It might be easy to find the best one year performance. Just check a reference like the Baseball Encyclopedia and see who had the most wins, lowest ERA, lowest ERA relative to the league average, etc. But what about over a stretch of time, say five years? To try to answer this, I found the best performances over a fiver year period in RSAA using Lee Sinins’ Complete Baseball Encyclopedia. Here is the definition: “RSAARuns saved against average. It's the amount of runs that a pitcher saved vs. what an average pitcher would have allowed.” It is also park adjusted, so that pitchers who pitch in good hitter’s parks get an adjustment upward in their RSAA, and viceversa. A below average pitcher will have a negative RSAA. I only looked at the years from 19202005 so as not to include the deadball era. That should probably be a different article.
The table below shows the highest cumulative RSAAs over a
five year period. So the time frames for each pitcher are consecutive years.
This is not just the best five seasons fore each pitcher added up.
Rank

Pitcher

Ending Year

RSAA Total

1

Lefty
Grove

1932

310

2

Lefty
Grove

1933

292

3

Pedro
Martinez

2001

289

4

Pedro
Martinez

2000

279

5

Pedro
Martinez

2003

276

6

Lefty
Grove

1939

272

7

Greg
Maddux

1998

271

8

Pedro
Martinez

2002

271

9

Randy
Johnson

2002

266

10

Greg
Maddux

1997

265

11

Randy
Johnson

2001

259

12

Lefty
Grove

1931

255

13

Greg
Maddux

1996

254

14

Lefty
Grove

1930

242

15

Greg
Maddux

1999

232

16

Hal
Newhouser

1948

232

17

Pedro
Martinez

2004

229

18

Greg
Maddux

1995

225

19

Roger
Clemens

1992

224

20

Hal
Newhouser

1949

222

21

Roger
Clemens

1991

221

22

Carl
Hubbell

1936

219

23

Roger
Clemens

1990

217

24

Lefty
Grove

1940

215

25

Pedro
Martinez

1999

215

26

Roger
Clemens

1998

215

The “ending year” column tells us the last year of the
fiveyear period. For example, the 1932 for Lefty Grove means the period was
19281932. I meant to have only the top 25, but there is a threeway tie for 24^{th}. Newhouser’s two entries both include at least
one season from the World War II years (194345 when many of the best players
were in the military). But his 1949 streak only includes one of those seasons,
1945. So maybe he belongs.
Of course, for some of these cases, seasons overlap.
Obviously Grove 1932 and Grove 1933 shares some seasons. The table below shows
only distinct and separate 5year periods. So some of the cases above are taken
out, like Grove 1933 since it overlaps with 1932, which was better.
Rank

Pitcher

Ending Year

RSAA Total

1

Lefty
Grove

1932

310

2

Pedro
Martinez

2001

289

3

Lefty
Grove

1939

272

4

Greg
Maddux

1998

271

5

Randy
Johnson

2002

266

6

Hal
Newhouser

1948

232

7

Roger
Clemens

1992

224

8

Hal
Newhouser

1949

222

9

Carl
Hubbell

1936

219

10

Roger
Clemens

1998

215

11

Kevin
Brown

2000

211

12

Sandy
Koufax

1966

194

13

Bob
Gibson

1972

193

14

Lefty
Gomez

1938

192

15

Tom
Seaver

1973

191

16

Dazzy
Vance

1931

187

17

Robin
Roberts

1954

184

18

Bob
Gibson

1970

183

19

Dave
Stieb

1985

183

20

Randy
Johnson

1997

183

21

Bert
Blyleven

1977

181

22

Curt
Schilling

2004

181

23

Juan
Marichal

1969

179

24

Mel
Parnell

1953

177

25

Dizzy
Dean

1938

172

26

Kevin
Appier

1997

169

27

Bob
Feller

1941

168

28

Curt
Schilling

2002

168

29

Juan
Marichal

1967

168

30

Kevin
Appier

1996

168

Some pitchers actually had two separate and distinct 5year
periods among the alltime best. Grove has his 19281932 period as well as his
19351939 period and they are both in the top 3! And until Pedro Martinez came
along, Grove had the two best all to himself. I left both of Newhouser’s
seasons in so you could see that he did well when including only one World War
II season and still see his best streak.
But in some years it takes more runs to win a game because
the league average is higher. To adjust for this and find how many extra wins
each pitcher had above the average, I used the formula which says it takes 10
times the square root of the number of runs scored per inning by both teams
(found in Total Baseball, 5e). If each team scores .5 runs per inning, the
total is one. The square root is 1 and 10 times that is 10, so it would take 10
additional runs over the course of a season to win one more game. Then I
calculated how many wins each pitcher added per season, then found the best 5
consecutive year periods again. For example, Pedro Martinez had 77 RSAA in 2000
when it took 10.89 more runs to win a game. Since 77/10.89 = 7.07 he got that
many “extra wins” or wins above average for that season. Then, of course, I
found all the 5year totals and ranked them from highest to lowest.
Rank

