Welcome to the 1st edition of “OR”, a section that will have pieces arguing the compared greatness of 2 of the best in sports. Whether its teams, players, or coaches, this section is all about who’s better. The 1st article?
Bob Gibson OR Pedro Martinez?
Bob Gibson is arguably the most intimidating right handed pitcher in the history of the game, and it wasn’t just his bullying style of chin music and inside fastballs that made him a success, but his absolute mastery of pitching.
When Gibson wasn’t intimidating batters with his ownership of the inside part of the plate, he was making them look foolish with a great curveball and arguably the best stuff of any right-handed pitcher during the 1960’s. That’s right, he was better than righty that that made up half of the famed Dodgers duo of the 60’s, Don Drysdale. He had a lower ERA, higher winning percentage, and struck out more people on average than Drysdale. He struck out more batters, won more games, and had a better ERA+ than Juan Marichal. He was the best right handed pitcher of his generation, much like Martinez, but he did something Martinez couldn’t even come close to.
Gibson was so good that many analysts believe that his incredible 1968 season (22-9, 1.12 ERA, 13 shutouts, and 28 complete games) is the reason that the baseball lowered the mound the next season. Apparently it was too unfair to allow Bob Gibson to continue pitching to hitters with the rules they were, so Gibson’s dominance was so extreme that he literally changed the game of baseball. And yet even with that rule change Gibson still went on to win another Cy Young Award, and be in the voting for league MVP 3 more times.
When comparing Gibson to Martinez it is very crucial that a few stats tell a bigger story than what those arguing for Pedro will debate. Martinez has the overall lead in winning percentage, however he didn’t have to pitch deep into games and risk giving up costly runs, like the pitchers of Gibson’s era. Instead, pitchers like Martinez often handed the game over to the bullpen in the later innings, a luxury that Bob Gibson went his entire career without. Maybe that is why Gibson tossed 209 more complete games than Martinez over his 17 year career (255-46) and ended with 39 more shutouts (56-17). And yet even pitching deep into these games, void of a bullpen of specialist relievers to turn the game over to, Gibson finished with a lower ERA and more wins than his Dominican counterpart.
So as far Pedro goes, he does not have the wins, the ERA, or the game changing dominance that Gibson did. And unless the MLB goes back in time to change the mound because of Pedro’s 1999 season, take it as a sign that even the great game of Baseball thinks more highly of Gibson than Martinez.
Bob Gibson only pitched 1/3 of his career on the same lowered mound as Pedro Martinez, in a pitcher’s park, with a better team in a worse division, when hitters weren’t loaded up on steroids, and still he couldn’t dominate like the Dominican did.
Sure Gibson’s ERA is better than Pedro’s…by .02, but his average ERA after the mound change? 3.21. Hardly as good as Martinez’ 2.93 on that same lowered mound. Take into account that the batters Pedro faced were juiced up on steroids throughout the entirety of his career and the fact that he pitched in hitter friendly Fenway Park and there is a reason that Martinez’ 154 ERA+ is the best ever by a starting pitcher. Compare that to Gibson’s 47th best 127 ERA+, and it is quite easy to see why Martinez is the more dominant of the two.
And although both pitchers are known for their menacing style that often included bean balls and high and tight pitches, Pedro was able to have better command of his arsenal. He walked less batters per game (2.4-3.1) and yet still had good enough stuff to get hitters to swing and miss, striking out more batters per walk than Gibson (4.15-2.33). Of course, the dominance of hitters and Gibson doesn’t end there. Martinez struck out more than 10 batters a game (way more than Gibson’s 7), won 3 Cy Young Awards (more than Gibson), and won a pitcher’s triple crown (something Gibson could never do). Also, despite playing on bad Dodgers, Expos, and Mets teams, Martinez was able to amass the 6th best winning percentage of any pitcher to ever take the hill (.687), quite a bit better than Bob Gibson, who has 146 people ahead of him on that list (.591).
Of course, people can still claim that Gibson’s dominance in 68’ is what led to the mound being lowered, but if that were the case, than the mound would be flat after Pedro’s longer run of dominance between 1997-2003 where his average ERA was 2.21 and his average ERA+ was 217, 60 points higher than any Gibson season other than 68’.
Basically stuck out more batters, walked less hitters, allowed less runs, and won more games when all of which was harder to do. More dominant? Without a question. Sorry Bob.