Monday, December 28, 2009

Best Sox Players of the Decade: 2002

2002 will be remembered not for what happened on the field (a very respectable 93-69 second-place finish) but for what happened off the field. The Harrington Trust sold the Sox to the ownership group headed by John Henry and Dan Duquette was fired as GM. That set the stage for the most successful period in Boston Red Sox history since the First World War. And although the Sox missed out on the playoffs again in 2002, they had some strong contributors on the team.

Best Players For Boston: 2002

3. Derek Lowe: This was the year Lowe transitioned back into a starting role. To say it was a success would be an understatement. Lowe went 21-8 with a 2.58 ERA over 32 starts. He pitched 219.2 innings and had a WHIP of 0.974. His ERA+ was 177, good for second in the AL behind Pedro. Lowe made his second All-Star game that year and finished third in the Cy Young voting behind Pedro and the 2002 winner...Barry Zito.*

2. Manny Ramirez: Manny's name will appear often on these lists for the simple reason that he is one of the greatest hitters in the history of the sport. He makes batting look like anyone could do it and that is how you know he is one of the greats. In 2002 Manny put up decent numbers for Manny...the kind of numbers any other hitter would kill for. Manny hit .349 with 33 homers and 107 RBI and lead the AL in batting average. He had an OPS of 1.097 and an OPS+ of 184. And he did all this despite playing in just 120 games that year; Manny injured his hammy and missed most of May and all of June. He still made his 6th All-Star game that year and finished ninth in the MVP voting.

In a lot of ways, I think of this as Manny's most impressive year. He put up a full season's worth of hitting in 3/4 of a season. He was a pain in the ass and I do think he had to move on, but that shouldn't stop us from recognizing his massive talent or what he did for the team.

1. Pedro Martinez: I cannot emphasize enough what a unique experience it was to watch Pedro Martinez in his prime. Rarely do you ever get to see someone so dominant in his profession play for your team. Pedro had another amazing year in 2002 after an injury-plagued 2001. He went 20-4 with a 2.26 ERA. He struck out 239 batters and walked just 40 for a K/BB ratio of 5.98. His K/9 ratio was 10.8 and he had a WHIP of 0.923. His ERA+ was 202, the third time in four years that his ERA+ was over 200. And all those stats I just mentioned – except for wins – led all pitchers in the AL. He went to his sixth All-Star game in seven years and finished second in the Cy voting behind Barry Zito.** It was also the last time Pedro would win 20 games in a season.


*That's not a misprint, folks. Has a pitcher from the AL ever gone to the NL and gotten worse?

** For the record, Pedro got screwed. Everyone looked at Zito's 23 wins and 200+ innings and ignored the fact that Pedro led the AL in WHIP, ERA, winning percentage and strikeouts. He was the first pitcher to lead a league in all four categories and not win the Cy Young. And Zito was racking up those wins against weak sisters like Texas, Tampa, KC and Seattle. Meanwhile, Pedro beat the Yankees twice, Cleveland twice and Anaheim twice.

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