Players’ View: Maddux or the Big Unit?

I recently posed a question to five players, three coaches and a broadcaster. It was a question that doesn’t have an easy answer. Given the subjectivity involved, it may not even have a right answer.

Who was better, Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux?

The question was phrased exactly that way. It was up to the people responding to interpret the meaning of “better” and to elaborate accordingly. They were asked face-to-face, with no opportunity to reference statistical data on their phones or on their laptops. Their responses — listed below in alphabetical order — were both interesting and varied.

——

Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox pitcher: “As far as stuff goes, Randy Johnson. Same for intimidation. But watching Greg Maddux go from a guy who threw 92-93, with movement, to a guy who threw 85 and had to pitch — to adapt to not having the velocity — speaks volumes to how good he was. He got people out on a consistent basis by moving balls from off the plate to catching the corner, and vice versa. I’ve never met either one, but from sitting back and watching them, I’d say Greg Maddux.”

Greg Colbrunn, Boston Red Sox hitting coach; “I was fortunate enough to play with both of them. I spent five years with `The Unit’ and he won the Cy Young in four of them. I played with Greg Maddux in 1997. I think I faced The Unit about 10 times and had one hit. I faced Maddux about the same number of times and don’t think I ever got a hit off of him.

“It’s an unbelievable question. You’re talking about power and dominance with `The Unit,’ and Greg could be unbelievable; I’ve seen him throw 92-, 95-pitch shutouts. I’ve seen `The Unit’ punch out 15, 16, and throw one-, two-hit shutouts. In their own different ways, they were tremendous. `Doggy’ was smartest pitcher I ever played with, but if I had to pick one, I’d probably pick `The Unit.’”

Steve Delabar, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher: “You can’t go wrong with either of them. Both had over 300 wins. Randy Johnson had over 4,000 strikeouts. Which of them threw the most innings? When comparing guys like that, numbers are big.

“If I were hitting, I’d probably rather face Maddux; he didn’t have 98 with a power slider. Randy Johnson was going to go deep into games and get 12 or 13 punch outs. Greg Maddux was going to go deep and not walk anybody. It’s tough to say, but I guess I’d have to go Randy Johnson. He had the intimidation. He was a monster who ate up innings.”

Ryan Dempster, Boston Red Sox pitcher. “Maddux. He had better numbers, and it’s the numbers that matter. Greg had, quite possibly, two of the most dominant years ever, in 1994 and 1995. If you take out what people consider dominance, which is strikeouts… somebody could throw a two-hitter with no strikeouts and they wouldn’t consider it a dominant performance. I think that’s really funny.

“When you look at the ability to go out there and win at least 15 games for 16, 17 years in a row… what a great run. Maddux won four straight Cy Youngs. He also had better stuff than a lot of people give him credit for.”

Mark DeRosa, Toronto Blue Jays infielder: “They were completely different pitchers. But who was better? Greg Maddux. The reason I say that is his ability to make the ball do so many different things. He didn’t have the explosive fastball Randy Johnson had, or the explosive slider. He did what he did based on smarts and being able to manipulate the ball. He reinvented himself time and time again.

“I know I didn’t too good against Johnson. I think I got one hit off him. Greg was my teammate for a couple years, and I think I only faced him once. I’d have to go with `Doggy.’”

Andrew Miller, Boston Red Sox pitcher: “They obviously got to their numbers in different ways. They both had really long careers and were dominant for a long time. They’re two of the greatest pitchers of our generation, if not the greatest. There’s the steroid talk about some guys. My instinct says Maddux, but maybe that’s because I watched him more. Randy Johnson did some pretty unbelievable things. I think it’s Maddux by a nose.”

Luis Rivera, Toronto Blue Jays first base coach: “Who was better? I don’t know. Who was tougher to face? I think I got a few hits off Randy Johnson, but you would maybe feel more comfortable facing Maddux, because he didn’t throw as hard. But Maddux could throw the pitch wherever he wanted, and make the pitch move. When I faced him, he wasn’t like that; he was early in his career, pitching for Chicago. It was his first year and my first year. Then he became ‘that guy.’

