When Randy Johnson was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame at the start of this year, the debate immediately began: which hat will the Big Unit wear into the Hall? Would he go in as a D-Back, the team he won a WS with, as well as four consecutive Cy Young awards? Or would he go in as a Mariner, the team that really gave him his start, where he led the league in Strikeouts four times and where he threw a No-Hitter? While the debate was clearly only between those two teams (and ultimately won by the D-Backs) Johnson actually played for six total teams: The Expos, Mariners, Astros, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Giants. His time with the Expos was unremarkable, and he was into his 40's and past his prime when he began his stints with the Yankees and Giants.
But one of the most successful parts of the Big Unit's magnificent career was an 11 game stint with the Houston Astros, from August 2, 1998 till September 23, 1998. Johnson was traded by the Mariners at midseason to the Astros for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen and John Halama - all big pieces of the Mariners eventual 116 win season in 2001. At the end of the season, Johnson signed a massive contract with the Diamondbacks, and went on to win a WS in 2001 and 4 Cy Young awards.
The Astros gave up three young players and only got 11 starts from Johnson (and a first round exit in the play-offs by the NL Champion San Diego Padres) but what a half a season. Johnson made 11 starts, and finished his brief Astros career with a 10-1 record, a 1.28 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP, and 116 strikeouts in 84 innings pitched, good for a 12.4 K/9 ratio. Johnson had a 4.3 WAR in only eleven starts.
Let's take a look start-by-start at Johnson's extraordinary, albeit brief, career with the Houston Astros:
There is almost too much to digest with these numbers. The few things that immediately jump out: Randy had four complete game shutouts in 11 starts, and he NEVER gave up more than three earned runs (which he only did once). 10/11 starts were quality starts, with only a 5 inning, 3 ER performance not making the cut. He had 7 double digit strikeout games, and had 8 or more strikeouts in all but one game. His season record went from 9-10 to 19-11 and his ERA dropped from 4.33 to 3.28.
Randy Johnson is one of the best pitchers of all-time, and this eleven game sample is just a snippet of how excellent he truly was. I am happy to see one of my all-time favorites in the Hall of Fame, and look forward to his speech this July.
Happy opening day weekend! Baseball is (finally) back!