The Boston Red Sox have had great pitchers throughout their history, but none have had their number retired in Fenway Park. To give due recognition of greatness, I have put together this list of the five greatest pitchers to play for the team.
I looked specifically at each player’s time with the Red Sox. If you are interested in ranking all-time pitchers based on their entire career, I suggest looking at Baseball-Reference.com’s All-Time Rankings. They used the Elo rating system to rank baseball’s all-time best pitchers, who meet a minimum innings, games and War requirement.
In my own ranking, I took into account the pitcher’s consistent and continued statistical excellence and overall domination of hitters compared to other pitchers of their specific era, what some now call a pitcher’s nasty factor.
I give honorable mention to Lefty Grove (Baseball-Reference ranking: #4). Grove had five all-star seasons with Boston. He proved to still be star pitcher with the Red Sox, after his best and brightest years were behind him in Philadelphia.
My Top 5 Great Red Sox pitchers are:
#5: Luis Tiant (Baseball-Reference ranking: #60)
Tiant pitched for 19 seasons, including eight with Boston. In 1972, his second season with the Red Sox, Tiant went 15-6 with a 1.91 ERA. Over the next four seasons, Tiant won 20 or more games three times, finished in the top five of the Cy Young Award voting three times and he was named to two all-star teams.
#4: Smoky Joe Wood (Baseball-Reference ranking: #52)
In Wood’s first three seasons of 1909 through 1911, he won 46 games with a 1.96 ERA. In 1912 Wood carried the Red Sox to their second championship. He led all of baseball with 34 wins, including 10 shutouts, recorded a 1.91 ERA and 258 strikeouts. He won three games in the World Series, including the final game of the series at Fenway Park to conclude the park’s inaugural season. Wood had three more solid seasons in Boston, before an arm injury prevented him from pitching and he went on to become at position player with a couple other teams to end his career.
#3: Pedro Martinez (Baseball-Reference ranking: #10)
Martinez won the NL Cy Young Award in 1997 and was traded to Boston before the 1998 season. In 1999 and 2000, he led the league in ERA, strikeouts and WHIP. He won his second and third Cy Young Award and both years he finished in the top five of the MVP voting. Over his first three seasons in Boston, he won 50 games and was a three-time all-star. In 2002 he won 20 games for the second time and led the league in numerous categories once again. In 2004 Martinez won 16 regular season games and three playoff games in the Red Sox run to their first World Series Championship in 86 years. Returning a Boston legend and hero, it was an incredible and dramatic finale to his career with the Red Sox.
#2: Roger Clemens (Baseball-Reference ranking: #14)
Clemens broke in with the Red Sox in 1984 and two years later he earned the Cy Young and MVP awards by leading the league with 24 wins, a 2.48 ERA and a 0.969 WHIP. Also, in 1986 he set a MLB record of 20 strikeouts in a single game and repeated the feat ten years later. He followed it up with another 20-win campaign and his second Cy Young Award in 1987. From 1988 through 1992, Clemens never won less than 17 games and led the league in ERA and shutouts three times. He won his third Cy Young Award in 1991. Clemens left Boston after 1996 and went on further solidify himself as one of history’s greatest pitchers. Despite the steroid scandal, Clemens belongs in this group and in the Hall of Fame. He dominated hitters before and during the steroid era, which he pitched in.
#1: Cy Young (Baseball-Reference ranking: #3)
Young joined the Red Sox as an 11-year accomplished veteran in 1901. In his first three years with Boston, he led league in wins each year, twice leading all of baseball, totaling a combined 93 wins. Young lifted the Red Sox to a series win in the first ever World Series in 1903. Over eight seasons with Boston, he recorded a 2.00 ERA, 38 shutouts and 1,341 strikeouts. He was elected to the Hall of Fame as a member of the second class of inductees and the award for each league’s best pitcher of the year bears his name. Young remains in top three of almost every all-time Red Sox pitching statistics category.
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