan, Johnson’s pitching coach at Double-A Jacksonville in 1987 and in Indianapolis in ’88 and ’89, told me during a conversation a couple of years ago. “And then he had X-rays on his right hand, and that knuckle was broken.

“Thank God it was his right hand.”

So now Kerrigan’s challenge was to keep Johnson in the rotation while working through his injured hand and control issues, and not endangering any of his own players in the process. You think creativity is not part of a pitching coach’s job description? Here’s what Kerrigan did: He obtained a plaster-of-Paris mannequin from an old L.S. Ayres department store in downtown Indianapolis.

And he set it up as a dummy batter in the bullpen for Johnson to throw simulated games against.

Eventually, though, Johnson had to face real hitters.

“Guys didn’t want to face him anyway, but he needed to face left-handed hitters,” Freeman said. “Larry Walker was on the team then, and I was there one day when Larry said, ‘Hey, I want to get my teammate healthy, but I’m tired of facing this guy.'”

So Razor Shines, a switch-hitter, volunteered to hit left-handed against Johnson.

“It became the biggest contest, Razor fouling balls off one after another,” Freeman said. “He was taking close pitches. It was a real battle. Randy must have been throwing 100.

“Finally, Razor hits a ball over second base that would have been for a hit. He comes out of the cage and says, ‘I switch-hit because I can, not because I have to.'”

Kerrigan remembers Johnson as a shy and introverted kid, very uncomfortable with his size. He remembers walking into restaurants for lunch, and the places going quiet as diners did a double-take at Johnson’s size.

Johnson didn’t win his first big league game until he was 25. And the man who retired with a career record of 303-166 had only 48 victories at 28.

By then, he was pitching in Seattle. The Expos didn’t have time to wait.

They summoned him late in the ’88 season, and he went 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA. Then, at 0-4 with a 6.67 in seven games (six starts) in ’89, the Expos shipped him to Seattle on May 25.

The way the Expos viewed it, Langston was a sure thing. Johnson wasn’t. Owner Charles Bronfman was ready to sell the Montreal club and wanted to make one last run at the World Series before he did.

Fact is, at the time, Johnson was still inconsistent enough that, internally among the Expos, it wasn’t even unanimous that he was the best of the three pitchers Montreal was sending to Seattle.

“Randy was very talented and threw very hard, but when you looked at it in-depth, if you asked different people in our organization then to rank Brian Holman, Gene Harris and Randy Johnson, different people would have given you different orders of one, two and three,” Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, who was the Expos’ GM at the time, told me a few years ago.

Said Freeman: “Holman really should have been a star. Great motion, great mound presence, great kid. He ended up hurting his arm, which happens.

“We gave up a lot to try and win.”

The Expos did not win, finishing fourth in the NL East at 81-81 in 1989.

Langston? A free agent after the ’89 season, the Expos acquired him with the idea of attempting to sign him long-term.

“Langston’s wife wanted to be an actress at the time, and when he became a free agent, we had Donald Sutherland trying to help us,” Freeman said of the Canadian actor. “He was a huge Montreal fan. We sometimes had him narrate our season highlight film.

“When Langston became a free agent, Sutherland talked to him and said you can be an [actress] and live in Montreal. You don’t have to live in L.A.”

Nevertheless, Langston signed as a free agent with the California Angels after the ’89 season.

Johnson, meanwhile, continued his slow development with the Mariners. He went 14-11 in 1990 with a league-leading 120 walks (and a no-hitter against Detroit). He went 13-10 in ’91 with a league-leading 152 walks.

Then, as he was going 12-14 with a league-leading 144 walks in ’92, Johnson had one of the most important conversations of his career with Nolan Ryan during a Mariners-Rangers series.

Kerrigan and other pitching coaches in Montreal and Seattle could help Johnson with his mechanics, maturity and certain other issues. Johnson, to this day, credits four pitching coaches in particular with the heavy lifting in his development: Kerrigan, the late Larry Bearnarth, Rick Williams (son of Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams) and Dan Warthen.

