MLB’s Ultimate Team (Pt. 2): Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

In the first part of this series, inspired by the book The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski, I assembled half of my all-time ultimate MLB team: nine starters and four bench sticks. Now it’s time to select the mounds, starting with this starting rotation:

  • Pedro Martinez (RHP): His stats would be dominant at any time, but his whole career was in the teeth of the steroid boom. Pedro feared no dough and had the wherewithal to back it up.
  • Lefty Grove (LHP): Much like Pedro, Grove recorded remarkable numbers (300 wins, 3.06 ERA, 148 ERA+) during a predominantly offensive era (1920s-30s).

Lefty with material
Photo reproduction by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

  • Christy Mathewson (RHP): The first Dead Ball Era pitcher – in my opinion – who also posted a .97 ERA in 101.2 postseason innings (when competition improved dramatically in the era).
  • Randy Johnson (LHP): Five Cy Young Awards (three 2nd places), nearly 5,000 Ks, a devastating slider and a heater that wipes out avian creatures. Yes, he is in my top five.
  • Greg Maddux (RHP): When spawning a pitch term – The Maddux (bleached CG in never.

Now on to some of the bullpen specialists…

  • Sandy Koufax (LHP Long Relief): Narrowly losing a rotation spot to The Big Unit, Koufax is available in the bullpen in the – albeit unlikely – occurrence of a faulty starter. Maybe keeping him out of the starting churn allows his grumpy arm to reach its full potential.


About to unleash a devastating breakup ball, more than likely
Photo by Focus on Sports/Getty Images

  • Walter Johnson (RHP Long Relief): Just smothered by Matty, The Big Train needs to be there for total era dominance (147 career ERA+, four times over 200) and basically invent the fastball as we know her.
  • Aroldis Chapman (LHP Specialist): Need to seat a left-handed drummer? Chapman’s 100 MPH medium fastball probably gets the job done.
  • Dennis Eckersley (RHP Specialist): A side threat who, at his peak, just didn’t give up runs (603 ERA+ in 1990).
  • Craig Kimbel (RHP Alternate Closer): His 2010-18 stretch — 333 saves, 212 ERA+, .920 WHIP — was filthy and settled him into a closer role when many teams started avoiding that tag.

Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

The one of the iconic arm hanging down
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Finally, the bullpen’s high-end background…

  • Rich Gossage (Primary RHP Setup): While his stats aren’t quite as perfect as those of today’s more specialized firefighters, it seems every drummer in the 1970s-80s feared Goose more than anyone coming out of the bullpen.
  • Billy Wagner (Primary LHP Setup): I’ve been drumming “Billy Wags in the Hall of Fame” for a while now because I consider him the greatest left-handed reliever of all time. Other than an injury-shortened season, the back of his baseball card shows no other “bad years” from 1995 to 2010.
  • Mariano Rivera (Primary Closer): Is an explanation really necessary? The first game finisher in MLB history. Regular season, playoffs, whatever. Mo kept throwing his cutter and getting low contact takedowns.

New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins

Lock one of his 36 career saves against the Twins
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

If the phrase “a good pitch is better than a good strike” holds any truth, that would be a tough arsenal of pegs to make a lot of progress against.

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