Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has moved!  Our new home is:

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain

This is an awesome FREE site, where you can win money and gift certificates with no skill involved! If you're bored, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!


Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

February 1, 2005

"He's beginning to Believe" by TVerik
by TVerik

1994 (The answer is out there, Randy, and it's looking for you, and it will find you if you want it to. )

The infamous MLB strike year of 1994 was a fairly good one for our hero, Randy Johnson. He managed a 13-6 record with 9 complete games in only 23 starts, best in the AL. That included an insane 4 shutouts, also tops in the AL. That's more than he had ever had in the majors before. His ERA+ was 154 - also easily his high-water mark. But it would improve in the coming seasons. His unadjusted ERA was 3.19, good for fifth in the league.

His Mariners finished the aborted season 49-63, and were likely happy to go home in August. Johnson's rotation mates included the likes of Dave Fleming, Chris Bosio, Greg Hibbard, and Roger Salkeld. Bosio's ERA was 4.32, and none of the rest of them managed to keep theirs under 6.

His age 30 season, RJ had finally started to put everything together and become the dominant pitcher that baseball people had hoped.

He placed third in AL Cy Young balloting.

1995 (If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain)

If 1994 was great, 1995 was super-great. Most analysts agree that this was his best year overall. Johnson put up an astonishing 18-2 record, with 294 strikeouts and an ERA+ of a superlative 196. He won the Cy Young easily, getting 97% of the vote.

I'll just list the categories in which he was first in the AL in 1995:

1. Cy Young Voting
2. ERA
3. Won/Loss%
4. Hits Allowed
5. Strikeouts

Those are the categories that he led. Perhaps more impressively, he finished on the leaderboard of fewest walks allowed/9 innings for the first time in his career (6th in the league, 2.76). Johnson just missed becoming the first AL Triple Crown pitcher (leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts) since Detroit's Hal Newhouser in 1945. His .900 winning percentage broke Ron Guidry's 1978 record, and his strikeouts per nine innings ratio of 12.35 broke the record held by Nolan Ryan.

Here's a lengthy Sporting News article about the 1995 Mariners in the regular season.

Our story is about Randy Johnson, but I can't let the 1995 season pass by without talking about the Mariners. The M's went 79-66, finishing first in the West that strike-shortened year.

They trailed the California Angels by 13 games on August 13th. But the team made an impassioned run over the final month and a half to tie the division and force a one-game playoff.

Johnson, of course, was called upon to pitch this decisive game against the Angels. He responded with a complete game three-hitter that gave Seattle its first-ever division title and first post-season appearance.

Their first-round series (in the first year of the ALDS) was against the Yankees. RJ made them pay, winning his one start (Game Three) and another game in which he relieved (decisive Game Five). He only gave up three earned runs in ten innings. Ken Griffey, Jr. homered five times, twice in Game One. Edgar Martinez drove in six runs in Game Four, on his way to 10 RBI in a five-game series. Finally, the Mariners overcame three deficits in Game Five to win the series.

This was obviously a sad day in Yankee-town. Beloved Don Mattingly retired after the series. Buck Showalter, the man who had made the Yankees a force to be reckoned with, was not asked back. The next year began the era of Derek Jeter and Joe Torre.


Advancing to the ALCS, the Mariners fell to the Cleveland Indians, who defeated Johnson 4-0 to clinch the series in Game Six. The loss marked the beginning of a run of hard luck that Johnson would endure in the post-season.

1996 (Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.)

This was not a banner year for our hero. He only started 8 games before succumbing to a lower-back injury which ended his season. The Mariners finished in second place.

1997 (There is no spoon.)

Now this was a very good year for Johnson. He amassed a 20-4 record, with a 198 ERA+. He finished second in Cy Young voting to an unearthly Roger Clemens. Really, it's only Clemens' presence in the AL which keeps RJ from leading virtually every pitching category again. RJ struck out 19 batters in a game, twice that season!

In the 1997 All-Star game, Johnson threw a pitch over Larry Walker's head, causing Walker to turn the batting helmet backwards and switch to the other side of the plate.

The Mariners finished first again, and faced the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. Johnson got pounded. He was 0-2 with an ERA over 5.5 for the series. Mike Mussina beat him in Games One and Four, and the Mariners were rolled over in four games.

1998 (RJ, sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.)

Johnson's last year as a Mariner, and (the audience breathes a sigh of relief) the last year that I'm going to write about.

This paragraph is from, which I used extensively throughout my piece.

Johnson's 1998 season was a tale of two cities. In Seattle, he sulked through the first half of the year after the Mariners told him they couldn't afford to re-sign him. Just 9-10 with a 4.33 ERA in late July, Johnson was rejuvenated by a trade-deadline deal to Houston. After joining the Astros, the Big Unit reeled off 10 wins in 11 starts, posting a 1.28 ERA along with four shutouts. His post-season woes continued, however, as he was outpitched by Padres ace Kevin Brown in a 2-1 loss to San Diego in Game One of the NLDS and suffered a second defeat to Sterling Hitchcock in the series' decisive Game Four.
The particulars of the trade: On July 31, 1998, Johnson went to Houston in exchange for Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen. Later (October 1), the Astros also sent John Halama to the M's.

I have long thought that postseason performances are overrated by the general public and are dominated by sample size and by better competition. Johnson finished the NLDS with a 1.93 ERA, 2 walks, and 17 strikeouts. He gave up only 3 earned runs in 14 innings. But he did finish 0-2.

The first half of 1998 appears to have been a frustrating time for Randy Johnson, and it manifested itself a few times: The "Randy Johnson Rap Sheet":

June 1998: Initiates a clubhouse fight with Mariners teammate David Segui purportedly because Segui would not lower his stereo.

July 1998: Sparks a bench-clearing brawl between Seattle and Cleveland when he whistles consecutive pitches at the head of Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton, earning a suspension.

A Sporting News column from that era makes a case that Johnson intentionally "threw" the first half of the 1998 season.

I'll let Johnson himself have the last word about this issue. Don't forget the exciting conclusion to this series, covering the Arizona years, is coming next week from SJohnny.

Johnson said, in a 1998 Sporting News article:

"People are going to want to know how I could be 9-10 with Seattle and 10-1 with Houston (in 1998)," Johnson said last week after signing a four-year, $52.4 million contract with the Diamondbacks that made him the highest-salaried pitcher in baseball and No. 2 on the game's overall list behind Anaheim's new first baseman, Mo Vaughn.

"I'll tell you exactly how I did it--because I was happy. It's a five-letter word. I was much happier in Houston. I was happy with the environment I was in.

"I was trying in Seattle. If anyone's ever seen me on the mound, I pitch with a lot of emotion. When you've got an employer screwing with your head, it's kind of tough. Look at Wade Boggs and Roger Clemens during their final years in Boston and look at what they did after they left. I'm human. I'm no different."