Pitcher

Ending Year

Win Total

1

Lefty
Grove

1932

28.88

2

Pedro
Martinez

2001

27.22

3

Lefty
Grove

1933

27.08

4

Greg
Maddux

1998

26.66

5

Pedro
Martinez

2000

26.29

6

Greg
Maddux

1997

26.12

7

Pedro
Martinez

2003

25.88

8

Randy
Johnson

2002

25.77

9

Greg
Maddux

1996

25.40

10

Pedro
Martinez

2002

25.34

11

Lefty
Grove

1939

24.82

12

Randy
Johnson

2001

24.80

13

Hal
Newhouser

1948

24.16

14

Lefty
Grove

1931

23.84

15

Lefty
Grove

1930

22.85

16

Hal
Newhouser

1949

22.82

17

Greg
Maddux

1999

22.77

18

Roger
Clemens

1992

22.69

19

Greg
Maddux

1995

22.67

20

Roger
Clemens

1991

22.09

21

Hal
Newhouser

1947

22.04

22

Hal
Newhouser

1946

22.00

23

Carl
Hubbell

1936

21.84

24

Pedro
Martinez

2004

21.62

25

Roger
Clemens

1990

21.61

26

Bob
Gibson

1972

20.72

27

Greg
Maddux

2000

20.71

From 192832, Lefty Grove won 28.88 more games than average,
based on his RSAA and the formula for runs per win explained above. Again,
there are many overlapping seasons. The next table takes them out, like I did
in the case for RSAA.
Rank

Pitcher

Ending Year

Win Total

1

Lefty
Grove

1932

28.88

2

Pedro
Martinez

2001

27.22

3

Greg
Maddux

1998

26.66

4

Randy
Johnson

2002

25.77

5

Lefty
Grove

1939

24.82

6

Hal
Newhouser

1948

24.16

7

Hal
Newhouser

1949

22.82

8

Roger
Clemens

1992

22.69

9

Carl
Hubbell

1936

21.84

10

Bob
Gibson

1972

20.72

11

Sandy
Koufax

1966

20.43

12

Kevin
Brown

2000

20.43

13

Roger
Clemens

1998

20.10

14

Tom
Seaver

1973

19.91

15

Juan
Marichal

1969

19.02

16

Bert
Blyleven

1977

18.55

17

Dave
Stieb

1985

18.36

18

Robin
Roberts

1954

18.25

19

Lefty
Gomez

1938

17.66

20

Dazzy
Vance

1931

17.64

21

Curt
Schilling

2004

17.57

22

Ferguson
Jenkins

1972

17.46

23

Randy
Johnson

1997

17.27

24

Mel
Parnell

1953

17.23

25

Jim
Palmer

1973

16.91

26

Gaylord
Perry

1974

16.90

Newhouser’s two seasons were left in for the same reasons
mentioned above. Again, Grove, Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens all had two
separate and distinct fiveyear periods.
One factor that RSAA does not take into account is fielding.
A pitcher with better fielders will allow fewer runs, so some of the runs that
these pitchers saved, along with the games they won, are attributable to their
fielders. Perhaps some of these guys should not rank so high while some others
should be higher and did not make the top 25 or 30 if we could separate out the
contribution of the fielders. But many of the pitchers here also rank very high
in categories like strikeouttowalk ratio relative to the league average and
HRs allowed relative to the league average.
The table below gives us an idea of how high some of these pitchers
ranked in these stats. The ranking was based on all pitchers with 2000 or more
career innings pitched from 19202005.
Pitcher

SO/BB Ratio

HR Ratio

HR DIFF

Grove

4

15

19

Martinez

2

10

8

Maddux

20

7

2

Johnson

14

X

14

Newhouser

45

32

X

Clemens

27

6

1

Hubbell

7

X

X

Brown

46

2

3

Koufax

30

X

X

Gibson

X

38

13

Grove had a career strikeouttowalk ratio of 1.91 while the
league average was .9. His ratio was 2.11 times the league average and that was
4^{th} best. Grove allowed 162 HRs in his career while the average
pitcher allowed 232. That is a ratio of .698 (162/232). That is the 15^{th}
lowest ratio. The difference is 70, and that was 19^{th} best. The X
means that a guy was not in the top 50 in a category. Generally, these pitchers
showed that they could hold down opponents’ runs no matter who the fielders
behind them were since they rank so high in strikeouttowalk ratio relative to
the league average and HRs allowed relative to the league average. That
indicates that they were quality pitchers (or run preventers) independent of
their fielders.
Technical notes: I first compiled a list of all pitching
seasons with at least 7 RSAA. In case one of the top 5year periods got left
out, I looked at the career records of all pitchers who had at least one season
with 40+ RSAA. Since I was looking for consecutive 5year seasons, if a guy
had, say, a sequence of seasons with RSAA totals of 70, 70, 6, 70, 70, his 5year total would be
276 but he would have initially gotten left out. The only pitcher who ranked
highly that I found by this secondary check was Lefty Gomez who had a sequence
of 57, 22, 3, 69, 41. Bob Feller would have had a 5year total of 194 over the
years 193941, 194647. The missing years were for World War II. He did pitch
in 1945 after his military service ended but he only pitched 72 innings that
year. Randy Johnson in 1998 split some time between the Mariners and the
Astros. When I compiled the list of pitchers I did each league separately.
Johnson had 4 RSAA with the Mariners and that could be added to his total for
the 19982002 period. It would go up to 270 but it would not change his
rank.There were no other top pitchers on the lists here who split time one in a
single season between the two leagues.
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