“When I faced Randy, he was playing in Montreal. He threw real hard and had a hard slider. The thing with Randy is that he was intimidating on the mound. He was very intimidating. And if he got the slider going, you almost wouldn’t have a chance. If not, you just looked for the fastball. Who was better? I probably have to say Maddux, because he could get you out easy.”

Pat Tabler, Toronto Blue Jays broadcaster: “They’re both unique in their own way. One was power and one was smarter than anybody else. You could hear Randy Johnson’s slider coming in. It was hard and nasty, and it broke so much. His fastball was outstanding. Maddux was more carve you up, dissect you, take you apart. He had great control. Two different types of pitchers.

“I did take Maddux deep once; I remember that. I faced Johnson more, because we were in the American League at the same time. He was a big left-hander, and I was a right-hander, and that slider would come in, starting way outside, and whoooosh, it would break right across the plate. Who was better? It’s hard to pick one over the other — they’re both hall-of-famers. But if the question is, ‘Who would you rather have on the mound in the seventh game of the World Series?’ I’d have to go with Maddux.”

Shane Victorino, Red Sox outfielder: “Man, you’re putting me in a hot spot right here. I didn’t face either of those guys in their prime; I faced them later in their careers. But when they were on — and I’m not trying to give you a politically-correct answer here — they were both dominant.

“Obviously, I feared Randy Johnson a lot more, because he threw harder and he was so long. Maddux was more of a finesse guy who hit his spots. While I feared Johnson, it was a tougher at bat against Maddux. He moved the ball a lot more: He was in and out. But again, I faced these guys later in their careers. Johnson was probably topping out at 94; he wasn’t 97. Maddux was 84-85 by then.

“Both were great, so I guess I‘ll have to go with the one who had more wins. That was Maddux, right? I‘d have to pick Greg, because he had more success in his career.”

Pete Walker, Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach: “Maddux. From a personal standpoint, he’s my type of pitcher. He was a guy who commanded the baseball tremendously — probably as good as anybody ever in the game of baseball. He manipulated the ball and made it move. He didn’t rely on sheer power, which is what Randy did. As far as changing speeds and locating pitches, Maddux was just a pleasure to watch.

“I’m sure there was fear when certain position players faced Randy Johnson, but when Maddux took the hill, I don’t think the opposing clubhouse had a great feeling.”

FINAL TALLY

Maddux: Eight votes (Buchholz, Dempster, DeRosa, Miller, Rivera, Tabler, Victorino, Walker)

Johnson: Two votes {Delabar, Colbrunn)



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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.


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Iron
Guest
Iron
2 years 11 months ago

This was the best of the ‘who’s better’ articles so far since they played contemporaneously. You didn’t get everyone making the same ‘different era’ comments and just got the meaty player comparison. Great read.

Slats
Guest
Slats
2 years 11 months ago

It’s a close call.

110.3 WAR compared to Maddux’s 114.3, but Johnson did it in less starts (Johnson: 603/Maddux: 740) & less innings pitched (Johnson: 4,135.1/Maddux:5,008.1).

Johnson also has a lower FIP & xFIP (3.19 & 3.22), Maddux (3.26 & 3.72).

Randy also had to pitch in hitter’s parks like the Kingdome, Chase Field & Yankee Stadium for the majority of his home starts.

It’s tough, but I am going Johnson over Maddux – just.

James
Guest
James
2 years 11 months ago

Johnson is the most feared pitcher in history.

TecJug
Guest
TecJug
2 years 11 months ago

Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale were much scarier than the Unit.

Rob
Guest
Rob
2 years 11 months ago

Wasn’t Drysdale famous for his distaste regarding intentional walks, preferring to plunk hitters and save his arm?

Hal Jordan
Guest
Hal Jordan
2 years 11 months ago

“Johnson is the most feared pitcher in history.”

You mean Walter Johnson, right?

Iron
Guest
Iron
2 years 11 months ago

205 hitters would agree with that.

samuelraphael
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

Ugeth Urbina?

Schuxu
Guest
Schuxu
2 years 11 months ago

Don’t you think that taking the less starts and less innings pitched as an argument for said pitcher?

Brandon
Guest
Brandon
2 years 11 months ago

Maddux is a guy who will look worse on Fangraphs WAR due to his low K-rate, which gives Maddux zero credit for much of his ability to induce weak contact. His RA wins are 123.1. Randy is 103. 1000 innings of Greg Maddux is a lot to make up for Randy as well.

