Posted: Tuesday September 03, 2002 6:14 PM
Updated: Tuesday September 03, 2002 8:34 PM
Most consecutive ERA titles won:
By Jacob Luft, CNNSI.com
In 1966, Sandy Koufax retired on the heels of the most dominant six-year stretch of pitching anybody had ever seen.
Starting in the 1961 season, the Dodgers left-hander went 129-47 with a 2.19 ERA and a staggering 115 complete games. The blinding brilliance resulted in this dizzying array of accolades: three Cy Young Awards, two World Series MVPs, one NL MVP, three triple crowns, five straight ERA titles ...
Well, you get the point. The guy was unbelievable.
Unfortunately, many of us alive today did not have opportunity to watch Koufax pitch. We do, however, have some decent pitchers going in this era that can rival and, in some ways surpass, Koufax's accomplishments.
In fact, Koufax no longer has the record for lowest ERA during a six-year period. That honor belongs to Atlanta's Greg Maddux, who posted a 2.14 ERA from 1992-97, a period in which he won four consecutive Cy Youngs.
Since the start of the 1997 season, Boston's Pedro Martinez has an ERA of 2.19, just as Koufax did. In 2000, Martinez became the first pitcher in history to have an ERA more than three runs lower than the league average. He broke his own record of 2.79 runs below the league average, set the year before. Before that, Maddux had set and reset the record as well. Even Koufax in his absolute prime never got lower than 1.88 below the league average.
Arizona's Randy Johnson has won the past three NL Cy Youngs and was named co-MVP of the World Series last season. At the rate he's going, he might end his career with the best eight-, nine- or 10-year stretch of any pitcher in history.
A young Roger Clemens won three Cy Youngs, an MVP and three ERA titles from 1986-91 with the Red Sox.
The comparisons can go on ad infinitum, so we'll let the numbers tell the story. Below is a look at the best six-year spans for Clemens, Maddux, Johnson and Martinez and how they compare to Koufax's legendary run. Neither of them can quite match Koufax's overall dominance, especially in terms of innings pitched, but it does point out that we should appreciate the Koufax-like pitchers of today while we can.
(The numbers in red represent the difference between their ERAs and the league they played in. Martinez's and Johnson's numbers are through Monday's games.)