The Greatness of Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux officially becomes a Hall of Famer today, and the only controversy surrounding his election is that it won’t be unanimous. He is, without question, one of the greatest pitchers of all time. So, let’s celebrate the things that made him great.

Greg Maddux threw 200 innings in every single season from 1988 to 2001, with the streak snapping after throwing just 199 1/3 innings in 2002, before he proceeded to throw four more consecutive seasons with 200 innings pitched. That streak stopped in 2007, when he just threw 198 innings. Or, put another way, Maddux threw 198 or more innings in every single season from age-22 to age-41, even though the 1994 strike ended the season in 1994 (202 innings in 25 starts) and caused it to begin late in 1995 (210 innings in 28 starts). For 20 straight years, Maddux was a guaranteed 200 innings, even if Major League Baseball didn’t even bother to finish their season.

In 1994, the league average home run rate per nine innings jumped to 1.04, up from 0.90 in 1993, which is one of the main reasons it is often labeled as the start of the “Steroids Era”. When the strike occurred, Matt Williams was on pace to break the all time single season home run record, and five other players looked like they might get close to it as well. And in that year, the beginning of the home run boom, Maddux allowed four home runs for the entire season. Four. It’s the only season of the last 60 years where a pitcher has thrown 200 innings and given up fewer than five home runs, and it happened in the era when home runs were most plentiful. While people remember Maddux for having impeccable command, his walk rates are not historically unprecedented. His ability to never give up home runs, though, might not ever be seen again.

Of course, we shouldn’t just ignore his ability to never walk anyone either, because that was a significant part of why he was so good. In a time where offensive levels were surging and pitchers could be forgiven for avoiding the heart of the plate, Maddux pounded the strike zone like few others ever have. From 1995 to 1997, Maddux walked 2.7% of the batters he faced; among the pitchers who threw at least 600 innings in those three seasons, only two — Shane Reynolds and Denny Neagle, at 5.0% and 5.2% respectively — posted walk rates that were not twice as high as Maddux’s walk rate. When it came to not walking hitters, Maddux regularly lapped the field.

And it’s not like he was Bob Tewksbury, just grooving the ball over the plate and hoping for soft contact. While Maddux was not Randy Johnson, his strikeout totals have often been undersold because strikeout rate has often been measured as total strikeouts per nine innings, rather than per batter faced. Because Maddux never put anyone on base, his innings often consisted of just three batters instead of four or five, giving him fewer opportunities to record a strikeout each inning. On a percentage basis, though, in-his-prime Maddux was actually a prolific strikeout pitcher.

Take 1995, for instance. Among pitchers who threw just 100 innings — a lower barrier than usual due to the shortened season — Maddux’s 7.77 K/9 ranked just 18th in baseball, in between Jeff Fassero and Mark Gardner. But by K%, which just looks at strikeouts per batter faced, his 23.1% strikeout rate was 5th best in baseball, putting him in a near tie with John Smoltz, who no one considered a pitch-to-contact strike-thrower. In fact, Maddux’s strikeout rate in 1995 was 35% better than the league average, and if you translate that into 2013, his 1995 strikeout rate was essentially equivalent to the K% that Matt Harvey put up last year. 1995 Maddux was 2013 Matt Harvey if he also never walked anyone and gave up the fewest number of home runs in recent baseball history.

Not surprisingly, that 1995 season posted by Maddux is one of the best of all time. By ERA- (and minimum 150 innings pitched), it’s the 5th best run prevention season in baseball history. Only it’s not even Maddux’s best year, as his 1994 season ranks 3rd on that list. Two of the top five seasons in baseball history, in terms of run prevention relative to the league average, belong to Greg Maddux.

And remember, he threw 200 innings in both of those seasons despite the strike reducing his number of starts, so he wasn’t just getting lifted early and letting the bullpen strand his runners. In 1994, he averaged more than 8 innings per start. He went at least 7 innings in 22 of the 25 starts he made that year, and threw 9 innings in 11 of them. He put up the third best ERA- in baseball history in a season in which he basically never let his bullpen in the game.

