Randy Johnson. The Big Unit. The most dominant pitcher of his era.
When the Arizona Diamondbacks shelled out $52 million for four years of Randy Johnson’s services in 1998, people knew the team was getting one of baseball’s premier power arms. However, he was 35 years old and had a history of back problems, so there were questions of how effective he would be.
Given the benefit of hindsight, how foolish the doubters were.
Johnson went on to pitch six seasons for the Diamondbacks — and then, after being traded to the New York Yankees, came back for two more. He retired as a member of the San Francisco Giants following the 2009 campaign, and also had stops with the Montreal Expos (1988-1989), Seattle Mariners (1989-1998), Houston Astros (11 starts+postseason in 1998).
That career pushed Johnson into the MLB Hall of Fame, it was announced Tuesday. He’ll be part of the class of 2015.
While Johnson had success elsewhere, there’s little doubt his time in Arizona really defined his career. So, here’s a look at the Big Unit’s D-backs tenure, By the Numbers:
Johnson tossed one perfect game, on May 18, 2004. He needed just 117 pitches, 87 of which were strikes. He struck out 13, and at 40 became the oldest pitcher in MLB history to go through 27 batters unscathed.
The Big Unit also hit one career home run, on September 19, 2003 in Milwaukee against the Brewers.
Johnson posted a 2.83 ERA during his eight seasons as a D-back. From ’99-’04, his first stint with the team, that number was a ridiculous 2.65. Overall, his earned run average is second-best in franchise history, but the top mark among starting pitchers.
Johnson earned the win in three out of Arizona’s four victories in the 2001 World Series. He allowed just two earned runs in 17.1 innings, striking out 19. He was named Co-World Series MVP with fellow pitcher Curt Schilling.
The Big Unit won an impressive four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards from 1998-2002. He arguably should have won a fifth, in 2004, but finished second behind Houston’s Roger Clemens.
Johnson made five All-Star teams as a D-back, and was the NL’s starting pitcher in 2000 and 2001.
Johnson tossed what is known as an “immaculate inning,” striking out three batters on nine consecutive pitchers, on August 23, 2001 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He wasted little time in retiring Tony McKnight, Gary Matthews and Jack Wilson.
Johnson’s last appearance as a D-back came on September 28, 2008, against the Colorado Rockies. He went the distance, allowing just two hits and one unearned run while striking out nine in an Arizona win.
On May 8, 2001, Johnson struck out 20 Cincinnati Reds. He was just the third pitcher to fan that many in nine innings. The lefty departed after the ninth frame, and the D-backs went on to win in the 10th.
Finishing what he started was important to Johnson, as he tossed 38 complete games with Arizona. Fourteen of them were shutouts.
Johnson won 118 games as a Diamondback, a number that is easily the most in franchise history. The next closest is Brandon Webb, with 87.
Johnson’s 232 starts are the most in D-backs history. The next highest total belongs to Webb, who made 198.
Johnson struck out a whopping 2,077 batters as a Diamondback. Five times he led the NL in strikeouts.