#2: Greg Maddux

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Greg Maddux.jpgRighthanded Pitcher
Seasons With Braves: 1993-2003
Stats With Braves: 194-88, 2.63 ERA

One way to appreciate the greatness of Greg Maddux is to look at how he was able to make other great pitchers, like Glavine and Smoltz, seem ordinary by comparison. Another is how he was so great in 1992-1995 that he too seemed ordinary afterwards, so that he could be the best pitcher in the league and yet people would ask, “What’s Wrong With Maddux?” if he gave up six runs over two starts.

Maddux was the Cubs’ second-round pick in the 1984 draft, which means he was pretty high up there, 31st overall, which would make him a sandwich pick today. He was taken 16 picks ahead of Tom Glavine, who was born three weeks earlier in 1966, 19 picks ahead of Al Leiter. [Joke omitted for taste.] Scouts are not, actually, stupid in the aggregate. Maddux maybe didn’t throw 90 unless he had a tailwind, but the scouts understood that he could get people out. I remember reading, in a Barnes & Noble, a book containing amateur scouting reports on future stars, and the report on Maddux was generally a rave.

Maddux rushed through the system, debuting with the Cubs at 20 and up for good at 21. At which time he was a fairly awful pitcher and went 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA. Having got that out of his system, he began a run of sixteen straight seasons with 15 or more wins. In 1992, he won the Cy Young Award, which helps a lot when you’re entering free agency. The Braves didn’t really need Maddux, but signed him anyway.

In 1993, Maddux won the Cy Young again, going 20-10 with a 2.36 ERA. Oddly, this was the only time he would win 20 games in a Braves uniform. It didn’t help that his two finest seasons were in strike years.

First, 1994, in which Maddux carried the Braves throughout as most of the rest of the team fell into slumps, going 16-6 with a 1.56 ERA and winning the Cy Young for the third straight year. He made it four in 1995, and his 1995 season was as dominant as anyone’s ever had. Leaving aside 19-2 and a 1.63 ERA. Maddux threw 209 2/3 innings, leading the league for the fifth straight season. He was third in strikeouts, threw ten complete games (nobody else had more than seven), had 7.87 strikeouts per walk (second best was 4.73), won his usual Gold Glove, was the unanimous Cy Young winner for the second straight season, and should have been the MVP.

Nobody could keep that up, and Maddux was merely great in the next few seasons. He stopped throwing more innings than anyone else, and was usually just among the leaders, and started having some minor injuries that limited him. From 1996-1998 he was just as good as he’d been in 1991-1993, and on average was still the best pitcher in the league. Another example of how great Maddux was for the Braves is that in 1999, when he went 19-9 with a 3.57 ERA (in a 4.34 ERA context) this was a terrible year for him. He bounced back after that, with two more standard Maddux years.

Another example of how good Maddux was is that in 2002, he put up a 2.62 ERA for second in the league, and nobody noticed and he didn’t get a single Cy Young vote. The standards were just so high for him that it seemed kind of a disappointment that he had only 16 wins. After that season, he accepted arbitration, thereby outraging an increasingly tetchy John Schuerholz, and didn’t pitch particularly well in 2003 — though he was still above-average. He left as a free agent and has been a little above-average in Chicago and LA. I wouldn’t mind the Braves bringing him back.

Maddux’s most-similar pitcher through Age 40 or overall is Tom Seaver. The top eight through age 40 are all in the Hall; the next two are Clemens and Glavine, who obviously will be… Not thought of as a strikeout pitcher, but in the early nineties finished as high as second, and finished third four straight times. He’s twelfth all-time in strikeouts, just ahead of Bob Gibson. Three years younger than Clemens, who has 15 more wins; if Clemens retires after this season will probably wind up with the most wins by a righthander since 1920.

The Javy thing… Well, he and Javy Lopez didn’t get along. My guess is that Maddux, who always thinks he knows best (generally because he does) and prefers a catcher he can bully. Maybe not, I don’t know. Anyway, it didn’t really cost the Braves as a team anything, because Lopez would have sat out about as much time anyway. It probably cost Maddux several wins and maybe an additional Cy Young in 1998, when he outpitched Glavine but had three fewer wins to show for it… Maddux is slightly overrated as a hitter. Interestingly, his most-similar hitter through Age 40 is Phil Niekro.

Greg Maddux Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

80 thoughts on “#2: Greg Maddux”

  1. Gun to my head? My favorite Brave.

    And Mac, you’re right about Maddux as MVP in 1995–that’s one of my favorite conversations. He was as perfect as a starting pitcher could be that year. Larkin had a very good year, but c’mon—Maddux was otherworldly. He was so good that nobody noticed.

    Of course, I noticed. There was almost nothing that could keep me from watching his starts during that period. He absolutely toyed with the opposition.

    It’s been said many times about Maddux, but if you watched him enough, you could swear that he was psychic, a mentalist, clairvoyant, beyond this world, however you wanna describe it. It was like he could simply read the hitters’ minds & throw exactly what they didn’t expect him to throw. Have you ever seen as many 3-pitch strikeouts where the hitter took a 88-MPH fastball right down Peachtree for Strike 3? Neither have I, but Maddux did it all the time. He was uncanny.

    And his games were fast, fast, fast. I remember going to opening weekend at Turner Field in 1997. Saturday night’s game was suspended by rain & they played the remaining few innings on Sunday with the Maddux start to follow. I had a 4:30 flight back to NYC & figured I’d catch half the Maddux game before I’d have to walk outside & catch a taxi to Hartsfield.

    Wrong. I saw the remainder of the suspended game & the Maddux game, too, which lasted about 1:45 (a shutout). I made the flight with time to spare.