But maybe the greatest thing about Greg Maddux wasn’t any of these accomplishments, but instead, how he did it. Unlike Randy Johnson, he didn’t look like a super hero who threw 100 mph. He looked like one of us. He was 6’0, wore glasses, and dominated with pitches that didn’t look like they should dominate. In an era of oversized athletes and outsized personalities, Maddux was just a guy doing his thing and embarrassing everyone else in the process. There wasn’t anything particularly flashy about Greg Maddux, until you looked up two hours later, realized the game was over, and the opposing team had only managed a couple of weak singles.

Greg Maddux personified greatness and humanity at the same time. I fully expect that he’ll be the best pitcher I ever see take the mound. Welcome to Cooperstown, sir. You deserve it more than just about anyone.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Boris Chinchilla
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Boris Chinchilla
2 years 6 months ago

He learned how to play the game the right way in Atlanta

Brian McCann
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Brian McCann
2 years 6 months ago

Damn straight.

Matthew Sherry
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Matthew Sherry
2 years 6 months ago

I guess that coming up the Cubs almost broke him, until he got his first Cy Young and then signed with Atlanta who taught him “the right way”.

Boris Chinchilla
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Boris Chinchilla
2 years 6 months ago

That’s exactly right! The rituals were passed down from ancient aliens to Dale Murphy, who passed them to Tommy Glavine, who begat them to Jeff Francoeruerur, who in turn gave them to Mccann. Now Freddie Freeman must serve his apprenticeship under Dan Uggla, the force is strong in Cobb County too!

SocraticGadfly
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2 years 6 months ago

And what the hell is Uggla going to teach? The location of the Mendoza Line?

Kerry Wood and Mark Prior
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Kerry Wood and Mark Prior
2 years 6 months ago

Coming up with the Cubs broke us too

Iron
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Iron
2 years 6 months ago

I understand Dusty Breaker is available to return, just in case.

Adam
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Adam
2 years 6 months ago

:(

Smashing Bumpkins
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Smashing Bumpkins
2 years 6 months ago

That 92 NL CY Young was stolen from Bob Tewksbury and you all know it!

NEPP
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NEPP
2 years 6 months ago

No

TKDC
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TKDC
2 years 6 months ago

It’s a shame that he was stolen from the Cubs by that big market team with it’s own TV station..

Boris Chinchilla
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Boris Chinchilla
2 years 6 months ago

Kinda funny that their tv situation is now killing them, bwahahaha! Where’s billionaire Ted when you need him

Matthew Sherry
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Matthew Sherry
2 years 6 months ago

Not what I was implying. The Cubs actually made a forward thinking, but wrong, decision because they didn’t believe he would be as successful when his stuff wasn’t as good. I’m unsure if that’s why they decided to sign everyone on the wrong sign of thirty for the next 15 years.

Boris Chinchilla
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Boris Chinchilla
2 years 6 months ago

Sorry, I meant the Barves tv situation. You know how they went from having a ridiculous advantage with TBS to having one of the worst tv deals out there. I feel so bad for them

Charlie
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Charlie
2 years 6 months ago

I don’t know you, but I hate you.

Carlos Gomez HR trot
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Carlos Gomez HR trot
2 years 6 months ago

likewise

Dan Rozenson
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2 years 6 months ago

Kids, great mechanics will take you places.

Dave
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Dave
2 years 6 months ago

Great mechanics and an unbelievable ability to spot your pitches as well as a scary recall of each batter and their preferences and history against him.

TKDC
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TKDC
2 years 6 months ago

Also, he did have incredible movement on his fastball. No, he did not have the “stuff” of most hall of fame pitchers, but a 88-91 MPH fastball that moves 6-8 inches is not common.

Alvaro Pizza
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Alvaro Pizza
2 years 6 months ago

Dave:

You forgot to tell one thing. In my opinion, I have not seen a pitcher defend his position better.

bjsworld
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bjsworld
2 years 6 months ago

Agreed. Wasn’t bad with the stick either. Couple seasons where he hit like a back-up infielder.

jimmm
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jimmm
2 years 6 months ago

That shouldnt be a surprise. as we all know, chicks love the long ball

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLECMCargd8

Vlad the Impaler
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Vlad the Impaler
2 years 6 months ago

Chicks dig the long ball.

chuckb
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chuckb
2 years 6 months ago

Or the Cards’ 2013 starting SS.