But because of the similarities in their fastballs, Ryan could relate to Johnson on a different level. And here was his key suggestion: that Johnson land on the ball of his right foot, instead of the heel, upon delivering a pitch to the plate. Why? Because Ryan thought that landing on his heel was causing Johnson to fall toward third base. And by not taking his momentum toward the catcher, Ryan suggested, it was affecting Johnson’s control.

Ryan, of all people, knew how walks could derail a career. He had gone through the same thing when he was a young prospect.

“I just think Randy was on the verge of putting it all together at that point in his career,” Ryan said on a conference call about a month before Johnson won his 300th game in 2009. “We just happened to visit that day in Seattle, and we followed that up with a couple of other visits after.

“I appreciate him giving me credit, but if we hadn’t visited that day, I feel like he was on the verge of putting it all together.”

Finally, all of the components in place, Johnson in 1993 went 19-8 for Seattle and led the AL with 308 strikeouts in 255.1 innings. He walked only 99 hitters.

“I’m happy for Randy,” Freeman said. “There’s a guy who came a long way from a skinny, left-handed kid who was wild and threw all over the place. He became one of the best left-handers ever, and he didn’t get good until he was 25.

“Patience, you know? Baseball gives up on pitchers who are brought to the big leagues at 22, 23, 24 and then struggle. Curt Schilling didn’t have a winning season until he was 25. Tom Glavine was 7-17 [at age 22 with the Atlanta Braves, in 1988].

“Today it’s the ‘Now Generation,’ people want it now, and they give up on guys like that. For a college pitcher like Johnson to sign and get 300 wins? Come on, that’s unbelievable.

“He grew up mentally and physically…that’s how you get to the Hall of Fame.”

No question, Cooperstown is a long way from stripping masking tape around an orange juice carton. Hudler was in Montreal’s lineup on Sept. 15, 1988, when the man who would become known as the Big Unit earned his first big league victory.

“He was always bitter, but I’d talk smack to him,” Hudler told me, chuckling, making clear his affinity for Johnson. “I was one of the only guys who could.

“I got to Montreal first and, after I did, he called me and said, ‘Hey, you left a $77 phone bill.’ I told him, ‘One day, you’ll be making more money than the rest of us combined. I’ll get you for the phone bill when you get up here.'”


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

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Is John Smoltz Worthy of Being First-Ballot 2015 Hall of Famer?

The chance for debate in Major League Baseball never ends. The individual awards were just handed out, and as if on cue, here comes the announcement for the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot ready to provide the next topic sure to spark discussion and more than a little disagreement.

There are plenty of subplots to consider—will Craig Biggio get in after missing by a mere two votes last time? what happens to those with links to performance-enhancing drugs (whether rumored or real)? which players will the ongoing bottleneck hurt most?—but the focus here is on one new name to the list, in particular.

Of the three big-name pitchers added to the this year’s Hall of Fame ballot—Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz—the first two are no-doubt first-ballot entries. The third has a great chance of being voted in too, but his case isn’t quite as open-and-shut by comparison.

As impressive as Smoltz was over his 21 years in Major League Baseball, his accomplishments aren’t on par with those of Johnson and Martinez. That shouldn’t be held against Smoltz, of course, but it does mean he is overshadowed by two better pitchers—heck, two all-time greats—in year one.

That presents the possibility Smoltz might not make it to Cooperstown in his first go-around.

Johnson, who won five Cy Young Awards, including a record-tying four straight (1999-02), finished his 22-year career with 303 wins and 4,875 strikeouts, second most all time behind Nolan Ryan’s 5,714.

Martinez, in his 18 seasons, posted the sixth-best winning percentage ever (.687) and owned a 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 10.0 K/9. He also won the Cy three times (1997, 1999-00), with his very best seasons at the height of the steroid era in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Those two? They’re getting in, and they’re likely getting upward of 95 percent of the vote as two of the very best in baseball history.

Plain as day, both Johnson and Martinez rank in the top 20 among pitchers, according to both versions of wins above replacement, fWAR (from FanGraphs) and rWAR (from Baseball-Reference.com). They were as good as it gets in their time—and rank right up there all time too.