Ian R.
Guest
Ian R.
2 years 11 months ago

If you look at bWAR, it gets even closer with Maddux at 104.6 and Unit at 104.3 – as close to a dead tie as you can get in a huge sample like that.

Really, they both have arguments as the greatest pitcher of all time. I’d go with Maddux, but that’s essentially a coin toss.

Will
Guest
Will
2 years 11 months ago

xFIP has only been calculated since 2002. It’s not particularly relevant to this discussion, especially since Maddux’s peak ended in 2001, whereas Johnson’s peak extended to 2004.

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 11 months ago

xFIP makes little sense when talking about guys with long careers. All xFIP is used for is to factor out flukey home run rates in small (up to a year or two) samples. There is absolutely no reason at all to look at xFIP instead of FIP for someone’s entire career.

stretchfest
Member
stretchfest
2 years 11 months ago

Plus xFIP is more of a predictive stat. There’s no real reason to use it when judging past performance.

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols
2 years 11 months ago

cass is correct, stretchfest is not.

Mike
Guest
Mike
2 years 11 months ago

FIP and xFIP are arrived at by arbitrary linear weights on strikeouts, walks, and home runs. Were the weights changed, most Fangraphs readers a) wouldn’t notice and b) would arrive at different conclusions about who is better.

I’d rather have Maddux on my team for the simple fact that injuries were a non-issue for him because of his pitching style, so money spent on his contract was never wasted.

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols
2 years 11 months ago

Um the weights aren’t arbitrary, you just made that up. But I agree that over a career you shouldn’t look at FIP (if you have ERA+ and defensive adjustments).

bWAR does both of those things and has them at exactly 104 WAR each.

Rippers
Guest
Rippers
2 years 11 months ago

I just want to say that I love this series!

Please keep them coming.

Warriors
Guest
Warriors
2 years 11 months ago

That’s a bold statement.

Old School
Guest
Old School
2 years 11 months ago

Pedro Martinez.

JS7
Guest
JS7
2 years 11 months ago

This is easy to answer: Randy Johnson.

I don’t remember Greg Maddux ever hitting a bird!

atoms
Guest
atoms
2 years 11 months ago

Randy Johnson is the premier bird-beaner in MLB history. But the question is, which one is the better pitcher?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

Calling that a beaning is akin to calling WWII a dust-up.

Dave Winfield
Guest
Dave Winfield
2 years 11 months ago

**cough**

Old School
Guest
Old School
2 years 11 months ago

Is Randy Johnson the ugliest player in MLB history?

matt w
Guest
matt w
2 years 11 months ago

I was going to go with Ugly Dickshot, but Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson may have him beat for both ugliness and ridiculous nameness.

Not sure Johnson can out-ugly Don Mossi, though.

AdamD
Guest
AdamD
2 years 11 months ago

Otis Nixon wants to have a word with you

Kris
Guest
Kris
2 years 11 months ago

Willie McGee anyone?

VORP is too nerdy
Guest
VORP is too nerdy
2 years 11 months ago

Aaron Harang

Don Draper
Guest
Don Draper
2 years 11 months ago

Hunter Pence

Dave
Guest
Dave
2 years 11 months ago

Wally Moon’s eyebrow says hello.

JMN19
Guest
JMN19
2 years 11 months ago

No, anyone who has seen his baseball cards from the 1960’s knows it’s Don Mossi.

exitdoesnotexist
Guest
exitdoesnotexist
2 years 11 months ago

their numbers are so similar you just cant make a conclusive argument either way…one thing ill point out though, maddux pitched much more innings at a later age, so his career numbers are slightly more inflated than johnson’s, assuming johnson wouldnt have dominated at that age…just nitpicking, but ill go Maddux

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
2 years 11 months ago

“one thing ill point out though, maddux pitched much more innings at a later age”

Wait… what?