Old people
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Old people
2 years 6 months ago

Now if he just had an indelible playoff moment like the great Jack Morris, he’d be a shoe-in

Mike Green
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Mike Green
2 years 6 months ago

This made me wonder about the origins of “shoo-in”. Here is an answer: http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/shoe-in.html

Maddux was indeed historically great. Is Maddux/Clemens and Mathewson/Walter Johnson a fair comparison? It does look like Maddux was noticeably better than Mathewson; Matty was not the same pitcher from age 33 on and somehow I doubt that he could have survived and thrived in the conditions that Maddux pitched in.

Dave
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Dave
2 years 6 months ago

Crazy stat to illustrate the difference in eras: in the 19 seasons of his amazing prime, Maddux averaged 233 innings and totaled 4429.1 innings. In the 14 seasons of his prime, Mathewson totaled 4494.1 innings, averaging 321 innings per year.

King Buzzo
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King Buzzo
2 years 6 months ago

198 career playoff innings too, what’s this guy’s deal with 200?

Mike D
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Mike D
2 years 6 months ago

Its really telling about Ken Gurnick when you can say his HOF ballot is worse than Murray Chass’s.

Johnny5
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Johnny5
2 years 6 months ago

You forgot a word in the second paragraph – probably the word “early”.

“Or, put another way, Maddux threw 198 or more innings in every single season from age-22 to age-41, even though the 1994 strike ended the season EARLY in 1994 (202 innings in 25 starts) and caused it to begin late in 1995 (210 innings in 28 starts)”

Iron
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Iron
2 years 6 months ago

The word ‘early’ is not necessary in that sentence.

vivalajeter
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vivalajeter
2 years 6 months ago

He averaged over 8 innings per start in 1994? Yowsers!

Teddy Rochlis
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Teddy Rochlis
2 years 6 months ago

Quote from Greg Maddux to his pitching coach on the braves, “I will never throw a no hitter while i pitch for you”, “why not” (pitching coach), “Because when we are in the lead by two or three or more runs im gonna test people out and if they get a hit i will remember never to throw that pitch to them at that location so that when an important situation does come up i know exactly what not to do.”

Maddux Fan
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Maddux Fan
2 years 6 months ago

I remember an interview with Tony Gwynn where he discussed this topic. He claimed Maddux would intentionally throw a hittable pitch in low leverage situations. Planting a seed in the hitters mind for a high leverage situation. Maddux would then adjust the location 1″ and let the batter hit a weak grounder.

Dave
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Dave
2 years 6 months ago

Bagwell said the same. Set him up big-time.

db
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db
2 years 6 months ago

There is a story that he intentionally fed Butch Huskey a HR ball in spring training for the same general effect.

Malamaña
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Malamaña
2 years 6 months ago

Inception

MDL
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MDL
2 years 6 months ago
craigtyle
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Member
craigtyle
2 years 6 months ago

Most succinct explanation of K% > K/9 ever. Kudos.

HAL9100
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HAL9100
2 years 6 months ago

Seriously, I never identified the difference until now.

I always leaned K/9 due to the easy benchmark of 1/inning being great.

JayT
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JayT
2 years 6 months ago

Same here. I never quite internalized the benefits of K% over K/9.

Matty Brown
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Member
Matty Brown
2 years 6 months ago

Wonderful retrospective, and emphasis on the importance of looking beneath surface stats.

Matty Brown
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Member
Matty Brown
2 years 6 months ago

holy fuck, John Smoltz put up 5.2 WAR in each his age 39 and 40 seasons….incredible.

Catoblepas
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Catoblepas
2 years 6 months ago

not what I expected the takeaway from this article to be, if I’m being honest.

