Following The Big Unit's retirement announcement last week, I took a look back at his numbers and compared him to other dominating fantasy forces of his era. What I discovered was that he was, from a fantasy perspective, the greatest SP of all-time.
I began my research by first laying out the possible candidates for this distinction of "best ever". The player needed to be a dominating force in all 4 categories, not just a contributor. The obvious guys in the same class as Johnson are Clemens, Schilling, and Pedro. There's a significant drop off from there. Everybody else that I considered either had only a brief time in the spotlight (Wood, Prior, Schmidt, Johan), or were lacking in one category (Maddux). How many seasons did each of these guys have with at least 16 wins, a 3.00 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, and 250 K's? Pedro had 4 such seasons, '97 in Montreal, and '98-'00 in Boston. Clemens also had 4, '87 and '88 in Boston, and then back to back in Toronto (yeah, remember that?), in '97 and '98. Schilling had 3, '97 and '98 in Philadelphia and '01 in Arizona. He narrowly missed having 2 more, however, in '98 and '02.
So how many did Big Unit have? Try SEVEN. His first 4 seasons in Arizona, at the ages of 35-38 (usually the twilight of a pitchers career), were absolutely mindblowing. This was his average line: 21 Wins, 354 K's, 2.48 ERA, and a 1.05 WHIP. He also didn't miss a single start during this stretch. You literally just drafted him in the first round, plugged him into a SP slot, and forgot about him. He had 372 strikeouts in 2001. 372! That's the most in a single season since Nolan Ryan in 1973. Almost 40 years! That's effectively two pitchers worth of strikeouts. After I finished crunching all these numbers, I also realized that he could honestly still be pitching. He was injury prone last season with San Francisco, but he still put down an 8.0 K/9 and a 2.8 K/BB, at the age of 45. It's time to recognize Randy Johnson as the greatest fantasy starting pitcher of all-time.