42 onward, Maddux 194, Johnson 541
41 onward, 392 v 767
40 onward, 602 v 1013

Johnson is the one who pitched when he was older– the big difference in their IP is what they did when they were young;

Through age 24, RJ 26 IP and Maddux 911.
Age 25 onward, RJ 4109 versus Maddux 4097

exitdoesnotexist
Guest
exitdoesnotexist
2 years 11 months ago

ha. wowzer i was way off..didnt realize johnson was actually 3 years older than maddux, just looked at their numbers and assumed since maddux pitched 180+ until he retired, what i said was true..disregard, im an ass

PackBob
Guest
PackBob
2 years 11 months ago

They both were better.

Bob M
Guest
Bob M
2 years 11 months ago

Maddox was consistently good for a longer period of time. Johnson had a slightly higher peak. I think this question comes down to which you prefer – the longevity or the ceiling.

For me, I would give a slight edge to Johnson.

Alex
Guest
Alex
2 years 11 months ago

People really seem to underestimate just how good Maddux was at his peak. From 1992-1998 he posted a 2.15 ERA, good for a 53 ERA-, while throwing over 7.4 IP/GS. Randy posted an ERA- lower than that just once (51 in 1997) and did it while throwing slightly fewer IP/GS (7.3).

As far as true peak, it’s Maddux and it isn’t even that close. From 1994-1995, Maddux posted a 1.60 ERA, good for a 38 ERA-, while throwing 7.8 IP/GS. As I mentioned above, RJ never even sniffed an ERA- close to that good at any point in his career. The only pitcher who can touch that as far as a multiyear peak is Pedro. Those are 2 of the 5 best ERA- seasons since 1900.

Bob M
Guest
Bob M
2 years 11 months ago

Yes, I did notice their ERAs on the stat page. Thanks. However, I don’t think that it is the only stat that matters. And yet, if you limit “peak” to a 2 year sample size, Johnson has an equivalent FIP. His 2000/2001 seasons with the Diamondbacks (489.1 IP, 69 GS, 719 K, 147 BB, 142 ER) compares favorably to the 1994/1995 Maddux seasons (411 IP, 53 GS, 337 K, 54 BB, 73 ER). Some might even say better. Let alone not “even that close”.

Alex
Guest
Alex
2 years 11 months ago

Yes, if you look at FIP, a stat that pretty clearly underrated Maddux in his prime (he outperformed his FIP every single season from 1992-1998) then it might look close. If you look at the actual on field results it wasn’t. Maddux’s ERA was almost a run lower over those 2 year samples and his ERA- was 17 points lower.

Alexander Nevermind
Guest
Alexander Nevermind
2 years 11 months ago

It makes no sense to compare counting stats when the sample for one player includes two strike-shortened seasons.

Adam
Guest
Adam
2 years 11 months ago

Don’t forget. The ’94 strike..

Arsen Akopyan
Guest
Arsen Akopyan
10 months 10 days ago

ERA can only tell so much about a pitcher’s dominance. Randy Johnson was every bit as dominant in his peak performance years as Pedro Martinez was in his, only he did it for longer, and dominated the Yankees in 2 different postseason series (95′ & 01′). The Yankees were Pedro’s daddy. Pitching in hitter-friendly ball parks w/ poor fielders (except for Ken Griffey Junior)drove up RJs ERA throughout much of his career, but he was just as overwhelming by way of the naked-eye test as was Martinez during the regular season when both were at their best, but better against the Yankees.

As far as Greg Maddux, he was just constantly dominant so subtly throwing softballs that it went so unnoticed just how remarkable he was in not only in 94′-95′, but in lots of other seasons where he was only worst by a little bit. But Greg Maddux was not nearly as clutch as his golfing buddy Tom Glavine on the big stage. If I had to win 1 game, I’d choose Tom Glavine as my pitcher if I have that choice over Greg Maddux, even though Maddux was overall marginally better than Glavine.

Alexander Nevermind
Guest
Alexander Nevermind
2 years 11 months ago

RA9-Wins for Maddux, 92-98: 9.6, 9.0, 9.8 (strike-shortened), 11.0 (strike-shortened), 7.6, 9.9, 9.0

Joe Veno
Member
2 years 11 months ago

They are only 0.3 wins apart in bWAR. That’s pretty cool.

