51 Facts, Notes and Quotes About Randy Johnson
After watching Wednesday’s Baseball Hall of Fame announcement, now go ahead and mark your calendars for this week in 2015.The first player to wear an Arizona Diamondbacks cap on his plaque will be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Randy Johnson announced his retirement Tuesday after 22 seasons in the Major Leagues. Johnson’s accomplishments are too many to list entirely, but here are the big ones: 303 wins, 4875 strikeouts, 10 All-Star appearances, five Cy Young Awards (four of them consecutive), a perfect game, a no-hitter and a World Series MVP.
In addition to the D-backs, Johnson played for the Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants. And while Johnson was noncommittal during his retirement speech about what cap he would like atop his Hall of Fame plaque, it will surely be a D-backs logo because of the four Cy Young Awards and World Series championship he won in the Valley.
“Randy had some of his best years while with the D-backs, providing Hall of Fame memories for our great fans,” D-backs CEO Derrick Hall said. “He is an important part of our celebrated history, and we salute him on a remarkable career and thank him for his contributions to our franchise.”
Without further ado, here are 51 fun and amazing notes and quotes about the great No. 51:
1. Johnson’s adjusted ERA (ERA+) is ninth-best all time among pitchers with at least 2,500 innings pitched. The top 10: Pedro Martinez, Lefty Grove, Walter Johnson, Ed Walsh, Roger Clemens, Mordecai “Three-finger” Brown, Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, Johnson and Pete Alexander. Wow, that’s really good company.
2. Johnson’s 4,875 strikeouts are second all-time, trailing only Nolan Ryan.
3. It will be a long time — if it ever happens at all — before anybody makes a run at that number. The closest active pitcher is Pedro Martinez at 3,154. To put it into perspective: For Martinez to reach him averaging 150 strikeouts per season, it would take Pedro more than 11 seasons, and he would be 48 years old.
4. The closest pitcher under 40 is the former D-back that came to Arizona in the trade that sent Johnson to New York: Javier Vazquez, at 2,253. Vazquez has averaged 205 strikeouts the last five seasons. Even if he managed to keep up that pace, it would take him nearly 13 seasons, when he would be 45.
5. The active pitcher who, barring injuries, will probably finish closest to Johnson is 29-year-old Yankees lefty C.C. Sabathia at 1,590. He’s averaged 198 whiffs per year over the past five seasons. If he managed to stay healthy and maintain that pace, it would still take him more than 16 seasons to match Johnson, and he would be 45.
6. Put it this way: the 3,000 strikeout mark in a career is a prominent milestone. And Sabathia is more than that entire milestone away from Johnson.
7. SI.com’s Tim Marchman on Johnson’s rank in history: “Johnson’s single claim is that he was the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time. Admirers of Lefty Grove, Warren Spahn and Steve Carlton will blanch, but his case is almost indisputable. Consider how he rates against the man most people would probably name as the best-ever southpaw: Sandy Koufax made his reputation with his 1962-1966 run; it wasn’t even clearly better than Johnson’s prime.”
8. Johnson led the league in strikeouts nine times, including five of his six years with the D-backs.
9. FoxSports.com’s Dayn Perry on Johnson’s status as a Hall of Famer: “Five years from now, Johnson will be voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, with only the willfully ignorant choosing not to vote for him. But calling Johnson “merely” a first-ballot Hall of Famer doesn’t quite capture his legacy. Here’s what he really is: one of the greatest pitchers ever to play the game.”
10. Johnson’s 10.61 strikeouts per-nine-innings mark is the best of all time among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings. The rest of the top 5: Kerry Wood, Pedro Martinez, Nolan Ryan and Trevor Hoffman.
11. NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra on Johnson’s work ethic: “But most of us would have forgotten about the guy sometime in the mid-90s if he didn’t work, likely harder than any pitcher has ever worked before or since, to transform himself from that gifted but erratic thrower I saw in 1989 to the inner-circle Hall of Famer he is today, on the day of his retirement… Congratulations on a spectacular career, Mr. Johnson. See you in Cooperstown in 2015.”
12. ESPN’s Buster Olney on Johnson: “Lefty Grove is probably the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball history, and Johnson is probably No. 2.”