Steve
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Steve
2 years 6 months ago

roidzzz!

brian
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brian
2 years 6 months ago

Nice article, but the K% and batters-per-inning comment seems incorrect to me. Ignoring double plays, all pitchers have 3 opportunities for a strikeout per inning. Allowing runners to reach base does not affect this. Once we allow double plays, pitchers who have more base runners have fewer chances to collect Ks.

Carlos Marmol
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Carlos Marmol
2 years 6 months ago

What you say?

Ns
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Ns
2 years 6 months ago

“Allowing runners to reach base does not affect this.”

That is the crux of the issue and you didn’t even elaborate. I suspect that is because the statement is obviously false and can’t be supported. Allowing runners increases the number of batters faced. Every batter faced is an opportunity for a strikeout.

You seem to be thinking only batters faced that produce outs are strikeout opportunities. This, again, is obviously false.

Nate
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Nate
2 years 6 months ago

Perhaps he means “3 outs per half-inning”. which is true, but doesn’t further his point. Clearly each pitcher has the possibility of more than 3 strikeouts per inning. Even if he strikes out everyone he faces!

John Thacker
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John Thacker
2 years 6 months ago

K% is percentage of batters you strikeout.
K/9 is percentage of your outs that are strikeouts.

A pitcher with good K/9 but bad K% is “I don’t always get batters out, but when I do, it’s with a strikeout.”

I’d say that K% is a better measure of a great strikeout pitcher. It’s like comparing the following two hitters:

A hits .400, half his hits are homeruns, and so one-fifth of his at-bats are homeruns.
B hits .250, two-thirds his hits are homeruns, and thus one-sixth of his at-bats are homeruns.

B has a much better HR/hit ratio (which corresponds to K/out or K/9 for a pitcher), but A has a better HR/at-bat ratio (which corresponds to K%.)

Spencer D
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Spencer D
2 years 6 months ago

K/9 = K%(Whip + IP)9

Spencer D
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Spencer D
2 years 6 months ago

So a higher Whip, ceteris paribus, will increase k/9.

Spencer D
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Spencer D
2 years 6 months ago

(Whip/3)*

Spencer D
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Spencer D
2 years 6 months ago

NEver mind, that’s wrong. K/9 = K%(((W+H)/3) + IP)9

brian
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brian
2 years 6 months ago

Sorry I was vague. Here’s the tricky sentence: “Because Maddux never put anyone on base, his innings often consisted of just three batters instead of four or five, giving him fewer opportunities to record a strikeout each inning.” This isn’t true. Barring weird circumstances, each type of inning can have 0, 1, 2, or 3 strikeouts. Once we have decided that the the non-Maddux pitcher will have 1 or 2 base runners, these batters have been effectively removed as potential Ks.

Ns
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Ns
2 years 6 months ago

No, that is still exactly as wrong as before. Every baserunner was a potential strikeout before they reached base. They are failed opportunities by definition.

John Thacker
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John Thacker
2 years 6 months ago

I think that the sentence is true, from the perspective of K%. Compare the following:

Pitcher A: For each batter, 50% chance of strikeout, 50% chance of non-strikeout out.
Pitcher B: For each batter, 50% chance of strikeout, 50% chance of non-out.

It’s reasonable to say that “Pitcher A will have fewer opportunities to record a strikeout each inning.”

The statement you’re disputing is “Maddux had fewer opportunities to record a strikeout each out.” Yes, once we eliminate the non-outs, Maddux had just as much opportunity to have a higher percentage of his outs be strikeouts as other pitchers. But to me the more impressive statistic is what percentage of batters he got out via strikeout.

what...?
Guest
what...?
2 years 6 months ago

Pitcher 1-
Batter 1- K
Batter 2- Grounder to 1st- Failure to get Strikeout
Batter 3- K
End of inning

Pitcher 2-
Batter 1- BB- Failure to get Strikeout
Batter 2- BB- Failed
Batter 3- K
Batter 4- K
Batter 5- Popup to Centerfielder- Failure to get Strikeout
End of inning

Both pitchers technically have a 18 K/9. And yet, Pitcher 2 was so much less capable of getting strikeouts. Only 20% of plate appearances resulted in Ks. Pitcher 1 got 67% Ks.