Semi Pro
Guest
Semi Pro
2 years 11 months ago

It’s intimidation versus frustration. Johnson was a terrifying presence, especially to left-handers. His height and arm angle made it look like the ball was coming from first base. Maddux was just frustrating. You’d go up thinking you have a chance because he didn’t throw that hard, but he’d outsmart you at every turn.

ajake57
Member
ajake57
2 years 11 months ago

These are my thoughts exactly. As a hitter I might be scared that I could die facing Johnson, but I would also think he might groove me one I could hit hard. Against Maddux I would think I’d be two feet down the rabbit hole swing a rope at whatever he was going to throw me.

This is all hypothetical, of course, because I am a terrible baseball player.

timmy
Guest
timmy
2 years 11 months ago

imagine a prospect like Maddux today. no one would even care for a kid with such a weak fastball and low K #s.
Maddux seems like one of the few pitchers sabermetrics can’t really appreciate his dominance.

tehzachatak
Member
tehzachatak
2 years 11 months ago

Look at his FIPs!!! He didn’t walk ANYBODY. Sabermetrics really likes that.

But yeah – he had a pretty solid string of four years there dramatically overperforming his FIP. I think there might be something to be said there, even if it regressed back later in his career.

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 11 months ago

There’s a stat on this site called RA9 Wins. Sabermetrics does not say that FIP works 100% for all pitchers. Everyone knows Maddux is a bit of an exception and Glavine even more so.

Alex
Guest
Alex
2 years 11 months ago

Are we talking about Maddux as a prospect? Because he had above average velocity early in his career, along with great control, a great sinker, and a sick changeup.

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols
2 years 11 months ago

Um really?

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols
2 years 11 months ago

Tell me where does Maddux rank all time in bWAR and fWAR?

jg
Guest
jg
2 years 11 months ago

Andrew Miller, Boston Red Sox pitcher: “They obviously got to their numbers in different ways … the greatest. There’s the steroid talk about some guys.

Is he implying that there’s steroid talk about Randy Johnson (w/ some of his best seasons coming at ages 35-38)?

Julian
Guest
Julian
2 years 11 months ago

I think he was referring to other pitchers that are in the discussion for best all-time, like Roger Clemens.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 11 months ago

I was wondering that, too, but I think that Julian is right. Usually only asshole pundits, not players, imply that a guy used steroids without a shred of decent evidence.

Derek
Guest
Derek
2 years 11 months ago

As a Braves fan, I saw Greg pitch alot. It’s a tough comparison- Greg was more of an artist with a scientific bent. Randy was mostly brute force. Greg didn’t have the strikeouts, except he did..was above average in K rate for a large part of his career. I was witness (watching on TV) to a few 0 walk 10+K games, hitters looked helpless. I would give the edge to Greg, if only because if he had roughly the same repertoire as Randy, his #’s would be Pedro, but over 20 years.

JEdward
Member
JEdward
2 years 11 months ago

This was a great matchup. Both won four consecutive Cy Youngs, which is ridiculous. I’m going Maddux, just because I watched him more as a Braves fan, but it really is close.

Maddux dominated during the 90’s without an “overpowering” fastball like either Johnson or Clemens. I watched him throw complete games in under 90 pitches multiple times. When he pitched back in those days, you never worried about a 4 hour game. He got in, got out, game over. He walked 20 people in 1997. 20. In 232 innings. That’s just stupid.

Chaos Path
Guest
Chaos Path
2 years 11 months ago

Probably walked 15 of them on purpose, too

Rob
Guest
Rob
2 years 11 months ago

Barry Bonds.

Chris
Guest
Chris
2 years 11 months ago

Pitching wise, it is very close, but if you factor in pitching and defense, Maddux is better overall. Maddux’s .171/.191/.205 line beats Johnson’s .125/.153/.152. As for defense, Maddux did win 18 Gold Gloves. Yes, that awards means next to nothing (especially for pitchers), but I think it is safe to say that Maddux was the better fielder.

matt w
Guest
matt w
2 years 11 months ago

For some more quantifiable stuff, here’s Tango on the best WOWY fielding scores through age 34 since 1993:

http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/comments/best_worst_wowy_since_1993_through_age_34/

Maddux is at +146 plays made, almost twice as good as the next best pitchers.

