“By the time Pedro Martinez stormed into the Bronx and struck out 17 New York Yankees on Friday, September 10, 1999 he was putting the finishing touches on a season of pitching that resembled Sherman’s March to the Sea. He’d already struck out ten or more batters in game 15 times, and 15 or more six times. The first batter to step in was Chuck Knoblauch; Pedro threw him a first-pitch strike and then hit him with the second pitch, an act so matter-of-fact in its aggression it seemed vaguely psychotic. In the bottom of the second inning Chili Davis touched him for a solo home run. Norman Mailer famously wrote of Muhammad Ali that he “worked apparently on the premise that there was something obscene about being hit,” and the home run appeared to have this effect on Pedro—it was a sham, an affront. He struck out the next batter, and two more after that.
Over the first four innings Pedro Martinez allowed two baserunners and struck out five; over the final five he retired every batter and fanned 12, including nine of the last ten. This bears repeating: over the final five innings of a baseball game, he struck out 80% of Yankee batters he faced, a rate comparable to that at which the Atlanta Hawks’ Joe Johnson shoots free throws.Pedro didn’t win the MVP that year; the trophy went to Pudge Rodriguez (the league’s most viscerally exciting positional player, incidentally) after two writers declined to even list Martinez on their ballots in some asinine protest.”