Now tell me: Which pitcher was better at throwing strikeouts, and which measure is more accurate?

what...?
Guest
what...?
2 years 6 months ago

ugh, pitcher 2 got 40%

Johnhavok
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Johnhavok
2 years 6 months ago

4 actually if one reaches base on a third strike wild pitch or passed ball.

But that’s not the point. The point is, if you strike out 1 batter per inning and only face 3 batters in each of those innings, then you strike out 33% of batters faced and 9 batters per nine innings.

If you face 5 batters per inning, and you strike out 1 of them, you still get 9 k per 9, but you struck out only 20% of batters faced.

There’s a pretty big difference.

Beasy Bee
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Beasy Bee
2 years 6 months ago

The possible number of K’s per half inning isn’t infinite?

Jon C
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Jon C
2 years 6 months ago

yes it is but highly improbable since you would need several stolen bases, wild pitches, passed balls, etc

Nathan
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Nathan
2 years 6 months ago

You do not understand the difference between numerators and denominators, braj.

RC
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RC
2 years 6 months ago

The problem is, if we’re looking at K/9, giving up homerun is a better outcome for the pitcher than giving up a groundball.

Two pitchers each pitch one inning:

A – K,GB,K
B – K, 1B, 1B, 1B, 2B, K, HR, K

A – 18 k/9. 0 runs
B – 27 K/9. 5 runs given up.

A – 66% K%
B – 37.5%

Notice how K% picks up the actual quality of the performance better?

**•••{{SOX~4~LYFE}}•••**
Guest
**•••{{SOX~4~LYFE}}•••**
2 years 6 months ago

Pedro Martinez was better

A Lesson In Specificness
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A Lesson In Specificness
2 years 6 months ago

Pedro’s prime was better (probably the greatest prime ever). Maddux had the better career.

cass
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cass
2 years 6 months ago

Pedro was amazing. Maddux was amazing. They were both amazing in different ways. We’ll get to gush over Pedro next year. It’ll be fun.

Boris Chinchilla
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Boris Chinchilla
2 years 6 months ago

Pedro’s 2000 era+ ranks 2nd all time. But fuck that, I say it’s the best. Tim Keefe 1880 293era+ in 100 innings is first.

A Lesson In Specificness
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A Lesson In Specificness
2 years 6 months ago

Word up, Boris

bstar
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bstar
2 years 6 months ago

Pedro 2000: 291 ERA+, 2nd all-time
Maddux 1994: 271 ERA+, 4th all-time
Maddux 1995: 260 ERA+, 5th all-time
Pedro 1999: 243 ERA+, 9th all-time

NEPP
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NEPP
2 years 6 months ago

Pedro’s peak was probably the greatest in pitching history…but Maddux was the better pitcher career-wise.

Both were guys you had to watch to truly appreciate their greatness.

Well-Beered Englishman
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2 years 6 months ago

Thomas Boswell’s Washington Post column today (link in my username) has some great insight into Maddux’s pitching style. I’ll quote a few paragraphs:

Maddux was convinced no hitter could tell the speed of a pitch with any meaningful accuracy. To demonstrate, he pointed at a road a quarter-mile away and said it was impossible to tell if a car was going 55, 65 or 75 mph unless there was another car nearby to offer a point of reference.

“You just can’t do it,” he said. Sometimes hitters can pick up differences in spin. They can identify pitches if there are different releases points or if a curveball starts with an upward hump as it leaves the pitcher’s hand. But if a pitcher can change speeds, every hitter is helpless, limited by human vision.

“Except,” Maddux said, “for that [expletive] Tony Gwynn.”

Because of this inherent ineradicable flaw in hitters, Maddux’s main goal was to “make all of my pitches look like a column of milk coming toward home plate.” Every pitch should look as close to every other as possible, all part of that “column of milk.” He honed the same release point, the same look, to all his pitches, so there was less way to know its speed — like fastball 92 mph, slider 84, changeup 76.

…his goal was late quick break, not big impressive break. The bigger the break, the sooner the ball must start to swerve and the more milliseconds the hitter has to react; the latter [sic] the break, the less reaction time.

