Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best starting five of the Boston Red Sox in order from worst to first prior to 1960, as well as the greatest rotation of pitchers the Sox have seen in their uniform since 1960.
I then took both of those lists and pounded them together until I was left with the ultimate starting rotation ever to don the Beantown duds. These five pitchers are ranked from the ACE down to the number five guy.
I had a lot of fun compiling this set of slides for your enjoyment and I hope to generate a lot of comments about whom you guys would pick and where you would rank them. Without further delay…
Parnell was a left-handed ace for the Red Sox from 1947-1956 and wore a Boston uniform for the entirety of his career. Parnell’s best year was a 25-win season in 1949 and he had two All-Star appearances.
From 1923-2008 a no-hitter drought plagued all Red Sox pitchers except for Parnell, who managed a 4-0 no-hitter victory in 1956. Coincidentally, that was the last year that he pitched professionally due to a torn arm muscle. Parnell left behind a 123-75 record with 113 complete games and 20 shutouts.
Smoky Joe was a bright spot for the Red Sox rotation from 1908-1915. With a career record of 177-57 and an ERA of 2.03, it is not difficult to understand why Smoky Joe was a World Series MVP.
He was a right-handed fastball expert and in 1912 he won 34 games for the Sox, a number reached by few pitchers in the game. After his career with Boston, Smoky Joe went on to wow Cleveland fans as an outfielder putting up impressive hitting numbers as well.
The best left arm in the game?
Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1947, Lefty played 17 years in the majors winning an impressive 300 games. His best year in a Boston uniform may have been in 1935 when he was a 20 game winner.
Lefty is regarded as, well, one of the greatest lefties ever to play the game and was elected to five straight All-Star teams and won eight ERA titles spanning his career.
It was very easy to come up with the best two pitchers in Boston Red Sox history prior to 1960, but what proved difficult was deciding who was better. The runner up on this short list of two is none other than Cy Young.
Denton True "Cy" Young spent 22 years in the majors, and lifting his stats straight from Wikipedia, “Young still holds the Major League records for most career innings pitched (7,355), most career games started (815), and most complete games (749).”
Young pitched three no-hitters and also led the majors in wins, strikeouts and ERA, achieving a pitching trifecta in his first season as an American League ace.
The one achievement that always eluded Young was he never won his namesake, the “Cy Young” award.
Babe Ruth was an amazing pitcher for the New York Yankees but before he became fat and slovenly, he was an ace for the Boston Red Sox.
The Bambino played for Boston from 1914-1919 when he was traded to the New York Yankees for a great deal of money back then, but what would amount to mere pennies considering everything the Babe brought to NY during his tenure in pinstripes and well beyond his playing years.
While with Boston, Babe Ruth was the winningest left-handed pitcher in all of Major League Baseball from 1915-1917.
It would be difficult to top what the Sultan of Swat accomplished in Boston, let alone the entirety of his career.
The impression he left on the capital city of Massachusetts was great to be sure, but it was undeniable once he was given his walking papers.
Boston wouldn’t see another World Series victory until 2004, which brings us to our next set of slides: The best five starting pitchers for the Boston Red Sox since 1960.
Eckersley was the first, and John Smoltz was the second pitcher ever to record a 20-win season and a 50-save season in their careers. There is no third.
Better known for his closing role after he left the Red Sox, Eckersley proved to be an excellent workhorse for Boston.
He pitched in the late 70’s and in 1978 won 20 games. Twice Eckersley finished in the top 10 among Cy Young candidates, but never took home the hardware.
He very well may have over-pitched his way into a bullpen role by averaging 254 innings per season at the beginning of his great MLB career.
Another Red Sox great who also had the distinction of pitching both as a starter and a reliever is the guy ranking slightly ahead of Eckersley in this list. One of the best things about this guy is that …
He is still pitching for Boston today.
