Stat Speak: Tracking the 200+ ERA club

Stat Speak: Tracking the 200+ ERA club

Since 1920, when Babe Ruth hit 54 home runs -- 25 more than anyone had ever hit in a season -- and metaphorically ushered in the live-ball era, 17 pitchers have thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title and compiled a 200 (or better) ERA+ (pitcher's ERA compared to league ERA, adjusted for pitcher's ballpark). A few notes regarding this group of 17:

• Three pitchers have multiple seasons with at least a 200 ERA+: Greg Maddux in 1994 and 1995; Roger Clemens in 1990, 1997 and 2005; and Pedro Martinez in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003.

•: Eleven of the 17 seasons have occurred since 1993.

•: The most recent pitcher to qualify for the ERA title and put together an ERA+ of 200 or better was Zack Greinke in 2009.

In 2009, Zack Greinke went 16-8, with a 2.16 ERA and a 205 ERA+. Besides leading the league in ERA and ERA+, he also led in WHIP and home runs per nine inning (he allowed only 11 homers in 229 1/3 innings) and finished second in strikeouts and hits per nine innings.

After that extraordinary 2009 campaign, Greinke fell back into normalcy in 2010. Last season, as pitchers were seemingly reestablishing themselves as the primary protagonists in the drama we know as baseball, Greinke went 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA (100 ERA+). So, with the idea of imagining Greinke's 2011 season, I decided to take a look at the 17 pitchers who compiled a 200 ERA+ at least once to see what they did the following two seasons.

The 200+ Club
Pitcher Year ERA+ Next Year ERA+ Following Year ERA+
Dolph Luque 1923 201 119 156
Lefty Grove 1931 220 160 134
Bob Gibson 1968 258 164 133
Ron Guidry 1978 208 146 100
Dwight Gooden 1985 229 126 119
Roger Clemens 1990 213 165 176
Greg Maddux 1994 271 262 162
Greg Maddux 1995 262 162 189
Kevin Brown 1996 217 150 164
Pedro Martinez 1997 219 163 243
Roger Clemens 1997 222 174 103
Pedro Martinez 1999 243 291 190
Pedro Martinez 2000 291 190 202
Pedro Martinez 2002 202 211 125
Pedro Martinez 2003 211 125 146
Roger Clemens 2005 226 194 108
Zack Greinke 2009 205 100 ?

Among the 17 listed above, only Dwight Gooden was younger than Greinke in his 200 ERA+ season. Greinke was 25 in 2009, as was Pedro Martinez in 1997. One would imagine that Greinke would happily follow Pedro's path, which included putting up a 243 ERA+ (an ERA+ that, at the time, matched Walter Johnson's 1912 season for eighth-best since 1880) in 1999, his age-27 season.

Over the past 50 years, there have been some remarkable performances by pitchers in their age-27 seasons. Beside Pedro's 1999 campaign mentioned above, Clemens was in his age-27 season in 1990, as was Ron Guidry in 1978. Some others are listed below, with their Triple Crown numbers and any other notes:

•: In 1972, Steve Carlton won 27 games for a 59-win team in 1972, going 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA and throwing 310 K's.

•: In 1968, Luis Tiant allowed 5.30 hits per nine innings, the lowest figure in history at the time, while going 21-9 with a 1.60 ERA and notching 264 K's.

•: In 2006, Johan Santana won the Major League Pitchers' Triple Crown, going 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA and striking out 245.

•: In 1963, Sandy Koufax, the first pitcher with 300 K's since Bob Feller in 1946, won the Major League Pitchers' Triple Crown, going 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA and 306 K's.

Feller was in his age-27 season in 1946, having returned full-time that season to the Majors after serving in the military for four years during World War II. In his first full year back, Feller went 26-15 with 348 strikeouts, threw 371 innings, compiled a 2.18 ERA while completing 36 starts, throwing 10 shutouts and recording four saves.

Butler breaking through in KC

In 2010, Royals' first baseman Billy Butler completed a season that looked markedly similar to the previous year.

The Butler Did It
Year G AB R H 2B HR RBI OPS OPS+
2009 159 608 78 183 51 21 93 .853 125
2010 158 595 77 189 45 15 78 .857 134

If Butler's 2011 maintains this type of consistency, the Royals may witness:

•: The seventh instance in franchise history of player putting together at least three straight seasons of a 125 OPS+ or better. The other players to manage that feat were George Brett, who did it three times over spans of three, five, and four seasons (1975-77, 1979-83, 1985-88), Hal McRae (1974-77), Mike Sweeney (1999-2002) and Danny Tartabull (1987-1989).

•: The first player in franchise history to have three seasons with at least 45 doubles. Just two other players have managed to twice hit 45 or more doubles in a season for the Royals: McRae and Brett.

•: The first player in franchise history with 180+ hits in three consecutive seasons. Five other players have achieved that feat two years in a row: Brett (1975-76), Willie Wilson (1979-80), McRae (1982-83), Joe Randa (1999-2000) and Mike Sweeney (1999-2000).

Roger Schlueter is a senior researcher for MLB Productions. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.