Smoltz was dominant in his own right, and for a very long time—he’s one of only 16 pitchers with 3,000 career strikeouts—but his career path was quite different from that of Johnson and Martinez.

A huge part of the Braves’ success throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s—remember, they won an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles—Smoltz split his career between the rotation and the bullpen.

While both Johnson and Martinez started at least 85 percent of their career appearances, Smoltz worked in relief in 242 of his 723 games—or about 33 percent.

The switch from starter to reliever came late in his career, after Smoltz underwent Tommy John surgery and missed all of the 2000 season. He eventually did return to starting to wrap up his time in the majors.

“When I was playing, I wanted to win more than anything,” Smoltz said via Barry Bloom of MLB.com. “I never really even contemplated any of those decisions when I changed direction in my career for the risk or reward of the Hall of Fame. That never even entered my mind.”

That back-and-forth could work against Smoltz, even if the right-hander was an incredibly effective closer, compiling 154 saves, a 2.65 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in his four seasons in the pen (2001-04).

So could the fact that Smoltz wasn’t the best pitcher on his own team for almost every one of his 21 seasons.

Again, however, that can’t be held against the now 47-year-old, who just so happened to pitch alongside Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine—both of whom earned 90-plus percent of the vote to make the Hall as first-timers last year—for so much of his career.

Now that he’s joining the ballot with Johnson and Martinez, Smoltz is once again overshadowed.

But this is more than just a player who can make a claim as the first—and still only—pitcher ever to have at least 200 wins (213) and 150 saves (154) in his career. Smoltz also won the 1996 NL Cy Young and has one of the very best playoff resumes around.

Only Andy Pettitte, with 19, has more postseason wins than Smoltz’s 15. What’s more, his 209.0 innings check in as the third most, and nobody has more than Smoltz’s 199 strikeouts in October.

And here’s that same fWAR/rWAR chart from above, only with Smoltz’s fWAR and rWAR included too:

By either measure, Smoltz is a top-40 pitcher in MLB history, and he has a case for being in the top 25, at least in the context of FanGraphs.

Here’s where one last wrench can be thrown when it comes to Smoltz’s shot at getting into the Hall, especially on his first attempt.

Not counting Johnson and Martinez, of the 36 pitchers who rate ahead of Smoltz on the career rWAR list, there are six who are not enshrined, including Rick Reuschel, whose career began 16 years before Smoltz’s did and Jim McCormick, whose career dates back to, well, practically the Civil War.

The other four, however, are contemporaries of Smoltz: Roger Clemens (139.5 fWAR/139.4 rWAR), Mike Mussina (82.5/82.7), Curt Schilling (83.2/80.7) and Kevin Brown (73.5/68.5).

This foursome represents a wide range of outcomes on the Hall of Fame voting scale, as Clemens has yet to make it in, only because of his PED-linked past; while Brown surprisingly failed to garner even the necessary 5 percent of votes in his first year and thus dropped off the ballot.

Mussina and Schilling both were stuck in the who-knows 20 percent territory last year and appear to be victims of the recent overload of worthy (or near-worthy) players that has hampered Baseball Writers Association of America voters who can choose only up to 10 players in a given year.

The guess here, though, is that the latter two eventually will get in—and deservedly so—and that Smoltz will receive a boost for his success as both a starter and a closer, even if that’s more superficial than substantive.

There’s also the chance Smoltz will get an extra push from being considered alongside former Braves rotation-mates Maddux and Glavine as well as longtime skipper Bobby Cox, all three of whom were inducted last year while Smoltz was in Cooperstown as an analyst for MLB Network.

“I thought it was one of the coolest things I have ever been a part of,” Smoltz said via Bloom. “I mean that from a standpoint of even if I never get in.”

Smoltz shouldn’t have to worry about never getting in—he will. And it very well could happen on his first shot.

Ultimately, if the question is one of worthiness, when the results are announced on Jan. 6, 2015, Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz all should be in.