Wakefield has never made anybody exclaim “wow” with any of his pitches or single seasons stats, yet still managed to make his first and only All-Star appearance at age 42. That year (2009) he led the Majors with an 11-3 record at the break.
Wakefield has started more games for the Red Sox than any other pitcher in history and ranks third in wins behind greats Cy Young and Roger Clemens.
Though his win/loss record is 193-172 he has two World Series Champion rings and 2,063 strikeouts through last season.
Wakefield doesn’t look pretty on the mound and he often requires Boston to switch catchers or catchers to switch gloves when he toes the rubber.
This in mind, he has been getting the job done and doing what has been asked of him throughout his entire career.
It seems the knuckleball that he developed early on as an “out” pitch has become synonymous with Wakefield.
I know Minnesota had a knuckleballer on their squad a few years back, and R.A. Dickey of the Mets has one, but other than that, I think Wakefield is the last of a dying breed.
I know that Schilling was only with the Red Sox for a short time (2004-2008) but he acquired two World Series Championships in that span adding to the one he earned with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
While he contributed almost nothing to the 2007 win, Schilling’s gutsy performance in 2004 is more than enough to seal his place in Red Sox history as the third best pitcher on this list.
Everyone knows this story, and if you don’t than you should, so I will make it short and sweet.
Down three games to none to their rival, the New York Yankees, in the 2004 ALCS the Red Sox mounted an improbable comeback with Curt Schilling pitching a must win game six.
He took the mound on an ankle, so injured, that blood eventually soaked through his white sock, as he brought the win home for Boston.
That performance and his win in game two of the World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals brought Beantown it’s first World Series Championship since the Babe left. The curse was lifted.
Everyone argues over how to rank these next two guys and I have seen it go both ways, so please let me know what you all think. Here are my thoughts.
a bit chubby
Another Boston Red Sox player turned New York Yankee; Clemens was a Cy Young winner and innings eater while in Beantown.
Clemens flat out dominated. The Rocket played in Boston from 1984-1996.
He was so good that he overshadowed great Boston pitchers like Bruce Hurst, who may have a bone to pick with me about not being on this list himself. Hurst was the Pippen to Clemens’ Jordan.
Clemens was drafted by Boston at the 19 spot and went on to earn an AL MVP award and seven Cy Young awards (not all in a Red Sox uniform).
The guy could just plain hurl. Unfortunately we will never know how much of a role alleged steroid use played in his greatness but there can be no denying that Clemens would have been among the best ever whether he juiced or not.
He never brought Boston a World Series Championship though, and for that reason alone he is in the shadow of the next man.
Not Pedro's finest moment
Martinez is the best pitcher to ever put on a Red Sox uniform since 1960.
He had eight All-Star appearances and three Cy Young awards (two with the Red Sox) in his career.
In 2004, Martinez garnered enough votes to finish fourth in line for the Cy Young award but more importantly he went 16-9 and was a main factor in bringing Boston their first World Series Championship in 86 years.
Martinez dazzled with his fastball and curve ball and confused pitchers with his change-up.
He had amazing control and was able to place the ball exactly where he wanted it.
Out of such a small man, the Red Sox received huge dividends. Pedro Martinez is arguably the best pitcher the Red Sox have started since 1960.
With this rotation they may have started this season a little better
Now comes the fun part. It is time to put all of these guys together and come up with the Red Sox all time best starting rotation. Here is the list beginning with their all-time ace.
- Babe Ruth – The guy single handedly (not entirely) buried the Red Sox in 86 years of futility.
- Pedro Martinez – When his fastball is above 88 mph he is untouchable.
- Cy Young – The best pitcher award is named after this guy for a reason.
- Roger Clemens – If you erase his career post-Boston, he is still one of the best pitchers the game has ever seen.
- Curt Schilling – Game six of the 2004 ALCS was the gutsiest performance in a Red Sox uniform hands down.
This is one wicked ret(ah)ded rotation.