13. Johnson retired with the second-most innings pitched among active players, trailing only fellow lefty Tom Glavine.
14. CBS Sports’ Scott Miller on Johnson: “Nobody out-competed Johnson during his years on the field and, yes, that included the preparation part. When he put down the blazing fastball between starts, he studied video. He kept a detailed notebook in his locker detailing opposing hitters, and referred to it frequently.”
15. In addition to winning four CY Young Awards, Johnson also finished second three times and third once.
16. Johnson received MVP votes in nine seasons, including two top-10 finishes.
17. Johnson retired first among active players with 100 complete games. Glavine is a very distant second with 56, and the closest under-40 pitcher is new Phillies righty Roy Halladay, with 46.
18. MLB.com’s Mike Bauman on the pitches that Johnson used to rack up 303 wins: “But starting in 1993 with Seattle, Johnson mastered his art. The radar-bending fastball caught everybody’s attention, but there was also the wicked slider, that dived down toward a right-handed batter’s rear foot. It appeared to be a strike for a while, but then it was unhittable.”
19. In Randy Johnson’s 2004 perfect game against the Atlanta Braves, not only did no one walk (obviously), but only one batter even reached a three-ball count. The result? Of course, a full-count swinging strikeout against Johnny Estrada.
20. It was another Hall of Fame contender who gave Johnson his famous nickname, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick: Tim Raines gave Johnson his famous nickname in Montreal, colliding with him in batting practice, looking up and exclaiming, “You’re a Big Unit!”
21. Rickey Henderson might have been the greatest leadoff hitter ever, but he struggled to put his bat on the ball against Johnson. Though Henderson drew 26 walks in 85 plate appearances, he got only seven hits, batted .119 and struck out 30 times. No batter faced Johnson more times than Henderson.
22. Ten batters were struck out at least 20 times by Johnson in their careers. They were: Henderson, Dean Palmer, Sammy Sosa, Jim Leyritz, Tim Salmon, Marquis Grissom, Chili Davis, Devon White, Phil Nevin and Jeff Cirillo.
23. Cirillo was one of Johnson’s most famous victims. The Big Unit recorded his 4,000th career strikeout in a home game against Cirillo on June 29, 2004.
24. Johnson dominated the NL West. His numbers against the Colorado Rockies: 29 games, 19-8 record and a 2.47 ERA with 251 strikeouts in 211 1/3 innings.
25. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers: 25 games, 8-7 record with a 3.09 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 166 innings.
26. Against the San Diego Padres: 28 games, 16-5 record with a 2.44 ERA and 257 strikeouts in 191 2/3 innings.
27. Against the San Francisco Giants: 24 games, 8-8 record with a 3.13 ERA with 180 strikeouts in 158 innings.
28. The opponent he dominated most was probably the Chicago Cubs. He pitched 15 games against the Cubs, with a 13-0 record and 1.91 ERA, with 143 strikeouts in 103 2/3 innings.
29. The New York Times’ Tyler Kepner on what Johnson did against the Yankees in his career: “Johnson was never more comfortable than he was pitching against the Yankees in the postseason, and those games are among his defining moments. He strode in from the bullpen to win Game 5 of the 1995 division series in Seattle, and did it again six years later in Arizona to win Game 7 of the World Series.”
30. In addition to his dominance, Johnson was also a pillar of durability. He had 440 games of 100 pitches or more, second-most since 1980 behind Roger Clemens. Only six pitchers in that span have more than 300.
31. Among catchers who caught Johnson at least 20 times, he dominated hitters best with former D-backs backstop Damian Miller. The battery held hitters to a .270 on-base percentage, a slugging percentage, and struck out 1020 batters compared to just 199 walks among 2903 plate appearances.
32. Johnson is one of only five pitchers in baseball history to have been 6-feet-10 or taller.
33. ESPN.com’s Dave Cameron (Insider sub. required) on Johnson’s place in history: “Johnson dominated at a time when even flimsy middle infielders were driving balls out of the park with regularity, and he did it by sending them back to the dugout shaking their heads. The Big Unit stands alone as the best left-handed pitcher the game has seen.”
