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Big Unit, Pedro remain among elite

On that little hill in the center of the diamond ... it's your 2000s pitching leaders:

Win-Win Situations
Ten pitchers are averaging at least 16 wins a season in the 2000s. And don't let your friendly neighborhood GM tell you it's impossible to find a good pitcher these days -- because six of these 10 have changed teams just in the last year and three months:


No End Of This ERA
At least one starting pitcher has had an ERA under 3.00 in every decade except the 1920s. And we're on track to maintain that streak, since five pitchers (with at least 40 starts since 2000) have ERAs that start with a "2." Pedro Martinez's ERA (if he can keep it this microscopic) would be the lowest by any starting pitcher in any decade since Walter Johnson threw a 1.69 up there in the 1910s.


The Whiffmaster
How dominating is Randy Johnson? He missed almost half the season last year -- and he's still more than 200 strikeouts ahead of anyone else in the sport. Amazingly, only nine pitchers on earth are even within 500 of the Unit over the last four years:


Men Who Could Spell R-E-L-I-E-F
The only sensible way to look at relief pitchers these days is to divide them into two groups -- closers and set-up men. So we did. And we bet a few names who show up on these lists will shock you.


(* -- Gagne's and Smoltz's stats are only since they began closing. ** -- Dotel's stats are only since he began relieving.)


(* -- minimum: 40 starts)

Finally, none of this would have been possible without baseball-encyclopedia.com's Lee Sinins, whose fabulous new edition of the Sabermetric Encyclopedia CD-Rom was the source for virtually all of this research.

Triviality
Question: Alex Rodriguez is one of four middle infielders averaging 100 RBI a season in the decade of the 2000s. Can you name the other three?

Answer: Miguel Tejada (118 per year), Bret Boone (110) and Jeff Kent.(108). A-Rod has averaged an amazing 132 a year.

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your Useless Information to: uselessinfodept@yahoo.com. Click here to send Jayson a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.