But given the number of Hall-worthy candidates still in the mix and that writers can vote for a maximum of 10 players—not to mention that Smoltz isn’t quite the shoe-in Johnson and Martinez are and has a few contemporaries who aren’t yet in—don’t be surprised if Maddux and Glavine don’t see their former teammate join them right away.

Regardless, Smoltz should be prepared to make a speech during the Hall of Fame’s induction weekend. It just might not happen next July.


Statistics are accurate through the 2014 season and courtesy of MLB.com, Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.

To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter: @JayCat11.

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Randy Johnson Selling Extravagant Arizona Home for $25 Million

When you see that former major league pitcher Randy Johnson is selling his Arizona mansion for $25 million, you may think that is a bit extreme. You’ll understand that price tag once you see the pictures of the home.

Johnson played for six different teams in his 22-year career, but there is no doubt that his best years came when he was a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Big Unit had two stints in the desert, from 1999 to 2004 and again from 2007 to 2008.

He went 118-62 with a 2.83 ERA and recorded 2,077 strikeouts in his eight seasons with Arizona. He won four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards with the team and also helped the Diamondbacks win the 2001 World Series.

Thanks to all of those accomplishments, he was able to afford an incredible house in the desert. It helps that he made more than $175 million in his career, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

According to Joffe Group of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties, via The Los Angeles Times’ Neal J. Leitereg, Johnson will be putting his Arizona mansion up for sale for $25 million on Monday.

Just look at this view of the house.

If that doesn’t sell you on the house, just wait until you see all of the details.

It includes seven bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, a game room, a billiards parlor with a wet bar and a poker room. That’s just the start of things.

Johnson has an awesome trophy room.

The mansion includes a workout center.

There is also a movie theater with a ticket booth and snack bar in the house.

Johnson’s house has an awesome pool, which includes a water slide.

Check out the view that you can have while playing tennis or basketball.

This mansion is fitting for someone who won 303 games in the majors and ranks second in baseball history with 4,875 strikeouts.

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Do MLB Cy Young Winners Always Get off to Hot Starts?

Who’s the hottest pitcher in the majors? There’s Yu Darvish, the Texas Rangers right-hander who nearly threw a perfect game his first time out. Or maybe it’s Atlanta Braves lefty Paul Maholm, who is 3-0 and has thrown 20.1 scoreless innings.

But we can’t forget about Matt Harvey, the New York Mets righty who’s the first pitcher since 1900 to win each of his first three starts while notching 25 strikeouts and allowing six or fewer hits, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Indeed, no pitcher in baseball is off to a hotter start right now—or maybe ever—than Harvey.

Each of those three hurlers has been Cy Young-worthy so far, but frankly, it seems way too early for any award discussion. Or is it?

Which brings us to the question: Do Cy Young winners always get off to hot starts?

When we explored whether Most Valuable Players always get off to hot starts, the answer was a resounding yes. But let’s analyze the arms and see what we can find out.

First, let’s refresh your memory with a list of the Cy Young winners since 2000:

*For the purposes of this research, we’ll ignore Eric Gagne’s 2003 because comparing starters to relievers is more or less futile. For the record, though, Gagne did pitch extremely well that April: In 14.1 innings, the Dodgers closer allowed no runs on six hits and three walks with 24 whiffs. Oh, and he tallied eight saves.

From 2000 through 2012, there were 25 individual Cy Young seasons by starting pitchers, and here are their average stats for the month of April:

That translates to a 3-1 record with a 2.85 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a 37-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 37 innings in the season’s first month.

Pretty nasty.

But what’s interesting is that not all Cy Young winners are created equal when it comes to April performances.

Focusing on ERA and WHIP, 11 of the 25 individual seasons (or nearly half) actually have been worse than “Cy Young average”—again, a 2.85 ERA and 1.12 WHIP—in both stats through April:

Granted, neither stat provides a perfect measure of just how good—or in this case, ungood—a pitcher has been, but taken together, ERA and WHIP give us at least some indication.