He sought pitches that looked hittable and identical — getting the hitter to commit to swing — but weren’t. Any pitch that didn’t conform to this, even if it looked good, was scrapped as inefficient.

“Greg was the only pitcher I’ve ever seen who never practiced from the wind-up between starts — only from the stretch,” Kasten said. “He said, ‘From the wind-up, I only try to keep the ball in the park. I’m good at that. But the only time I have to really pitch is from the stretch with men on base. So that’s all I practice.’”

db
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db
2 years 6 months ago

Its a nice article, except that from a physics standpoint, there is no way to create late-break. It is an optical illusion. Once the ball has left the pitcher’s hand, the physical forces acting upon it will act uniformly. A ball can’t be thrown to gain late spin.

Tim A
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Tim A
2 years 6 months ago

The pitch still follows an apex, and the peak of it can be closer or further from the batter. Also the force of the delivery can propel it in one direction until the spin catches up and changes the path. Think bowling ball breaks since the principal is the same. This is why some pitchers throw hard sliders with late break. I don’t know the actual formula for this, but the ball doesn’t gain late spin, in fact it loses spin from the moment its released, but the forces on the ball change as it loses speed upon release, and the drag coefficient is increased. It fights the air till the air wins, and the break sharpens when that happens.

Mike Green
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Mike Green
2 years 6 months ago

Tony Gwynn hit .415 off Maddux in his career. Actually, if you look at Maddux vs. batter chart, you might be satisfied that great hitting beats great pitching most of the time, at least with the handedness advantage.

Maddux did have significant platoon splits. The one thing that he had going in his favour was the short benches of the 90s and 00s which inhibited platooning. He faced more RHBs in his career than LHBs. Not that LHBs hit him well, on average…

NEPP
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NEPP
2 years 6 months ago

Good point, when you account for those factors, he’s only one of the greatest RHPs of all time.

ElJosharino
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ElJosharino
2 years 6 months ago

Also, I’m pretty sure that Maddux is the only player in baseball history to steal at least one base without getting caught in 10 different seasons.

Kip Dynamite
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Kip Dynamite
2 years 6 months ago

Like anyone can even know that.

beckdawg
Member
beckdawg
2 years 6 months ago

I feel to some extent that this article overstates the strike out point. Maddux was good at striking players out but clearly he wasn’t really approaching elite with a career k% of 16.5%. Since 1985 of pitchers who have a min 2k IP he’s 42nd. Though, I’m not even sure that matters in calling him one of the best pitchers of all time. His durability alone made him one.

Kevin
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Kevin
2 years 6 months ago

He was never a Clemens or Johnson with the strikeouts. But he still struck out a ton of batters, and he had the control none of those guys had when it came to seldom walking batters or giving up home runs.

Not naive
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Not naive
2 years 6 months ago

It pains me that I never saw Greg Maddux or Pedro Martinez pitch in person. One of my greatest regrets…
Though watching Maddux on tv might be better, hard to notice control and nuance without TV and replay.

Kevin
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Kevin
2 years 6 months ago

As a little kid every night at 7:05 on TBS when he was pitching felt like going to the candy store. You never knew what amazing things you would find.

Dan Ugglas Forearm
Member
Dan Ugglas Forearm
2 years 6 months ago

Those were the days. I’d watch most of the game as a kid, usually fall asleep before it ended, and I’d ask my mom if we’d won the next morning. It was a shock if the answer was ever, “No.”

jim S.
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jim S.
2 years 6 months ago

I once remember reading that Maddux, who I believe is actually 5-11, could dunk as a high school basketball player. We tend to forget his tremendous athleticism.

Tim A
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Tim A
2 years 6 months ago

I was just thinking of a Tosh stan up where he goes off about a Brad Pitt David Beckham baby. I was just thinking what if you made a hybrid lab monster baby where you splice Maddux and RJ. A pitcher with Randy’s stuff, and Maddux’s smarts and control would put up stupid video game stats and break baseball.

Grandy Johndux
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Grandy Johndux
2 years 6 months ago

no hitters, that’s erryday.
strikeouts, that’s erry play.

