Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Thursday Debate: Pedro Martinez or Sandy Koufax

I'm planning on starting up a feature on here called Thursday Debate... I'll look at both sides of a sports debate, give my take on it, and then put up a poll and let you decide.

For this first edition, I thought it'd be interesting to take a look at which pitcher had the better peak... Pedro Martinez or Sandy Koufax. To clarify, by peak I generally mean at least 4-7 years. For Sandy Koufax, that was 1962-1966. For Pedro Martinez it was 1997-2003. These are the years I'll focus on.

In many cases, I find that your opinion to this question will say a lot about how you view baseball. If you are more of an "old-school" fan that prefers to base most of their judgements on what they see, you'll probably go with Sandy Koufax. If you are more "sabermetrically" inclined and place greater emphasis on the statistical side of the game, you'll probably go with Pedro Martinez.

Comparing across eras is so difficult in baseball because even though the rules are the same, lots of things change. That is why it is especially important to compare these guys against their peers.

From 1962-1966, the league ERA in Sandy Koufax's league was about 3.29. From 1997-2003 in Pedro's league the ERA was about 4.65. So right there we begin to see the huge difference between the eras. In simple terms, Koufax pitched in the greatest pitching era of all-time, while Pedro pitched in one of the greatest hitters eras of all time.

Now let's take a look at some of the numbers for each.

Pedro Martinez (1997-2003)
- 1408 IP (201 per season)
- 2.55 ERA (ERA+ of 215)
- 252 K per year
- 11.28 K/9
- 45 BB per year
- 5.6 K/BB

Sandy Koufax (1962-1966)
- 1377 IP (275 per season)
- 1.99 ERA (ERA+ of 168)
- 289 K per year
- 9.46 K/9
- 63.2 BB per year
- 4.57 K/BB

What does this all mean? Well, the first thing is that Koufax pitched a lot more innings. But then, that was the norm back then, which makes it less impressive (in comparison). Still obviously a plus for Koufax though. Koufax has the lower raw ERA, but as the ERA+ shows Pedro's was a lot more impressive compared to his era.

Other numbers suggest that Koufax had a little better control, but Pedro made up for that by striking almost 2 more batters per 9 innings and having a better K/BB ratio.

Postseason numbers also play a role... in 3 postseason series Martinez was 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA. In 3 postseason series Koufax went 4-2 with a 0.94 ERA. So Koufax had more chances, but both guys were incredible.

Anyway, putting it all together, in my opinion Pedro Martinez had the best peak of any pitcher ever. He was more dominant when compared to his peers than Koufax, and that puts him in front for me. Also, if pressed, I'd probably say Pedro's 2000 season was the best pitching season ever.

But enough about me... what do you think? Vote in the poll and leave your reasons in the comments?

Which better had a better prime?
Pedro Martinez
Sandy Koufax