What do you notice about the table above? How ’bout the fact that in just about every season since 2000, at least one eventual Cy Young winner has had a so-so (or worse) first month? In fact, 10 of the past 12 seasons featured an award-winning arm who got off on the wrong foot.

But if that’s the case—if a hot start isn’t necessary—then how do these Cy Young winners manage to, well, win the Cy Young exactly?

By getting better as the season progresses, silly.

Let’s shift gears to another statistic: OPS allowed (on base-plus-slugging percentage). You may recall our old metric friends, sOPS+ and tOPS+, from the MVP study. In short…

  • sOPS+ is a version of OPS that is weighted to league average, which is 100; for pitchers, an sOPS+ below 100 is better than league average (i.e., good)
  • tOPS+ is a version of OPS that is weighted to compare a pitcher’s OPS allowed in a given period of time against his OPS allowed for the entirety of that same season; similarly, a tOPS+ below 100 means a pitcher’s OPS allowed was better in that time frame than it was compared to the season as a whole.

If your eyes just glazed over, these tables will make it easier to digest. This one shows the April sOPS+ for each Cy Young winner over the past 13 seasons:

Basically, the boxes that are shaded green indicate that the pitcher’s OPS allowed in April was better than league average, whereas any boxes shaded red indicate worse than league average. While only four eventual Cy Young winners posted a below-average OPS allowed in April, there also were a handful of others that were only slightly above-average (i.e., Johan Santana in 2004).

In other words, on the whole, these pitchers were very good compared to the league, but they weren’t immune to slow starts.

By the way: What Cliff Lee did in April of 2008 (.361 OPS against), as well as what Pedro Martinez (.475) and Randy Johnson did in April of 2000 (.431), should be illegal.

This next table shows their tOPS+ in April:

Same story: Green is good (above-average), but red is bad (below-average). Except this time, we’re comparing each pitcher’s April OPS allowed to his OPS allowed for the full season in which he won the Cy Young.

You’ll notice a lot more red. In fact, 16 of the 25 Aprils are crimson, meaning a majority of the Cy Young winners since 2000 actually were below-average—for them—as far as OPS allowed in the first month of their award-winning campaign.

What does this all mean? Well, for one thing, it proves that just because Yu Darvish, Paul Maholm and Matt Harvey are in line for crazy-good Aprils, it doesn’t guarantee that some slower-starting ace isn’t lying in wait to pitch his way to the 2013 Cy Young Award.

Because for starters, it’s not always how you start.


All stats come from Baseball Reference.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Bronx Bombs: Ten Years of Yankees Pitching Duds

Quacky curmudgeon Scrooge McDuck had a giant silo of gold coins to swim in.  Eccentric pop icon Michael Jackson owned the Elephant Man’s dirty old bones.  “Big Pants” MC Hammer bought a $12 million mansion that housed nearly 20 racehorses. 

Just because you have loads of cash doesn’t mean you always spend it wisely.

Theatrical New York Yankees radio announcer John Sterling has often chuckled and stated, “You can’t predict baseball”.  To be fair, Sterling churns out a lot of goofy jibber-jabber on a daily basis, but ol’ John really hit the pinstriped nail on the head with that one.

You can be certain any lifelong Yankees fan has heard many a naysayer spin yarns about the team winning numerous World Championships by buying All-Star caliber teams.  The team’s General Manager is named “Cashman” after all. 

The hole in that theory is that play on the field and deep pockets don’t naturally go hand in hand.  Sure, piles of dough can assure that a team can be competitive, but money doesn’t account for injury, team chemistry, or that all-important Rudy-ish “fight in the dog” spirit. 

Simply stated:  Loads of dollars do not a championship make.  Need further proof?  Go count the number of rings on Jason Giambi’s fingers.

For all its success, superstars, and timeless tradition, the so-called “Evil Empire” hasn’t been free from bad signings, especially when it comes to the mound on East 161st Street in the Bronx.  In the blink of an eye, good intentions go sour like milk in the summer sun and what may seem like a wise investment can go flat in a season’s time. 

