There's no shortage of premium righthanders. Heading the list is newfound Yankee Roger Clemens. He's won more Cy Young awards than anyone (5) and is the first pitcher to lead the American League in wins, ERA, and strikeouts since Lefty Grove in 1930-31. Clemens struck out 10.39 batters per nine innings in 1998, his best "K" standard ever. While he's never struck out 300 batters in a season, he's come close (292 Ks in 1997) and ranks 10th on the all-time list with 3,153. Although last year wasn't his best season (he went 24-4 with a 1.53 ERA in 1986), it was stellar enough (W-L 20-6, 2.65 ERA, 271 strikeouts in 234 and two-thirds innings pitched). During 15 seasons, "The Rocket" has compiled an impressive 233-124 W-L record and 2.95 lifetime ERA. Pitching eight shutouts in 1988, he's hurled 44 during an era when complete game shutouts have become scarcer than hen's teeth. The coveted 300-win club? Even though he turns 37 in August, such an achievement is a distinct possibility, but if it doesn't happen, he'll still be enshrined in Cooperstown. Clemens' milestone cards are already much in demand.
Another righty to reckon with is Brave mainstay Greg Maddux. During 13 seasons, the 33-year-old has compiled a 202-117 record with a 2.75 career ERA. Last year's numbers (W-L 18-9, 2.22 ERA) were even more impressive -- especially in tandem with teammate Tom Glavine's accomplishments (W-L 20-6, 2.47 ERA). The 33-year-old Glavine, a 4-time 20 game winner during a scintillating 12-year career, is 173-105 lifetime. Other righthanders with "great" potential include Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown, David Cone, and Cub's rookie sensation Kerry Wood -- not necessarily in that order. While Wood might follow the supernova trail of one-time phenoms like Herb Score and Mark Fidrych due to his nasty elbow injury, he did match the Clemens mark of 20 strikeouts in a 9-inning game, compiled 233 Ks in 166 and two-thirds innings, and snared N.L. Rookie of the Year honors. Prediction: If Wood bounces back, so will his nosediving card values.
In any case, how do yesteryear's righties stack up against today's? Of course the de facto standard is Cyrus Denton Young. His astounding numbers -- 511 wins, 751 complete games, 76 shutouts have become invincible but in those days (1890-1911), relief pitchers hadn't been invented yet. How about right-handed legends like "The Big Train" Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Ed Walsh, Addie Joss, and Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown? Burleigh Grimes, the spitball king, reigned until 1934. Bob Feller, pitching from 1936-1956 with three years out for military service during World War II -- might have been the best righty of his day.
Recent decades have produced such stars as Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, knuckleballer Phil Niekro, Jim "Catfish" Hunter, Don Sutton, curveballer Bert Blyleven, Gaylord Perry, and oh yeah -- Nolan Ryan. Do those sound like righties to reckon with?