Now, Tango generally calculates these scores mostly by taking the pitchers the fielder has played with and comparing how many outs that fielder makes with those pitchers and how many outs other fielders at that position make with those pitchers. So I don’t know how he does it when the fielder is the pitcher. But I’m sure he’s got something in mind (and if Maddux scores out better because he induced more grounders back to the mound, well that’s pretty good too).

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 11 months ago

“Pitching wise, it is very close, but if you factor in pitching and defense, Maddux is better overall”

I think you mean, “if you factor in hitting and defense”.

That .171 BA would rival BJ Upton and Danny Uggla this year…get him a stick!

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols
2 years 11 months ago

Maddux’ defense is already factored into his RA and bWAR. Can’t count it twice. The two were exactly even on pitching value for their careers. Good point about hitting, but I don’t think this question really was meant to consider that.

Matthew Murphy
Member
2 years 11 months ago

Looking at both of their “peaks”:

Maddux, 1991-2011
Average season:
240 IP, 19.0% K, 4.1% BB, 2.53 ERA, 60 ERA-, 1.03 WHIP, 2.81 FIP, 7.05 WAR
Only one season below 6 WAR, at least 200IP each season

Johnson, 1993-2004
Average season:
212 IP, 32.2% K, 7.8% BB, 2.91 ERA, 64 ERA-, 1.10 WHIP, 2.76 FIP, 7.21 WAR
Three seasons under 6 WAR, same three seasons under 200IP

Rob
Guest
Rob
2 years 11 months ago

Probably a similar number of pitches.

blwfish
Guest
blwfish
2 years 11 months ago

Well, I just went to the ballpark to see either one of them. I even adjusted my business travel schedule around them, to the degree that was feasible! They’re SO different that it really is pretty hard to compare them. They’re also so good that it’s pretty hard to compare them! Pretty much only did that to see these two and Smoltz, although probably I should have made more of a point of seeing Pedro.

Daniel W
Guest
Daniel W
2 years 11 months ago

Maddux. Give Maddux Johnson’s stuff, he’d know what to do with it. Vice versa? No contention there.

MrMan
Guest
MrMan
2 years 11 months ago

Yes….but….what kind of “stuff” you have goes a long way to determining how good you are. For all we know, if you were given Johnson’s “stuff” you would be better than he.

Being a smart pitcher is good, but not unless you got the physical attributes as well. Maddux wouldn’t have been nearly as effective if he couldn’t throw high 80’s.

Alexander Nevermind
Guest
Alexander Nevermind
2 years 11 months ago

This argument makes it sound like it is extremely easy to learn to control 100MPH fastball. Both Maddux and Johnson had to learn to locate according to stuff. Look at Johnson’s career – the adjustments took time.

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols
2 years 11 months ago

What? Give Johnson Maddux’s command and he doesn’t allow a hit, ever…

chief00
Guest
chief00
2 years 11 months ago

Greg Maddux had a BB/9 of 1.75 or lower 15x in 16 years. Wow. He sure didn’t make it any more difficult for himself or his team than it needed to be.

Good, no, great, no, awesome, no, fantastic, no… I really like this series. :)

MrMan
Guest
MrMan
2 years 11 months ago

Loved them both….as someone else said, “they’re both better”.

Will point out one thing. Maddux had a great all-around game for a pitcher. He won an unbelievable 20 gold gloves and could contribute on offense occasionally. Can still recall a game he won 1-0, driving in the only run and accounting for a couple outstanding defensive plays; he essentially won the game single-handedly.

Murray Chase
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

Maddux postseason: 11-14
Johnson postseason: 7-9

Jack Morris is the correct answer. Fools.

redsoxu571
Guest
redsoxu571
2 years 11 months ago

Postseason numbers:
Maddux- 3.27 era, 1.242 whip, 198 IP
Johnson- 3.50 era (3.08 before joining the NYY), 1.140 whip, 121 IP
Morris- 3.80 era, 1.245 whip, 92.1 IP, not thr steroid era

Wow, you lose, and then some…

Next time, at least try someone like Schilling (2.23, 0.968, 133.1) or Beckett (3.07, 0.940, 93.2).

