Best of the Decade: Starting Pitchers
It seems hard to believe, but we are almost to the year 2010. And with any impending new decade, it seems only fair to look back on the best of the previous 10 years.
So with that, I present my top 10 picks from each position between the years 2000-2009, starting with the 10 best starting pitchers.
Tom Glavine may be one of the most forgotten-about pitchers in the last decade. But a four-time All-Star in the decade, Glavine was a respectable 118-87 in the 10 years. He finished with a 3.77 ERA and 948 strikeouts.
He split the decade playing with the Atlanta Braves and the Mets, and at times had his struggles (mostly with the Mets). During his time with the Mets, Glavine recorded his 300th career victory.
Glavine walked away from the game after the Braves released him during the 2009 season. It would be absolutely wonderful to see the long-time Brave come back as a pitching coach with some ball club.
Roy "Doc" Halladay has quietly been one of the most durable and dominant pitchers of this decade. And now, with rumors swirling of him being dealt sometime before the 2010 season, Halladay is about to strike gold.
Though his career started in 1998, Halladay really did not take off until after the turn of the century. But since his breakout season in 2002, Halladay has never looked back.
He has amassed 1,400 strikeouts, while going 139-69 with a nifty 3.40 ERA. And on a Toronto Blue Jays team that seems to fall short every season, Halladay seemed to pick the team up every fifth game. He's already a five-time All-Star, and won the AL Cy Young award in 2003.
And with a trade all but looming for the right-hander, Halladay's first trip to the play-offs could soon be in the cards.
C.C. Sabathia's career didn't even start until 2001, but already he has become one of the most dominant starting pitchers in recent history. He has yet to finish a single season with less than 135 strikeouts and has already won a Cy Young award, in 2007 with the Cleveland Indians.
Over the decade, the big man amassed a record of 136-81, a 3.62 ERA and 1,590 strikeouts as a member of the Indians, Milwaukee Brewers and the Yankees.
Prior to the 2009 season, Sabatha signed a seven-year, $161 million contract to play for the Yankees. That contract is the highest ever given to a pitcher at any point in the history of the game.
From 2000-2009, Andy Pettitte was absolutely brilliant. A true competitor, Pettitte brought a real edge to the pitcher's mound, whether it be as a New York Yankee or a Houston Astro.
In the decade, the lefty went 148-89 with a 3.90 ERA and struck out 1,441 batters. He won World Championships with the Bombers in the first and final years of the decade, and made it to the Fall Classic with the Astros in 2005 (only to lose to the Chicago White Sox). Pettitte was voted into the 2001 All Star Game in Seattle.
Pettitte will turn 39 around the half-way mark of the 2010 season, so it's logical to think his career could be dwindling down. But after signing a one-year contract to play with the Yankees in 2010, Pettitte will get at least one season in the new decade.
Yet another left-handed pitcher to make this list, Johan Santana made it to the Big Leagues in the year 2000 with the Minnesota Twins, primarily as a reliever in the Twins' bullpen. The lefty actually did not reach 30 starts until 2004, when he started 34 games for the Twinkies.
But since then, he hasn't finished a single season with less than 13 wins. All-in-all, Santana's numbers during the decade were fascinating, especially since he really did not get going until almost half-way into the decade.
He finished the 2000's with a 122-60 mark, with a 3.12 ERA and 1,733 strikeouts while playing for the Twins and New York Mets.
Santana was a two-time Cy Young Award winner while with the Twins, and even when he has "bad starts" he still looks better than most on their "good starts."
Curt Schilling's 2000 decade may always be remembered as the Bloody Sock incident, stemming from his gutty performance in the 2004 World Series as a member of the Boston Red Sox. But Schilling, who did not even throw a pitch in '08 or '09, had an amazing decade altogether.
He started the decade pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies. But he was soon dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he would go on to help the team beat the Yankees in the 2001 World Series. In that series, Schilling stymied the Yankees. In the three games he started, he struck out 26 batters and gave up just four earned runs, on his way to being named co-MVP of the World Series.
