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Boston Red Sox: Ranking the 25 Greatest Pitchers in Franchise History

Chuck PlattCorrespondent IIJanuary 13, 2017

Boston Red Sox: Ranking the 25 Greatest Pitchers in Franchise History

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    Earlier this month, I ranked the 25 greatest players in Red Sox history.

    This time around I'm narrowing the focus and looking exclusively at pitchers.

    So who makes the cut? Who doesn't? Every era has its stars, but how do they stack up across history? Which 25 pitchers have shined the brightest wearing the Red Sox uniform?

    Here's my list...respond with opinions of all sorts.

25. Mike Timlin (2003-2008)

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    Club Ranks: 4th in games (394)

    Mike Timlin was a rock in the Boston bullpen last decade.

    His Red Sox tenure was highlighted by a three-season stretch from 2003 through 2005 in which he made 225 appearances, including a league-leading 81 in 2005.

    Timlin was a member of both World Series teams of the 2000s, which is a big reason why a middle reliever like him even gets on this list.

24. Jon Lester (2006-Present)

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    Club Ranks: 10th in SO (894)

    Jon Lester is young, but he's certainly deserving of this spot.

    At 27, he's already won a World Series game and pitched a no-hitter. A two-time All-Star, Lester has now strung together four straight seasons with 15-plus wins, 30-plus starts and a sub-3.50 ERA.

    He finished fourth in AL Cy Young voting in 2010.

    Lester is under contract for at least two more years, with a team option for 2014.

23. Joe Dobson (1941-1943, 1946-1950, 1954)

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    Club Ranks: 9th in wins (106), 9th in starts (202), 9th in IP (1544.0), T-10th in SHO (17)

    Like many players of his era, Joe Dobson would place higher in many franchise all-time categories if it weren't for his stint in the military.

    At nine, Dobson (a righty) lost both his left thumb and forefinger while playing with a dynamite cap!

    A bit of a forgotten man in the annals of Bosox history, Dobson was seldom spectacular. He made his only All-Star team in 1948.

22. Curt Schilling (2004-2008)

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    Club Ranks: 1st in bloody socks (2)

    Curt Schilling didn't pitch in Boston long enough to be a factor on the all-time ledger...at least for any real stats.

    But the guy was on two World Series-winning teams while he was here.

    In 2004, Schilling made his famous "bloody sock" starts in Game 6 of the ALCS and Game 2 of the World Series, winning both gutsy games. 

    Schilling also won in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series, in what would end up being his final career appearance. Terry Francona lifted Schilling in the sixth inning to a thunderous standing ovation as Schilling tearfully tipped his cap.

21. Jim Lonborg (1965-1971)

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    Jim Lonborg does not rank in the top 10 of any Red Sox all-time pitching categories; however, he has a special place in Red Sox history behind his Cy Young in 1967, helping to make the Impossible Dream a reality as the Sox won their first pennant in 21 years.

    Lonborg led the league that season in both wins (22) and starts (39), earning his first and only All-Star selection and finishing sixth in AL MVP voting. 

20. Dick Radatz (1962-1966)

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    Club Ranks: 3rd in saves (104)

    Dick Radatz had a brief career with the Red Sox and an even briefer span of success. Beginning with a strong rookie campaign in 1962, Radatz put together a three-season span of excellent relief work.

    Over this stretch, Radatz made 207 appearances and logged 414 innings to the tune of a 2.17 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.

    In both 1963 and 1964, Radatz was an All-Star and a top 10 finisher in AL MVP voting.

    Radatz was one of baseball's first great closers, with many of his saves coming as a result of three-inning efforts rather than the one-inning works of the modern closer.

19. Bill Lee (1969-1978)

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    Club Ranks: 10th in Games (321)

    For all of his eccentrics, it's easy to forget that Bill Lee was actually a pretty good pitcher.

    Lee was chiefly a reliever until 1973. That season was also when Lee made his first and only All-Star team. He won 17 games that season, a feat he'd match two more times in Boston.

    Lee pitched well on the losing side of the 1975 World Series.

    In 1978, Lee's poor relationship with manager Don Zimmer led to Zim sending "The Spaceman" back out to the bullpen.

    Lee was traded to the Montreal Expos that winter, departing by saying: "Who wants to be with a team that will go down in history alongside the ’64 Phillies and the ’67 Arabs?"  

18. Ellis Kinder (1948-1955)

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    Club Ranks: 4th in saves (91), 7th in games (365)

    Ellis Kinder is definitely not a usual historical study. Kinder broke in with the St. Louis Browns as a 31-year-old in 1946 and didn't join the Red Sox until two years later. He turned 41 his final season in Boston.

    Kinder was a starter his first three seasons in Boston, finishing fifth in AL MVP voting in 1949.

    The Red Sox sent Kinder out to the bullpen in 1951. He became a terrific reliever, earning a seventh-place finish in AL MVP voting in 1951.

    Kinder led the league in games finished three times over during his five-year stint in the Boston bullpen.

