The 10 Best Pitched Seasons Of The Last 20 Years

Baseball, Lists, The Cheap Seats — By on December 13, 2013 at 10:49 am


Earlier this week, a few of the talents here at TSFJ came together to honor the career of Roy Halladay, and in the process of doing so, the question came up of if he truly was the best pitcher of his era. He had a few classic years, but where did his best work fall into the mix? And what’s more, what exactly are the best pitched seasons of the last couple decades? While an era can be defined variously, one definite way to break it down is by what one has seen firsthand. And for me, that opened up a challenge to not so much figure out whom the best pitcher of my lifetime has been, but instead what have been the best seasons I have ever seen pitched.

I began watching baseball in the late ’80s according to my father and, as I can recall firsthand, remembering it year to year since I was 10. That was in 1993, and since then, there have been some remarkable seasons to consider.

A pitcher that’s on top of his game is a sight to behold. He brings that sensation that every fifth day there’s no hope for the opposition. If you manage to get him, you better hope he makes the rare mistake, because there’s little hope to take him down if not. Sometimes this level is hit just for one year, or in the case of the Pedro Martinez’s, Greg Maddux’s or Randy Johnson’s of the world, it takes a fine-tooth comb to even separate their best years apart.

With Maddux likely headed to the Hall of Fame, Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera retiring, it seems like a fine time to take a look back at the era they defined from 60 feet, 6 inches away. To find the cream of the crop, I pulled together the 30 best seasons from the last 20 years and took it from there. Enjoy, debate and remember some of the best artistry that a mound has ever seen … in my life at least.

Matt Whitener

I'm a firm believer that the closest I've gotten to God is Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. In the meantime til we cross paths again, I'll pass along the gospel of the Field of Dreams here, Cheap.Seats.Please, St Louis Sports 360 and via Twitter.

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  • A couple of things…

    1. Not enough Braves on here. Shame on you.

    2. Crazy how many players aren’t on this list.

    3. There are no Cardinals on this list? Non-partisan indeed sir.


    • Some of the seasons that just missed the cut are ridiculous and felt wrong to leave off, such as Pedro’s ’97 in Montreal, Randy Johnson’s 370+ strikeout ’01, Kershaw’s 2011 and a gang of Mariano’s years.

      It could probably go 20 deep and still feel slightly off, but its tough to beat Maddux and Pedro at their absolute best.

      As for the Cardinals, a lot of really good years, but Carpenter’s 2005/2010 are probably as good as they get, and it he didn’t go to this caliber of pure ridiculousness.

  • All hail Pedro Martinez. I have always said, in his prime, at his absolute peak, he was the best pitcher I ever saw. He could throw in the mid to upper 90s and had five or six legit pitches he could throw anytime in any count. So ridiculous.

    Good work here.

  • I’m not a fan of lumping in some closers on this list, especially Eric Gagne. Too many great starting years to even consider the late inning guys. Plus, you didn’t include Brad Lidge from ’08 so it illegitimizes the whole closer aspect.

    • Lidge was lights out in 2008, but he didn’t out do Gagne in any particular area, nor did it carry the impact that Mo’s did. For me, pitchers are pitchers are pitchers, regardless of where they are deployed. The separation of the roles is akin to the “pitchers don’t qualify for the MVP” debate, which I’ve never been inline with.

      I’d put Billy Wagner’s 2003, Mo’s 1996 and 1999 over Lidge’s effort that year. And perhaps even Koji Uehara’s 2013.

      • I just can’t put closers and starters in the same conversation. It’s enough different for me. This debate is best left for another day though.

      • I think it’s tough to gauge Lidge on here because he had such a higher WHIP than these other guys during 2008, walking too many batters. But he was 48-for-48 and won a World Series. It was awesome, but I kind of agree with Matt in that it wasn’t necessarily transcendent in the purest sense.

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