IHateJoeBuck
Member
IHateJoeBuck
2 years 6 months ago

Ah yes, Baby Pitt-kham (pronounced Pitt-cum).

Who wouldn’t want to fuck that baby?

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 6 months ago

” I fully expect that he’ll be the best pitcher I ever see take the mound. ”

You mentioned this in the chat today that you have Maddux ahead of Clemens. I am genuinely curious as to why? Clemens has the better WAR by more than 25 wins in less career IP. He has the better ERA- (70 to 76), FIP- (70 to 78). His ERA and FIP are also better standing alone. It can’t be the PED stuff can it? After all were talking about the best we have seen and we all saw Clemens dominate. I’d really like to hear the rationale.

Maddux Fan
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Maddux Fan
2 years 6 months ago

Only one of them is reported to have injected his wife with PED’s.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 6 months ago

Yes, because that really changes how Clemens looked on the mound. I really doubt that Dave is falling into the PEDs trap because he has rejected it before. Combine that with no real statistical method to show Maddux was better and I’m confused.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

In my opinion. It’s because Maddux never had the down years that Clemens had. I also use the PED Argument because Clemens declined, then got tremendously better again. Just too fishy to me even if it’s probably mostly fueled by me being a braves fan (I have Maddux, smoltz, and glavine posters in my room all in a row)

ankle explosion hr celebration
Guest
ankle explosion hr celebration
2 years 6 months ago

perhaps he was referring to the distinction between “pitcher” and “thrower”? Clemens was much more of a thrower–he had a tremendous raw talent, and could simply throw a fastball so quickly that most hitters couldn’t catch up to it. Whereas, as described here, Maddux was incredible at choosing pitch choice and location to deceive hitters in a more ‘intellectual’ manner.

Also, steroids. Why is it the “PEDs trap”?

Pirates Hurdles
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Pirates Hurdles
2 years 6 months ago

Its a “PEDs Trap” because it is foolish to presume that we know who used what, when, and for how long. It is also foolish to think that current or past players have not used enhancing supplements.

Grandy Johndux
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Grandy Johndux
2 years 6 months ago

but for these two specific players, don’t we know pretty well who used and who didn’t? Or are you saying Maddux used, or Clemens didn’t?

Pirates Hurdles
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Pirates Hurdles
2 years 6 months ago

I’m saying it doesn’t matter when we are talking about which guy looked like the best SP you ever saw. Which is what Dave said.

RC
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RC
2 years 6 months ago

We’re pretty sure that Clemens used.

We don’t know that Maddux did, but there’s no reason to believe he didn’t. Both steroids and greenies were rampant in the sport (and greenies were more effective, and nobody worries about them)

jaysbluejays
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jaysbluejays
2 years 6 months ago

I saw Greg Maddux pitch in person on 1 occasion. It was in Cincinnati in September of 1998. It was a game with playoff implications for the Braves. I was on a baseball stadium tour of the midwest with my 13 year old son. Since we were visiting stadiums that I had never been in before and most likely would never be in again, we moved around to different sections of the stadiums, as much as we were allowed, to see as many perspectives from each stadium as possible. We started with good seats about 6 rows behind home plate. In watching from that vantage, I was shocked at how effortlessly Maddux threw and how hittable his pitches appeared. We moved to the first base side and I was still baffled that those pitches were not crushed by major league hitters. In the 4th inning we moved out to centerfield and from that vantage things looked entirely different. Not only was the pitch movement impressive, but the most telling thing to me was how far the hitters were missing on almost every pitch that was swung at. I had seen Maddux pitch tons of times on TV and yes he seemed very efficient and very much in control, but until I sat in the right observation point, I didn’t understand the means by which he dominated.

Matthew Cornwell
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

I saw him pitch once in person too. It was the Rick Ankiel game in the 2000 NLDS. Got ripped hard, but didn’t mind since the hometeam won the game.