17. Derek Lowe (1997-2004)

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    Club Ranks: 5th in games (384), 6th in saves (85)

    Derek Lowe enjoyed success as Boston's closer before he was converted to a full-time starter in 2002.

    D-Lowe led the AL with 42 saves in 2000, earning his first All-Star selection. He picked up his second in ’02. Behind his April no-hitter, 21 wins and a 2.58 ERA, Lowe finished third for the AL Cy Young behind his teammate, Pedro Martinez, and the winner, the A's Barry Zito.

    Lowe infamously came of the bullpen to seal Boston's ALDS win over Oakland in 2003 and, in 2004, Lowe became the first pitcher ever to win the clinching game of all three playoff series on the way to the Sox winning the 2004 World Series.  

16. Bruce Hurst (1980-1988)

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    Club Ranks: 6th in SO (1,043), T-7th in starts (217)

    A first-round pick of the Red Sox in 1976, Hurst debuted in 1980 but didn't really catch on until the mid-'80s. 

    Hurst had a knack for postseason excellence with the Red Sox, going 3-2 over seven starts with three complete games, a 2.29 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. 

    He shined in the 1986 World Series, going 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA and a no-decision in the deciding Game 7. Hurst would have undoubtedly been the World Series MVP had the Mets not staged their infamous comeback in Game 6.

15. Bob Stanley (1977-1989)

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    Club Ranks: 1st in games (637), 2nd in saves (132), 6th in IP (1707.0), 8th in wins (115)

    A Red Sox lifer and a native New Englander, Bob Stanley cements his place in Red Sox history with his strong run as the team's closer in the mid-1980s.

14. Josh Beckett (2006-Present)

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    Club Ranks: 7th in SO (1,014)

    Josh Beckett has an odd tendency to alternate strong seasons with mediocre seasons; however, he's been with the Red Sox long enough to merit his consideration on this list.

    A three-time All-Star, Beckett had a wonderful 2007, finishing runner-up to CC Sabathia for the AL Cy Young and winning the ALCS MVP, leading the Sox over Sabathia's Indians on the way to Boston winning their second World Series of the decade.

    It was, of course, also the second for Beckett, who won a World Series and was the World Series MVP with the Marlins in 2003.

13. Tex Hughson (1941-1944, 1946-1949)

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    Club Ranks: T-7th in SHO (19), 10th in CG (99), 10th in ERA (2.94)

    A hard-throwing Texan and a Red Sox lifer, Tex Hughson was a three-time All-Star. He finished sixth in AL MVP voting in 1942, his best season.  

    Hughson missed all of 1945 serving in the military and retired at only 33 due to injuries.

12. Bill Monbouquette (1958-1965)

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    Club Ranks: 6th in starts (228), 7th in IP (1622.0), 9th in SO (969)

    A bright spot amid some of the most dismal seasons in franchise history, Bill Monbouquette is, not surprisingly, a little-remembered great in Red Sox history.

    A Massachusetts native, Monbouquette was a three-time All-Star over his time in Boston. He tossed a no-hitter on Aug. 1, 1962. 

11. Dutch Leonard (1913-1918)

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    Club Ranks: 3rd in ERA (2.13), 5th in SHO (25), 6th in BAA (.230), 6th in WHIP (1.14)

    Dutch Leonard won three World Series with the Red Sox (1915, 1916 and 1918).

    Leonard was consistently a very good pitcher, but in 1914 he was historically great. His 0.96 ERA that season is the modern single-season record.

    Leonard's 279 ERA+ in 1914 is the third-best all time.

    In 1920, after his Red Sox days, Leonard was one of the 17 "spitters" grandfathered by MLB following a ban on spitballs.

10. Mel Parnell (1947-1956)

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    Club Ranks: 4th in wins (123), 5th in starts (232), 5th in IP (1752.2), T-6th in CG (113), 6th in SHO (20) 

    A Red Sox lifer, Mel Parnell retired young, at only 34, because of chronic arm injuries.

    A two-time All-Star, Parnell finished fourth in AL MVP voting in 1949, leading the league in wins (25), CG (27) and IP (295.1).

9. Jonathan Papelbon (2005-Present)

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    Club Ranks: 1st in saves (219), 3rd in games (396)

    Figuring out where Jonathan Papelbon falls was an interesting task. 

    How does a prototypical modern closer stack up to, say, older hurlers who regularly threw 250 innings a year and were expected to toss complete games?

    He's working his way up the list of Red Sox greats, however, as he continues to consistently perform in a role of importance. A four-time All-Star and a World Series champion.

8. Tim Wakefield (1995-Present)

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    Club Ranks: 1st in starts (430), 1st in IP (3006.0), 2nd in SO (2,046), 2nd in games (590), 2nd in wins (186)

    Tim Wakefield has been with the Red Sox so long. He hasn't always been great, or even good, but his contributions are important nonetheless.