But this wouldn't be the last taste of the Fall Classic for Schill. He would go on to lead the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series victory in 86 years in 2004. Schilling's gutty performance was astounding.
With blood visibly seeping through his sock, thanks to a ruptured tendon sheath in his right ankle, Schilling still managed to win Game six of the ALCS against the Yankees, and Game two of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Schilling and the Sox would win another World Championship, sweeping the Colorado Rockies in 2007. Throughout the decade, Schilling was a three-time All-Star, and finished second in the Cy Young award voting three times. He finished the decade with a 117-63 record, 1,545 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.54. Can you say Hall-of-Famer?
Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux. Those three names were synonymous with winning during the 1990's as members of the Atlanta Braves. This three-headed pitching machine became the most dominant tandem on the mound in recent history, if not ever. The propelled the team to 14 consecutive division titles.
Despite not pitching at all in 2009, "Mad Dog" won 134 games in the decade. He struck out 1,211 and finished with a 3.70 ERA. He won the Gold Glove for pitchers in eight of the nine seasons he played. And although his better years were as a Brave in the 90's, Maddux gave his all for the Braves, Padres, Dodgers and Cubs in the 00's.
Much has been made in recent years about Roger Clemens' legitimacy in the game of baseball. His name has been surrounded by steroids use for quite sometime now. But whether or not he used, the fact that he was one of the greatest pitchers in this era can not be denied. This past decade was no exception.
The Rocket played for the Yankees and Astros during the 2000 decade, and won a Cy Young award with each club. He won a World Championship with the Bombers in 2000, and made it to the Fall Classic again with the Yanks in '01, and the Astros in '05. He was also a four-time All-Star during the 10-year span.
Clemens may not have had his best years in this past decade, but the numbers are still very impressive. He went 107-50, with a 3.34 ERA and 1,356 strikeouts, as he finished a likely Hall-of-Fame career in 2007.
"Who's Your Daddy?" That was the question Yankee fans serenade Pedro Martinez with, after he claimed that the Yankees were his daddy following a September loss at the hands of the Bronx Bombers in 2004. But regardless of who everyone though was Pedro's daddy, the right-hander quieted all of the critics with an amazing 10-year span.
Martinez spent the last decade pitching for the Boston Red Sox, the Mets and the Phillies -albeit for half a season in 2009. He faced a lot of injury plagued seasons, mainly with the Mets. He also struggled through the tragic death of his father, with whom he was extremely close. But Pedro, despite his detriments, managed to put up very good numbers between 2000-2009.
He went 112-50 with a 3.01 ERA and 1,620 strikeouts. He won the Cy Young award in '00 with the Sox and was a three-time All-Star. He also helped lead the Sox to glory as they won their first World Championship in 86 years in 2004. He also had to face then Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer who decided to charge at him during a bench-clearing brawl in Game three of the 2003 ALCS.
And when everyone thought his career was over, Pedro resurfaced with the Phillies mid-way through the '09 season, and helped them get to the World Series, only to fall to, who else but, the New York Yankees. Who's YOUR Daddy?
The "Big Unit", Randy Johnson has been intimidating hitters with 90+ mph fastballs for more than 20 seasons. At 6'10", this lanky left-hander won three Cy Young Awards with the Arizona Diamondbacks this past decade.
He also was a part of the 2001 D-Backs World Championship team that beat the Yankees in the Fall Classic. He was named co-MVP of the World Series, along with Curt Schilling. Johnson went 3-0 and struck out 19 Yankees that series.
Unit finished the 2000 decade pitching for the San Francisco Giants. His numbers throughout the decade were remarkable, especially when you look at his durability with increasing age. While pitching for the D-Backs, Yankees and Giants, Johnson went 143-78 with a 3.34 ERA and an astounding 2,182 strikeouts.
Just when you think the Unit is about to call it a day, he still manages to continue to mow hitters down, left and right.