Matt
Guest
Matt
2 years 6 months ago

I love how TBS always needed backup programming ready when Maddux started because the games were over so quickly. The guy would routinely throw a CG in under 2 hours, throwing about 90 pitches or so in the process.

bucs_lose_again
Guest
bucs_lose_again
2 years 6 months ago

I’ll never forget reading an article where the bullpen catcher for the Cubs was able to catch Maddux three times in a row…while blindfolded (the catcher). Amazing stuff.

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
2 years 6 months ago

People are vastly underrating his stuff as a pitcher. What made him unique was that he had stuff no other pitcher has ever really had. The change-up was brutal, the second-best I ever saw after Pedro’s change. Everyone knows about his incredible cutter, he could do anything he wanted with that reverse sinker.

NEPP
Guest
NEPP
2 years 6 months ago

There’s something very special about watching a guy who has really mastered the art of pitching do his thing. Maddux in the 2nd half of his career after he began sitting 85-86 mph was like that. So was Jamie Moyer (far less overall ability of course). I personally find that just as fun as watching a fireballer strikeout the side with 98 mph fastballs.

Maddux could probably tell you the hitting tendencies of a opposing team’s A Ball players given the amount of research and work he put into his craft.

Josh
Guest
Josh
2 years 6 months ago

Slightly off topic, that reminds me of watching the Opening Day game in Japan from 2010, A’s vs. Red Sox. I remember seeing Rich Harden make David Ortiz look just stupid with this inside breaking ball. Seeing pitchers do that, use breaking ball and off-speed stuff to humiliate and dominate hitters, is so much more enjoyable than just watching a guy blow it past the batter. That’s why Maddux is probably my favorite pitcher ever and why I still love guys like Mark Buehrle and Kenny Rogers.

Chicago Mark
Guest
Chicago Mark
2 years 6 months ago

Excellent Dave. Thanks.
Signed,
A still angry Cub fan.

Hurtlockertwo
Guest
Hurtlockertwo
2 years 6 months ago

I’m surprised that velocity seems to be the measure of pitching greatness these days? Control and pitching “intelligence” made Greg Maddux one of the all time greats without the big velocity.

Hathorian
Guest
Hathorian
2 years 6 months ago

Maddux pounded the strikezone. Lol. He was never close to the plate but umps always gave him the calls.

Roy J
Guest
Roy J
2 years 6 months ago

As someone who watched Greg Maddux for most of his career, you’re simplifying a great pitcher’s ability. Greg Maddux didn’t just get calls off the plate. It’s a bit more complex than that.

Maddux would pound the corners early on in the game and then very slowly make his way outward off the plate. All of his pitches looked like it was hitting the same spot it’s been all game because he’d only move his pitches in small doses. It was an illusion really to take advantage of the umpire’s humanity. They could never tell that they were giving him calls 5-6 inches off the plate because it seemed like his pitches have hit the same spot the entire time. Call it cheating or whatever, but what’s the first rule of magic? Always be the smartest guy in the room…

A different Mike
Guest
A different Mike
2 years 6 months ago

“I fully expect that he’ll be the best pitcher I ever see take the mound.”

I have to give that honor to Pedro Martinez. Maddux was fun to watch, Pedro was the stuff of nightmares for opposing batters.

Hathorian
Guest
Hathorian
2 years 6 months ago

Pedro is the most dominant pitcher I have ever seen.

BDF
Guest
2 years 6 months ago

My favorite Maddux moments came toward the end of those patented 79-pitch shutout when the hitters–professional baseball players–would start getting frustrated and yelling at themselves, or possibly at God, on the way back to the dugout after grounding out weakly again or taking another called third strike. Like children. His level was such that he frequently reduced the best in the world into not only performing but behaving like little leaguers.

Hathorian
Guest
Hathorian
2 years 6 months ago

or maybe they were yelling at the umpire for not following the rules in calling the strike zone.

RC
Guest
RC
2 years 6 months ago

I think Maddux was fantastic, but I if you had robot umpires, he’d be more negatively affected than any other pitcher in history.

Widest strike zone I have ever seen, by far.

Jack
Guest
Jack
1 year 11 months ago

One of the most impressive stats about Maddux is his 17 straight seasons with 15+ wins. Its unbelievable… 18 seasons total for his career.

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