You really shouldn't have to think about this one for long. Long? How about, "not at all"? When the words "great pitcher" are uttered, Pedro Martinez's name is right there with the rest of the MLB's greats. Now that we're talking about the Red Sox's best pitchers in the last decade, it's easy to know who's first in line.
First we went with hitters. Then we continued with relievers. Now we finish with the 10 best starting pitching seasons of the decade for the Red Sox.
The top 10 are after the jump, in descending order (and, once again, we are using FIP as our judge o' talent):
10. Curt Schilling - 2006 (3.59 FIP)
204 ip, 3.97 era, 1.21 whip, 6.54 so/bb
In one of the Red Sox's worst years of the decade, Curt Schilling put together his second-best performance in Beantown. Schilling was solid, but not great like he was in 2004. He was the ace of the staff in 2006 because Josh Beckett, in his second year with the Sox, struggled mightily. Schill showed pinpoint control like his entire career, as he issued just 28 walks in 2006.
9. Pedro Martinez - 2004 (3.58 FIP)
217 ip, 3.90 era, 1.17 whip, 3.72 so/bb
Even in Pedro's last season with the Red Sox -- and one which most fans saw Pedro's skills fall down a slippery slope -- he cracks the top 10 list. That's just how good Pedro was. Pedro's numbers certainly weren't Pedro-esque, but they were good compared to the rest of the league. His WHIP was a pretty little 1.17 and he struck out 9.4 batters per nine innings. Pedro would have one more good year in his tank (2005), but after that we haven't seen a resurgence.
8. Derek Lowe - 2002 (3.34 FIP)
219.2 ip, 2.58 era, 0.97 whip, 2.65 so/bb
In his first full season as a starter, Lowe was magnificent, winning 21 games and finishing third in the Cy Young voting. Not too bad for a closer, huh? The durable Lowe hasn't looked back, as he is still a starter with the Atlanta Braves. Lowe in 2002, however, was the best Lowe has ever been. As a starter, he's never duplicated his numbers from 2002; not even close, actually. It was fun to watch him and Pedro in '02. Two of the best starters in the league were teammates.
7. Josh Beckett - 2008 (3.24 FIP)
174.1 ip, 4.03 era, 1.18 whip, 5.06 so/bb
People look at Josh Beckett's 2008 season as a disappointment from the outside. But really, if you look deeper, he was one of the best in 2008. Despite the 4.03 ERA, he ranks 7th on this list. All his numbers really check out except his ERA which, most of us know, is not the best indicator of talent. However, to see his 4+ ERA combined with all these 2+'s and 3+'s is quite interesting. Beckett was quite good in both 2008 and 2007, only having "down" seasons in 2006, his first season with the Sox.
6. Jon Lester - 2009 (3.15 FIP)
203.1 ip, 3.41 era, 1.23 whip, 3.52 so/bb
When we do this again in 2019 (holy crap), Jon Lester might litter this list. But for now, this is his only spot in the top 10 -- and I'll take it. Lester really came into his own in 2009 and made a case for him to be the "ace" in 2010. While some would like to give the title to him and others have reservations, Lester is, at the least, a great pitcher. One that is only getting better, too. Lester could be the "Pedro" down the line. (Note: I am not saying he could be as good as Pedro, as nice as that would be. However, he could stand out in the next decade as the Sox's best.)
5. Curt Schilling - 2004 (3.11 FIP)
226.2 ip, 3.26 era, 1.06 whip, 5.80 so/bb
The 2004 season was certainly Big Schill's best year as a Red Sox. He did everything well, including leading the Red Sox to a World Series title. That part was nice. In terms of his performance though, he was a workhorse and he kept runners off the bases. Schilling did exactly what the Red Sox wanted him to do when they brought him in: win and bring the Sox to a World Series. Check and check.
4. Josh Beckett - 2007 (3.08 FIP)
200.2 ip, 3.27 era, 1.14 whip, 4.85 so/bb
What Schilling did in 2004 was what Josh Beckett did in 2007: win and lead the Red Sox to a World Series title. Beckett, who finished second in the Cy Young race to C.C. Sabathia, really should have been the American League Cy Young -- especially if his playoff performance could have been factored in. This is the season in which Beckett stood out and said "I'm the ace." In my opinion, he's still there, but 2010 will be a big season for him as its the last year on his contract.
Now it's time to just get ridiculous...
3. Pedro Martinez - 2002 (2.24 FIP)
199.1 ip, 2.26 era, 0.92 whip, 5.98 so/bb
2. Pedro Martinez - 2003 (2.21 FIP)
186.2 ip, 2.22 era, 1.03 whip, 4.38 so/bb
1. Pedro Martinez - 2000 (2.17 FIP)
217 ip, 1.74 era, 0.73 whip, 8.88 so/bb
Yes, those numbers are real and are in no way fabricated. Pedro Martinez was just that dirty.
Let's just look at his 2000 for the sake of dominance. Did you know that Pedro had the best ERA in the American League that season with a 1.74? If you had guessed, it was probably a safe guess. But take a gander at what the second best ERA was in the American League was. I'll wait for your answer...
Whatever you said, you were wrong because it was Roger Clemens with a 3.70 as a Yankee. Three point seven freaking oh. That's almost two full runs worse than Pedro! Pedro Martinez was just that dirty.
Pedro led the American League in every stat imaginable that season except BB/9, which he lost out to David Wells by zero point freakin' one. Hands down, Pedro's 2000 season will go down as one of the best ever.
(I also realized Tuesday night that I actually saw Pedro in person that season. It was a July 23 day game against the White Sox. Pedro pitched a complete-game shutout and the Red Sox won, 1-0. He struck out 15 White Sox in that game. It's a game I'll remember forever.)
One more thing about Pedro's 2000 season: HOW DID HE NOT WIN THE MVP?! Jason Giambi won, if you were curious. I'm sure if voters could look back, they'd change their vote in hindsight because we may never see another pitching season like that again. Pedro Martinez was just that dirty.
Pedro Martinez was great. He may be the best Red Sox pitcher we ever see. We may not see a pitcher in Major League Baseball like him again. We may not see anything close to him.
But at the very least, we got to see him. We got to see greatness.