Master2244
Guest
2 years 11 months ago

Jack Morris played for good teams, but he does NOT deserve to be in the hall of fame.

dte421
Guest
dte421
2 years 11 months ago

So am I the only person that wants to point out how funny it was that Victorino gave the nod to Maddux based on wins???

For every player that has started to understand advanced stats, there’s still 5 of them that just don’t get it.

cass
Guest
cass
2 years 11 months ago

The term “Win” is irresistable. Probably “WAR” should have just been called “wins” and it’d have been even more successful.

But if you’re a player, it makes sense to care only about team wins. That’s the stat that matters to you.

dte421
Guest
dte421
2 years 11 months ago

Oh I completely get it, but at SOME point these guys have to realize that even cretins like Jon Heyman have realized that pitching wins (like RBI’s) are a hugely situational stat.

ebbetsfield
Guest
ebbetsfield
2 years 11 months ago

It is the only stat that matters in the team game . . . the other stuff is for fantasy baseball and contracts.

Greg
Guest
Greg
2 years 11 months ago

Give me the Unit. He didn’t get the benefit of a 3 foot wide strike zone like the Braves pitchers got in the 90’s.

TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich
2 years 11 months ago

Phrasing

Alex
Guest
Alex
2 years 11 months ago

I’m pretty sure Randy Johnson also pitched in the 90’s…Besides, why would you punish a guy for taking advantage of what umpires called? Are we going to knock Koufax and Gibson for pitching when the strike zone was enforced to the arm pit? Are we going to knock Johnson because once Questec came in, umpires responded by calling more high strikes?

redsoxu571
Guest
redsoxu571
2 years 11 months ago

Guys, there’s no reason to knock Greg for pointing out what was, even at the time, a well-known phenomenon. NL umps in general had a wider strike zone in the ’90s, and Braves pitchers were notorious for getting calls just off the black.

Mind you, this is also a credit to the Braves staff members and their control, as they were able to avoid the middle of the plate and pound the edges, which helped get them the calls, but this is all well established fact.

Alex
Guest
Alex
2 years 11 months ago

There are still teams that get more calls just off the black than others. As long as human umpires are calling the game, it is going to be the case. Besides, do you have any non-anecdotal evidence to backup that these are well established facts?

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
2 years 11 months ago

Are you a crybaby Mets fan, a crybaby Phillies fan, or a crybaby Marlins fan?

Greg
Guest
Greg
2 years 11 months ago

Or maybe I’m just a non-NL East fan who wasn’t blind?

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
2 years 11 months ago

People either have short memories or only remember Maddux’s late career, where he could barely hit 86 MPH. At his peak, Maddux had one of the best change-ups in the history of the game, the best backdoor cutter in the league, impeccable command of five different pitches, etc. It also didn’t hurt he’s probably the smartest pitcher to ever take the mound.

Give most players that type of stuff and they also put up a few Hall of Fame seasons.

NitPickety
Guest
NitPickety
2 years 11 months ago

Enjoyable article. For those who are interested in the accuracy of ballplayers’ memories –

Greg Colbrunn: “I think I faced The Unit about 10 times and had one hit. I faced Maddux about the same number of times and don’t think I ever got a hit off of him.”

1-7 vs Johnson, 0-12 vs Maddux.

Mark DeRosa: “I know I didn’t too good against Johnson. I think I got one hit off him. Greg was my teammate for a couple years, and I think I only faced him once.”

1-17 vs Johnson, 0-6 vs Maddux.

Pat Tabler: “I did take Maddux deep once; I remember that. I faced Johnson more, because we were in the American League at the same time.”

2-20 vs Johnson, 1-3 vs Maddux, indeed a home run.

All in all, pretty accurate.

FirstCasualtyofWAR
Guest
FirstCasualtyofWAR
2 years 11 months ago

I find their situational memories to be fairly amazing.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
2 years 11 months ago

Cliff Lee really impresses me with his ability to hit the edges of the zone and get through innings really fast. I can only imagine how Maddux must have looked.