34. In his final game with the D-backs, Randy turned back the clock to show something reminiscent of his old self. He threw a complete game against the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 28, 2008, allowing just two hits and one walk with nine strikeouts.
35. In his last 15 starts with the D-backs in 2008, Johnson went 9-6 with a 2.56 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 98 1/3 innings.
36. MLB.com’s Chris Haft on Johnson’s postseason brilliance: “Johnson’s competitiveness was reflected most vividly in his postseason appearances. Facing the Yankees in the 1995 American League Division Series, he struck out six batters in three innings of relief with one day’s rest in Game 5 to help Seattle advance to the ALCS… Pitching for Arizona in the 2001 World Series against the Yankees, Johnson started and won Game 6 before working 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief the next night as the Diamondbacks scored their clinching triumph.”
37. He did quite well against batters on this year’s Hall of Fame Ballot. Andre Dawson hit .133 in 15 at bats against Johnson.
38. Roberto Alomar hit .200 with 13 strikeouts in 40 at bats against Johnson.
39. Tim Raines hit .259 with only one extra-base hit and seven strikeouts in 27 at bats.
40. Barry Larkin hit .200 with just one extra-base hit in 30 at bats.
41. Though Mark McGwire hit a famous home run off Johnson in the Kingdome in Seattle, Johnson mostly dominated him. Big Mac hit .225 with 18 strikeouts in 40 at bats.
42. Finally, Johnson held Fred McGriff hitless in 10 plate appearances with three strikeouts.
43. Since 1980, Johnson holds six of the 25 greatest single seasons, sorted by ERA+. No pitcher has more.
44. From Tom Verducci’s feature on Johnson in the May 25, 2009 Sports Illustrated: “At the height of his prowess, Randy Johnson threw 102 miles an hour slingshot-style and wore a Deadwood mustache, a mud flap of a mullet, and a scowl atop his 6’10” frame that had the don’t-mess effect of an armed prison guard high in a turret. He threw with such ferocity that a tooth filling once dislodged clear from his tightly clenched jaw and out of his mouth. He once virtually vaporized an unfortunate dove in mid-flight, a puff of feathers the residue of Johnson’s fastball. No pitcher ever scared left-handed hitters out of the lineup and sent them scurrying, like mice to their holes, the way he did. Rumor had it he would grind their bones to make his bread.”
45. And from Verducci’s excellent piece on the 2001 Sportsmen of the Year: “What Johnson and Schilling did this year was take that force and raise it to the power of two. Each, thanks in part to the other, had the finest season of his life, and together they goaded a team that was a dowdy 43-56 when they didn’t pitch to a world championship. In only one full year Johnson and Schilling became as inseparable in perpetuity as Koufax and Drysdale, Spahn and Sain, Mathewson and McGinnity and any other historic tandem of starting pitchers–except that in their case it does not matter which name you list first.”
46. Of all of his home parks (with the exception of the Astrodome, where he pitched just five times), Randy was probably at his best at Chase Field, where he held the highest strikeouts-per-nine innings (11.5) to go with a 2.96 ERA, a 65-34 record and 1138 strikeouts in 891 1/3 innings.
47. Randy Johnson had 212 games with at least 10 strikeouts, second-most all time behind Nolan Ryan’s 215. The next closest to Johnson, Roger Clemens, has just more than half of Randy’s total, with 110. Only Ryan, Johnson, Clemens and Pedro Martinez have more than 100.
48. Johnson is one of only 13 pitchers to have multiple no hitters in their career. Only Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax ever had more than two.
49. Randy Johnson was 40 years old when he threw his perfect game against the Atlanta Braves. He and Nolan Ryan are the only two pitchers to ever throw a no-hitter after their 40th birthday (Ryan had two), and Johnson is the only 40-plus year old to throw a perfect game.
50. In the 2001 World Series, Johnson won three games and posted a ridiculous 1.04 ERA with 19 strikeouts and three walks in 17 1/3 innings.
51. The final pitch of Johnson’s career was, of course, to record a swinging strikeout. Johnson whiffed San Diego Padres All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to end the 7th inning of the Giants’ game on Oct. 4.