The question came up: Who had the better seven-year stretch, Greg Maddux [1992-98] or Pedro Martinez [1997-2003]. Well, first of all, they were both utterly brilliant. So I guess it will depend on what you mean by "better." Maddux was more durable during his stretch. Pedro was more dominant. Maddux walked fewer. Pedro struck out more. And so on. ...Seven years is arbitrary, of course. You could go single season, back-to-back years (Maddux 94-95 & Pedro 99-00, for example!!), 10-year periods, etc. ...
After the commenters hashed it out, Joe posted a follow-up, including stats for similar stretches from Sandy Koufax (5 years: 1961-66), Tom Seaver (1969-75), Jim Palmer (1969-75), Walter Johnson (1910-16), Carl Hubbell (1931-37), Lefty Grove (1926-32), Pete Alexander (1911-17), Christy Mathewson (1905-11), Randy Johnson (1995-02), and Bob Gibson (1964-70).
What did Joe learn?
Maddux's 191 ERA+ and, especially, Pedro's 213 ERA+ over seven seasons are historically insane.By comparison: Koufax (156), Tom Seaver (146), Walter Johnson (188), Lefty Grove (165), Christy Mathewson (154), Randy Johnson (177).
You obviously know where I stand on this topic, but as the many comments show, there is no "right" answer. In "Wins Above Replacement", it is a dead heat: Pedro: 51.1 / Maddux: 50.9. They can lay serious claim to the two best seven-year stretches of all time -- and they worked that magic during an overlapping period of only 12 years!
Jeff, a commenter (my emphasis):
One interesting note, excluding Pedro's own seasons, his seven-year cumulative 213 ERA+ is better than the individual league leader's ERA+ in all but eight years since the end of World War II (Bob Gibson 1968, Dwight Gooden 1985, Greg Maddux 1994 and 1995, Kevin Brown (!) 1996, Roger Clemens 1997 and 2005 and he tied Clemens 1990). So in 119 seasons in which Pedro did not lead the league in ERA+, only eight times did someone exceed his seven-year average.And Curtis:
I am a Maddux guy. He was so freaking good, and yet it didn't seem like he could do anything that I couldn't have done. He could, of course, but I could aspire to be like Maddux. I could never even dream of what it would be like to throw like Pedro.***
Posnanski also wrote a cover story on Royals pitcher Zach Greinke for SI. Greinke, who has dealt with extreme social anxiety since 2005, has allowed only one unearned run in 29 innings this season; he faces Toronto tonight.