Steven Wright has had a fantastic 2016 season thus far and is at, or near, the top of the AL in most pitching categories. His 2.22 ERA ranks 2nd in the AL and got me thinking about the last time a Red Sox starter posted an ERA under 2.30 for a season*. Not surprisingly, Pedro Martinez was the last starter to finish a full season with an ERA under 2.30 and he did it 4 out of 5 years from 1999 to 2003. How do the two pitchers compare (over 1 season, not a career)?
For the sake of comparison, I looked at Pedro’s 2000 season, arguably one of the best pitching performances in recent baseball history and Wright’s 2016 numbers, projected out for the full season. Disclaimer: I’m not trying to say Steven Wright is as good as Pedro or will have half the career Pedro had, because that would be moronic. I don’t expect Wright to continue his torrid early season pace throughout the entire season, but what if he does?
Now for those of you who hate numbers or charts, let me summarize. If Wright were to remain on his current pace through 13 starts, he would end the season as the best pitcher in the AL and have a legitimate Cy Young case. He would have one of the best seasons in recent history for the Red Sox, but, spoiler alert, he would not upend Pedro even at this pace. In fairness to Wright and every other pitcher who has, and will, don the Red Sox uniform, it’s likely no one will ever have a better season than 2000 Pedro given how baseball has changed over the last 15+ years, not to mention a better 5-year span.
All of these numbers are just to say: Steven Wright is more than just a nice storyline. He is having a historic season thus far. As with any pitcher, but especially a knuckleballer, it could all fall apart the next time he toes the rubber, but for now, Wright is a serious contender for the best pitcher in the AL.
*Buchholz had a 1.74 ERA in 2013, but he only pitched in 16 games.
+2016 Projected numbers are based on 32-33 starts this season, keeping the ERA and hits/9 IP steady, and increasing his HR/9 IP slightly.
++2016 Projected rank is based on where Wright would have ranked in the AL for the 2015 season.