Celebrating Randy Johnson

Ira LiemanContributor IMay 12, 2009

DENVER - MAY 15: Starting pitcher Randy Johnson #51 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers the pitch against the Colorado Rockies on May 15, 2007 at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

On the cusp of a major milestone, we should celebrate Randy Johnson.

Randy Johnson is a freak. I've said so before in a previous article. He just achieved his 298th career win, and he will likely be the last pitcher to reach this milestone for a long time.

An imposing figure on a 10-inch-high mound, Johnson was just a wild pitcher with a 48-47 record on his 29th birthday. At that time he had lead the American League in walks three straight years. Any pitcher with a 100 MPH fastball would be hard to hit, but Johnson was rarely around the plate.

His talent was enormous, punctuated by a no-hitter in 1990. Yet his 1991 season featured a rare statistical anomaly, with Johnson giving up more walks than hits. That year he also struck out more than a batter per inning for the first time.

All-time great Nolan Ryan reached out to Johnson in the 1992 season, and gave him some pointers. Small mechanical changes suggested by Ryan pushed Johnson to a 19-8 record with better control and 308 strikeouts in 1993, and second place in Cy Young award voting to Jack McDowell.

Randy Johnson's 1993 season was a sign of things to come. He won the Cy Young award with Seattle in 1995, going 18-2 and leading the league in ERA for the first time.

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After 11 years with Seattle, they traded him to Houston at the 1998 All-Star break, and Johnson went 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA as the Astros won their division.

After signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks before the 1999 season, his first four years there was one of the best statistical stretches in history. He won four straight Cy Young awards between 1999-2002, averaging 20 wins and 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

Johnson had success over the course of multiple years, but he has also struck out 20 batters in a game, pitched a perfect game in 2004 to go along with his no-hitter, and was named the co-World Series MVP with Curt Schilling as his Diamondbacks defeated the Yankees in 2001. He's also the career leader in strikeouts per nine innings pitched, and set the single season mark in his 2001 season.

Johnson's chase for 300 wins will likely be the last one for a long while, unless Jamie Moyer decides to pitch until he's 50. The next player that seems to have a chance at this milestone is CC Sabathia, but with 119 wins now would need to win 18 games a year for the next decade to have that shot.

Catch Randy Johnson now. Give him your applause.

Chances are you're not going to see the likes of him again.

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