60 feet, six inches.  Sometimes that short distance can be quite the journey.

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MLB Hall Of Fame: Why Curt Schilling Should Not Make It In 2013 Or Ever

I realize that Curt Schilling will not be eligible for the Hall of Fame until 2013, if I have done my math correctly. I don’t feel it is too early to discuss his probability of making it to Cooperstown without a ticket.

I have heard some announcers call him (while he was still pitching) a future Hall of Famer. That irks me to no end. It did then and it does now.

Some people are locks for enshrinement. Randy Johnson is one and Tom Glavine is another. Curt Schilling is not.

Am I saying he won’t get in? No, but I don’t think he should. I don’t see him jumping over the bar in any particular category.

I can see all of you young guns snarling and getting ready to rebut me with a volley of SABRmetrics. Save it, I am old school and I don’t subscribe to much of that. If I wanted to learn more math I would have stayed in school longer.

Look at his career for a moment if you will. What did he do?

Okay, he was a 20-game winner three times. That is impressive, but so did Tommy John and it didn’t do him any good. Not even with 288 wins and 46 shutouts.

Schilling won 216 games with only 20 shutouts.  That is hardly impressive, I don’t care who you are.

Milt Pappas pitched 43 shutouts.  Jim Kaat pitched 31 of them and won 283, he still has to buy a ticket if he wants in.

His 3.46 ERA is mediocre at best. Kaat beat him there as well, albeit by only one-hundredth of a point.

Billy Pierce also had numbers which are compatible with Schilling’s. He won 211 games and tossed 38 shutouts with a decent ERA of 3.27.

How about awards, did Schilling win any Cy Young Awards? No, the best he ever did was finish runner-up. John did that as well, twice.

How about All-Star squads? Schilling was on six AS squads in a 15-year career while Pierce was on seven.

Schilling was very good in ringing batters up. He had over 300 K’s three different seasons, and led the league in two of them. I certainly hope that is not what supposedly separates him from the riffraff.

His WHIP ranks 46th on the all time list, giving him honor where it is due.

How about World Series experience? Not playoffs, did you say playoffs? I am not talking about playoffs; playoffs didn’t exist until the late sixties. Let’s talk World Series.

He is 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA, very good indeed. Pierce was 1-1 with a 1.89 Earnie.

A pitcher can get away with fewer than 250 wins, only if he is Sandy Koufax or Bob Gibson, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Schilling was never the dominant pitcher either Koufax or Gibson was.

Schilling, in my view should be relegated to the Hall of Very Good with Tommy John, Billy Pierce and Jim Kaat.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Power Rankings: The 50 Greatest Players in Seattle Mariners History

From “Mr. Mariner” to “The Bone,” there have been nicknames.

From Arquimedez Pozo’s one plate appearance to Edgar Martinez’s franchise record 8,678, there have been different lengths of stays.

Since 1977, the Mariners have employed hundreds of players. While not every team has a history rich with players like the Yankees, they all have a large pool of players where you’ll find interesting characters who defined the franchise.

The following rankings were determined by a combination of stats, longevity with team and character. Only factors we know were considered.

Without further delay, here is a look at 50 players who wore the trident or compass rose that we’ll never forget.

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MLB Power Rankings: The Greatest Pitcher In The History of Every Franchise

I spend way to much time at baseballreference.com. For real. There actually might be something wrong with me. I don’t know what it is about baseball statistics and history that fascinates so much, all I know is that I’ve studied this stuff since I was eight years old and got my first pack of cards.

In one of my days of “research,” I compiled a list of the greatest pitchers for each franchise. There were teams like Atlanta that had guys like Warren Spahn, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Then there were teams like the Milwaukee Brewers that hadn’t ever had a great pitcher in the history of their franchise. Guys like Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling didn’t make this list, but others like Doug Drabek did. 

So anyway, here are greatest pitchers in each teams history.

Writer’s Note: Players had to be playing during or after Jackie Robinson’s debut to be considered (for obvious reasons). Baseball has been around for ever, and you gotta draw the line somewhere. 

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