Sinking Heaters: the Best MLB Pitchers Of The 1990s

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Major League Baseball in the 90s was pitching oriented. The formula was simple — pitching and defense won championships. This was before the BALCO scandal was uncovered so keep in mind that performance enhancing drugs were certainly present, they were justnot as prevalent as they were in the 2000s. With that said, players that were legitimately on performance enhancers were automatically disqualified from this list. It is understandable that hitters were taking them so pitchers were more than likely trying to level the playing field. But that does not make it acceptable. When Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire get voted into the Hall of Fame then we consider for a list. Until then, Roger Clemens (who would have been on here) and Kevin Brown (who would have been seriously considered) are left out. These are the Top 5 MLB Pitchers of the 1990s:

5 Pedro Martinez (Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox)

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Although Martinez was not a full-time starter until 1994, he exploded on to the scene. The Expos immediately made him a starter after acquiring him from the Dodgers for DelinoDeShields in one of the most lopsided deals in MLB history. He went 11-5 with a 3.42 ERA and struck out 142 in 144.2 innings. The return on the investment was evident from season one, all while DeShields struggled in Los Angeles. In the 90s, Martinez went 107-50 with a 2.83 ERA and struck out 1,534 batters in 1,359.1 innings, throwing 28 complete games and 11 shutouts. Martinez was a four-time All-Star, a two-time Cy Young Award winner during the decade and was also voted the All-Star game MVP in 1999. Martinez will always be remembered for his intensity and rivalry with the Yankees, but most fans will always remember the skinny 5’9″ kid (he was listed at 5’11” but that is a stretch) who was blowing mid-to-high 90-mph pitches. It almost looked impossible when you saw this small guy with a huge personality and cannon for an arm, but that was Pedro.

4 Tom Glavine (Atlanta Braves)

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Glavine was the number two pitcher in a stacked Braves staff. He was behind Maddux and in front of John Smoltz (who also garnered serious consideration to be on this list) but he was never overshadowed. This lefty went 164-87 with a 3.21 ERA and struck out 1,465 in 2,228 innings, throwing 38 complete games and 14 shutouts. He was a six-time All-Star, a two-time Cy Young Award winner and was also named the World Series MVP in 1995 after his Braves won the championship. Glavine’s legacy will always be intertwined with Maddux and Smoltz as they formed one of the greatest pitching staffs in MLB history.

3 David Cone (New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals, New York Yankees)

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Cone was as consistent as they come in the 90s. With that said, he was just as dominant as he was consistent. Cone went 141-85 with a 3.21 ERA and struck out 1,928 in 2,017 innings, throwing 40 complete games and 16 shutouts. Cone was a four-time All-Star and won his lone Cy Young Award in 1994. Most importantly Cone won five World Series Championships, and add in the fact that he threw a perfect game for the Yankees in 1999 and you’ll understand why he will always be remembered as a winner.

2 Randy Johnson (Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks)

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Remember this guy? “The Big Unit” wink, wink.He was topped our list of pitcher for the 2000s and takes the second spot for the 90s! He was technically in his prime in the 90s and had much better years, throwing from 95 to 100+ miles per hour! His vaunted slider was in the low 90s! Yes you just read that. He was firing a slider that started behind you and ended up on the outside corner of the plate! Try hitting that. Watch John Kruk (quick find on YouTube) try to hit it during the 1993 All-Star game and you understand why he is so high on this list. Johnson went 150-75 with a 3.14 ERA and struck out 2,538 batters in 2,063.1 innings. He tossed 65 complete games, 25 shutouts and one no-hitter. Johnson was a six-time All-Star and a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and is unquestionably the most intimidating and dominating pitcher of his era.

1 Greg Maddux (Atlanta Braves)

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Known as Greg “Mathe-Maddux” (also “Mad Dog” and “The Professor” but “Mathe-Maddux” is my personal favorite), Maddux was a cerebral pitcher with pinpoint control. He had the best control of his era and that is quite a feat considering the extreme movement on all of his pitches. He also anchored a legendary Braves rotation that was the class of the 90s. He compiled a 176-88 record during the decade along with a 2.54 ERA and struck out 1,764 batters in 2,394.2 innings. He also threw an astonishing 75 complete games and 23 shutouts, winning a Gold Glove for his position every year of the decade as he was an exceptional fielder and all-around athlete. Maddux was also a six-time All-Star and four-time Cy Young Award winner. Even with that impressive resume, his crowning achievement was leading his Braves to a 1995 World Series Championship. Maddux will always be remembered as a true class act who was always one step of hitters.

This list consists of two guys from the same rotation, one guy nicknamed “The Big Unit,” a “Cone-head” and a scrawny guy straight off of the boat that throws 95+ miles per hour. How is that for depth on your list? These are the Top 5 MLB Pitchers of the 1990s. Wouldn’t you agree?

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