Rob
Guest
Rob
2 years 11 months ago

Roy Halladay 2011 son.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
2 years 11 months ago

Maddux had a lot more movement to his pitches than Lee.

redsoxu571
Guest
redsoxu571
2 years 11 months ago

Can we get Glen Perkins to weigh in on this? And every other “Players’ View” that you run? Please?

redsoxu571
Guest
redsoxu571
2 years 11 months ago

Oh, almost forgot…this is the tiebreaker for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKAJIvQRSzE&list=PL781D88544DCBE996

Andre the Angels Fan
Guest
Andre the Angels Fan
2 years 11 months ago

Omg. Best sports ad of all time?

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 11 months ago

For me, it’s gotta be Maddux, even if The Big Unit was insane too. Maddux’s walk rate is just plain silly and he mastered one of the most elusive pitcher skills: Controlling BABIP. Maddux had possibly the best feel for the strike zone, be it the actual one or the wider one, of any modern pitcher.

I can’t fault you for taking Randy, but Maddux is my favorite pitcher of all time (Even if Pedro was better), so I gotta take him.

Kimbal Binder
Guest
Kimbal Binder
2 years 11 months ago

Here is the clincher – You really NEED to win one game, you go with the guy is more likely to win even if his best stuff is not there. Yes, Unit could domiinate when he was really on…but Maddux could win no matter how hard he could throw that day.

Daniel C.
Guest
Daniel C.
2 years 11 months ago

Great piece. I feel like there are two different questions with (possibly) two different answers being asked here. Who was the better pitcher? And who were you more scared to face? The latter would seem obvious, as Johnson threw in the high 90’s, and had a biting slider that often would nail a toe (no pun intended) or two after the batter had swung. The former is much more complicated.

There career stats read out as two near equivalent players. According to fangraphs, they both have career ERA- of 76. Maddux had a peak year ERA- of 37, whereas Johnson had a peak ERA- of 53. That maybe more indicative of how great Maddux truly was in his prime, as compared to how great both were throughout the duration of their careers. On the flip-side, Johnson struck out batters at a 28.6% career rate, whereas Maddux was at a still impressive 16.5%. To put this in perspective, Johnson’s lowest strikeout rate was 18.2%, and that was in only his second year in the majors.

FIP is mentioned by some posters, but I, along with many of you, don’t put much faith in FIP. I view it as more indicative of short term success or failure that is bound to change as compared to a long term indicator of value. Point being that a pitcher can disprove FIP by continuing to out perform it; something Maddux did consistently, most likely due to his ability to induce weak contact. But for the sake of all factors, a 3.26 FIP is not much different than a 3.19 FIP. Just as a 3.16 ERA is not much different than a 3.29 ERA.

In the end, if I were sitting in a front office on a draft day in which I had to choose between the two (they were drafted a year apart, in case you were wondering) to build a rotation around for the future…… I think I would be happy with either one. But gun to my head? Maddux. Both had amazing careers, but Maddux’ dominance in his prime puts him over the top for me.

Doogolas
Guest
Doogolas
2 years 11 months ago

“Greg Maddux is probably the best pitcher in all of baseball along with Roger Clemens. He’s much more intelligent than I am because he doesn’t have a 95 or 98 mph fastball. I would tell any pitcher who wants to be successful to watch him, because he’s the true definition of a pitcher.” – Randy Johnson

I mean. I am just throwing it out there.

Roy J
Guest
Roy J
2 years 10 months ago

I remember when Maddux could throw 93 mph. The years in which he wasn’t all that great. I think people forget that Maddux had the capability of throwing mid 90s. But he didn’t. He actually threw 88-89 in his prime ON PURPOSE. Every now and then, he’d ramp up the pitch to 93-94 just to mess with the hitter. But then he’d go back to throwing junk pitches.

If there’s any pitcher defines the word “pitcher” itself, it’s Maddux. You always here that saying “he’s not a thrower anymore, he’s a pitcher” but I don’t think anyone was as much of a pitcher as Maddux. Certainly the most boring pitcher to watch but equally as fascinating.

dogsbrekky
Guest
dogsbrekky
2 years 8 months ago

1992-1999 Maddux had an avg whip well under 1.00…. today someone gets under 1.00 for a year and they are God… Maddux was genius

dogsbrekky
Guest
dogsbrekky
2 years 8 months ago

Clayton Kershaw 2011 – 2013 is Maddux esque as per 1993-1995… see if he is as good the next 7 years… that is how great Maddog was !

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