    He finished third in AL Cy Young voting in 1995 and won 15 or more games four times, most recently in 2007. Wake has had seven seasons of at least 30 starts. 

7. Luis Tiant (1971-1978)

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    Club Ranks: 4th in IP (1774.2), 4th in starts (238), 4th in SHO (26), 5th in wins (122), T-6th in CG (113), 5th in SO (1,075), 10th in BAA (.245)

    "El Tiante" anchored Red Sox pitching in the 1970s. His Red Sox career began on a minor league contract at the age of 30, when he was attempting to revive his career after fracturing his right scapula in 1970.

    A two-time All-Star and a three-time finisher in AL Cy Young Top 10s, Tiante was a true workhorse, logging four seasons of at least 260 IP, including a whopping 311.1 in 1974.

    In the 1975 postseason, Tiant tossed a complete game versus the A's in Game 1 of the ALCS and then went 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three World Series starts. He threw complete games in Game 1 and Game 4; the former was also a shutout. He received a no-decision in the famous Game 6. 

6. Lefty Grove (1934-1941)

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    Club Ranks: 5th in CG (119), 10th in IP (1539.2), 10th in wins (105)

    Lefty Grove was an All-Star five of his eight years in Boston. He also won four AL ERA titles.

    Not too shabby considering he was 34 when he was traded to the Red Sox from the Philadelphia Athletics.

5. "Smoky Joe" Wood (1908-1915)

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    Club Ranks: 1st in ERA (1.99), 3rd in WHIP (1.08), 3rd in SHO (28), 3rd in BAA (.219), 4th in CG (121), 6th in wins (117), 8th in SO (986)

    "Smoky Joe" Wood dominated on the mound for the strong Red Sox teams of The Teens, winning World Series titles in 1912 and 1915.

    In 1912, his finest season, the 22-year-old Wood led the majors with 34 wins, 35 complete games and 10 shutouts.

4. Babe Ruth (1914-1919)

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    Club Ranks: 2nd in BAA (.217), 4th in ERA (2.19), 8th in WHIP (1.14), 8th in CG (105), T-10th in SHO (17)

    Everyone knows Babe Ruth was a pitcher with the Red Sox before he was infamously sold to the Yankees in 1919.

    What is not as well known, however, is that Ruth was a filthy good pitcher, anchoring the Red Sox pitching staff for three championship seasons in four years (1915, ’16 and ’18).

    In 1918, Ruth led the majors with 11 home runs despite only making 317 at-bats.

    Over his final two years with the Sox, Ruth began his transition to a full-time hitter, pitching in only 17 games in 1919 and winning another home run crown, this time with 29.

    Ruth was part of the Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 1936.

3. Cy Young (1901-1908)

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    Club Ranks: T-1st in wins (192), T-1st in SHO (38), 1st in CG (275), 1st in WHIP (0.97), 2nd in ERA (2.00), 3rd in starts (297), 3rd in IP (2,728.1), 4th in SO (1,341), 7th in BAA (.233), 8th in games (327)

    Cy Young was good, but just how good was he? I rank him behind Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez. He may be a greater player than either, or both, of these two overall, but they were both better Red Sox players than Young.

    Young was no slouch, though. A World Series champion in 1903, Young pitched the first perfect game in AL history in 1904, the first of his two no-hitters for the Red Sox.

    Like Lefty Grove, Young enjoyed extraordinary success for his age; he turned 34 just before the 1901 season, his first with the Red Sox.

    Young was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1937, the Hall's second year of existence. 

2. Roger Clemens (1984-1996)

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    Club Ranks: T-1st in wins (192), T-1st in SHO (38), 1st in SO (2,590), 2nd in starts (382), 2nd in IP (2,776.0), 5th in BAA (.229), 6th in games (383), 9th in WHIP (1.16), 9th in CG (100)

    "The Rocket" had a terrific 13-year run in Boston, distinguishing himself with three AL Cy Young Awards and six top-10 AL Cy Young seasons. A five-time All-Star, Clemens won the AL MVP in 1986 and finished third in voting in 1990.

    With Pedro Martinez's greatness following immediately on the heels of Clemens' infamous departure to Toronto, it can be easy to undervalue Clemens' own contributions and brilliance in the Boston uniform.

1. Pedro Martinez (1998-2004)

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    Club Ranks: 1st in BAA (.206), 2nd in WHIP (0.98), 3rd in SO (1,683), T-6th in wins (117), 7th in ERA (2.52), T-10th in starts (201)

    Pedro grabs the top spot in this ranking largely because of when he pitched. In 1999 and 2000, Pedro put together arguably two of the best pitching seasons of any era in the heart of the Steroids Era, the roughest era for pitching.

    A six-time All-Star in Boston, Martinez won two Cy Young awards and finished top five in another three. He also had two top-five finishes in AL MVP voting, infamously finishing second for the award in 1999. 

    A future Hall of Famer, Martinez has to be considered one of the most electrifying players ever to wear the Red Sox uniform. He's also a Red Sox World Series champion.

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