Home

Mad Em-Dashes is a St. Louis Cardinals blog by Dan Moore that does not want to waste your time. 

Carlos Martinez and Randy Johnson’s wager

Last night Craig Edwards did a lot of useful tweeting—I do not know how to use Storify, so I leave collecting them as an excercise for the reader—according to a very simple premise. Here it is: Good pitchers frequently pitch badly when they’re 23. Read his tweets and despair at just how long Randy Johnson was a pissed-off Looney Tunes strongman before he became the best pitcher in baseball.

Carlos Martinez skeptics who are also pedants will recognize this—along with my contribution to the genre—as a few half-hearted steps away from begging the question. Pitching badly when you’re 23 doesn’t make you more likely to become Randy Johnson, except insofar as earning a rotation spot when you’re young is a good way of identifying yourself as a prospect to future Baseball Reference users. The thing 23-year-old future successes and 23-year-old imminent failures have in common is pitching badly when they’re 23; our prejudice, in either direction, is smuggled in behind our examples.

But the formula works so well as a tweet because it reads like that exceptionally satisfying-but-incorrect argument while making a very mundane point. The Cardinals have a 22-8 record and a replacement level pulled down by a string of pitcher injuries. They have a 23-year-old pitcher. They don't need to know whether Carlos Martinez will turn into Pedro Martinez, only whether most useful starting pitchers have revealed themselves after a month. And so,