Venezuelan Pitchers: Who’s the Best?
Can there be only one King?
From 2004-2010, two Venezuelan pitchers won three Cy Young Awards, and another set a Major-League record for saves in a single season. Yet none of that holy trinity of criollo hurlers holds the nation’s record for most MLB wins.
That honor belongs to Freddy Antonio Garcia of Caracas, and lately, of the Sultanes de Monterrey of the Mexican League. Fast Freddy won 156 games in parts of 15 seasons for seven teams, and was part of Ozzie Guillen’s World Series White Sox championship in 2005.
So is Freddy the best Venezuelan pitcher ever?
Fifteen years ago, you might have said that.
Then along came a fellow from the mountains of Merida (Tovar) named Santana. Johan put together five of the finest pitching seasons you’ll see with Minnesota and New York, winning a pair ERA titles and Cy Youngs. Significantly, he also led the league twice in starts and innings pitched, and hasn’t appeared in the bigs since 2012. 139-78, .641 winning percentage on some poor teams.
Despite his abbreviated career, isn’t Johan the best?
The year after Johan won his first Cy the Mariners called up a teenager from Valencia named Félix Hernández. By age 21 he was staff ace at 14-7, and you may know the rest: 19-5 at age 23 with a 2.49 ERA, and a Cy Young at age 24 with an unlikely 13-12 record, but a 2.27 ERA. In 10 full seasons he’s averaged 14 wins, and the sobriquet “The King.” Sabremetricians love his numbers and Seattle-ites flock to his starts wearing gold crowns and flashing “K” cards.
Who could be better than “The King”?
Francisco Rodriguez won 5 playoff games at the age of 20 and six seasons later torched the American League for 62 saves. A predictable dip in performance with the Mets, followed by two wilderness years and only 13 saves, was answered with a marvelous return to form in Milwaukee in 2014 with 44 saves, followed up by 2015’s 38-save season, and his sixth All-Star game appearance.
K-Rod is adding onto his 388 saves (7th All-time, soon to be 6th) with the Tigers this season and he’s just 34; isn’t Frankie the best Venezuelan pitcher ever?
Who would you pick? Please leave your comments and I’ll post them!
- Freddy Garcia: 15 seasons, 156-108, 4.15 ERA (steroid era), 1 World Series title, 2 All Star Games, career average 14-10.
- Johan Santana: 12 seasons, 139-78, 3.20 ERA, 2 Cy Young Awards, 4 All Star Games, 1 Gold Glove, 3 ERA titles, 3 strikeout titles.
- Félix Hernández: 12 seasons (active), 3.10 ERA, 143-102, 1 Cy Young Award, 6 All Star Games, average 34 starts per season.
- Francisco Rodriguez: 15 seasons (active), 2.71 ERA, 47-44, 388 saves, 1 World Series title, 6 All Star Games, MLB record 62 saves in 2008, average 30 saves per season.