The Mariners' top 5 pitching seasons

December 1st, 2021

SEATTLE -- When trying to envision the best season by a Mariners pitcher in franchise history, just close your eyes and picture Randy Johnson striding out of the bullpen to the roar of the Kingdome crowd in 1995. It’s hard to stand much taller than the Big Unit did that year.

While the Mariners have had a number of outstanding seasons by pitchers, Johnson tops the list. Here’s our Top 5 all-time list of best individual seasons by a Seattle hurler, with each pitcher only named once in order to spread the wealth.

1) Randy Johnson, 1995
The Big Unit had a number of big seasons for Seattle in his 10 years with the Mariners, but none topped the magical ’95 campaign when he went 18-2 with a 2.48 ERA and struck out 294 in 214 1/3 innings. Johnson put the Mariners on his shoulders that season and helped carry them to their first American League West title and became the franchise’s first Cy Young Award winner in the process.

Seattle pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in MLB history to catch the Angels down the stretch, and Johnson was a huge reason why, as he went 7-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his final 10 starts in August and September, with Seattle winning all 10 of those games. He then beat the Yankees in Game 3 of the AL Division Series before coming out of the bullpen two days later to pitch the final three innings and get the win in the dramatic 11-inning Game 5 clincher.

2) Félix Hernández, 2014
The King also has a lengthy résumé to choose from after spending 15 seasons in Seattle, including his own AL Cy Young Award-winning season in 2010, when he went 13-12 with a 2.27 ERA, 1.057 WHIP and 232 strikeouts in 249 2/3 innings for a 101-loss team. But Hernández was even better four years later, at age 28, when he posted a 15-6 record and career-best and franchise-record 2.14 ERA while striking out 248 in 236 innings.

The strikeout total was also a career high, as was his AL-leading 0.915 WHIP. Hernández finished second in the AL Cy Young voting in a controversial and close loss to Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, but that takes nothing away from what was a sensational season.

3) Jamie Moyer, 2003
Moyer did it differently than Johnson or Hernández, but the soft-tossing lefty dominated hitters in his own way. And in '03, at age 40, Moyer set the Mariners' record for most wins in a season, when he went 21-7 with a 3.27 ERA. Moyer struck out just 129 in 215 innings, but his ability to keep hitters off balance and pitch smartly served him well. This was the only season Moyer was named to an All-Star team in his 25-year MLB career.

4) Mark Langston, 1987
As big of a horse as Johnson was for the Mariners during his heyday, the Big Unit surprisingly doesn’t hold the club record for most innings pitched in a season. That mark belongs to Langston, who iron-manned his way through 272 frames in 35 starts in ’87 while going 19-13 with a 3.84 ERA. The lefty led the AL in strikeouts with 262 and won a Gold Glove Award for good measure.

5) Edwin Díaz, 2018
Relievers don’t normally make these kind of lists, but it’s impossible to ignore the impact of Díaz in ’18, when he saved 57 games -- tied for the second-most in MLB history -- and posted a 1.96 ERA in 73 outings as a 24-year-old closer. With an upper-90s fastball and nasty slider, Díaz struck out 124 while walking just 17 in 73 1/3 innings and was named the AL Reliever of the Year.

Honorable mentions

Freddy Garcia (2001) went 18-6 and led the AL with a 3.05 ERA and 238 2/3 innings over 34 starts, then he outdueled Bartolo Colon for a key 6-2 win in Game 4 of Seattle’s ALDS victory over the Indians in the postseason.

Hisashi Iwakuma (2013) quietly turned in one of the better seasons in Mariners history, when he went 14-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 33 starts, with 185 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings, and finished third in AL Cy Young voting.

Erik Hanson (1990) was 18-9 with a 3.24 ERA, striking out 211 in 236 innings for a team that finished fifth in the AL West, at 77-85.

• A year after losing 17 games, Mike Moore (1985) turned that around with a 17-10 season and 3.46 ERA at age 25.