  2. I can remember Maddux used to refer to “getting an at bat over with”. The hitters, he understood, never really had a chance. Maddux possesses a great memory: I was used to hearing that if hitter got a hit off Maddux they never “saw the same pitch again.” When he was at his peak, his pitching was as rapid as it was seamless.

    I wonder where the signing of Maddux stands in the history of free agent signings–certainly one of the best ever. And, yes, “the Braves didn’t really need Maddux”…Great stuff…

  3. I love the Mad Dog, he completely spoiled me, he was so fun to watch, and I can’t stand watching other pitchers with no control. Yes, he made Glavine and Smoltz completely ordinary, and he made it looked so easy as well. I can’t say enough about Maddux except that I may not see another pitcher as good as Greg in my lifetime again.

    The only thing I hate about Maddux is his agent.

  4. Because he came here as a free agent, I always thought of him as a hired gun, even after 10 years. First, he was so good, he was almost like the ringer that shows up after the teams have been picked fair-and-square. Second, his approach seemed so cerebral and focused that I imagined it wouldn’t even occur to him to care what team he pitched for.

    I’d love to see him pass Clemens on the wins list. Maddux and Pedro, when they were on, are the best I’ve ever seen. It was almost literally not possible to be any better.

  5. Isn’t Maddux a free agent this year? I remember reading many times that it was his advise and counseling to guys like John Burkett that turned their careers around. We know that Tom Glavine wouldn’t do the hometown discount. I have always wondered if Maddux would have.

  6. Maddux was so good he could pitch shutouts even when he was off.I remember a game that he gave up a bunch of hits and even some walks, struggled every inning–and won 1-0. The most amazing game I ever saw. I saw Clemens pitch a game like that once, but he won 9-0. IN 94-95, I bet he didn’t have more than two or three bad games (and, of course, that’s a relative term) total.

    And I agree about him being MVP in 1995. The thing about a truly dominant pitcher, like Maddux or Pedro or Clemens is that they don’t just affect the game they pitch, they affect the whole series because the other team knows they aren’t going to win the game he pitches so it puts more pressure on them in the other games. Knowing you are going to have to face a guy like that can put a team behind the eight ball right away. I’m convinced that if Maddux had had better run support (maybe if Javy had played), he would have had five or six more 20 win seasons.

  7. I think he didn’t like how Javy didn’t get the ball back to him quck enough.

    Don’t forget, “Chicks dig the long ball.”

  8. What an amazingly great, amazingly consistent pitcher. By making it look so easy, he was easy to overlook even though he is one of the half-dozen or so best pitchers since WWII. He’ll be the one I tell my grandkids about and was the one I made sure my children watched.

    Its picking at nits, but I’ve never felt that he deserved all those gold gloves. Don’t get me wrong: he still fields batted and bunted balls incredibly well. But he paid absolutely zero attention to base runners and allowed steals far more frequently than most pitchers. I think pickoff moves and holding runners on is part of the fielding of a pitcher which should be included in gold glove discussions.

    (And for what its worth, his absolute focus on the hitter, even at the risk of the steal, is, in my opinion, a good trade-off. I’ve seen too many pitchers fall apart when they try to develop a slide step — Steve Avery, I’m looking at you! — or shift focus away from the guy with the wood in his hands. I wouldn’t want to change the overall package, just acknowledge that the GG may be oversold.)

  9. Those were probably my favorite sports commercials of all time.

    Maddux was a god. It’s as simple as that. His pead was almost as good (hell, arguably better!) as Pedro’s, and he did it for many more years. Clemens currently has a better ERA+, but that’s mostly because he pitched two outrageously good years after turning 40. (By ERA+, they were his best and third best years overall, pitched at age 42 and 43 respectively. Read into that what you will.) Arguably the best pitcher of his time, and the best of that was spent with the Braves. You want to talk about spoiled fans, two consecutive years with ERAs under 2.00? Yeah, we were a bit spoiled. :-)

  10. Seibu Accepts Matsuzaka Bid

    According to this article from Yahoo Japan, the Seibu Lions have accepted the bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka and an announcement of the winning team will come Tuesday evening. $42

  11. SOMEBODY PLEASE MAKE UP SOME JUICY BRAVES TRADE RUMORS! How long is it until pitchers and catchers report?

  12. Good point, Bill. I think Smitty’s barber told me something along the following lines:

    CLE: Saltalamacchia, H. Ramirez, C. James
    NYY: V. Martinez, Foulke
    ATL: Abreu, Matsuzaka
    BOS: Lerew, Peralta

  13. Simplified version of AAR’s trade

    Atl : Coffey and Freel
    Cin: Giles and Langy

    Atl: Linebrink
    SD: Giles

    Atl: Peavy
    SD: Giles, Horam, Lerew

    dont know why the Reds would want Giles, since Phillips was a good pickup for them. They are in all the rumors though

  14. dont know why the Reds would want Giles, since Phillips was a good pickup for them.

    Rumor has it they want to move Phillips to short.

  15. One GM with interest in free-agent outfielder Dave Roberts anticipates that the Brewers will make a strong push to sign Roberts to bat leadoff and play center field.

    By signing Roberts or free-agent center fielder Juan Pierre, the Brewers further would increase their outfield depth, raising the possibility that Geoff Jenkins and/or Kevin Mench could be traded. Roberts, however, is in heavy demand; the Mets, Braves, Dodgers and White Sox are among the other teams interested

  16. Its picking at nits, but I’ve never felt that he deserved all those gold gloves.

    Yeah, no kidding. In 1993 he made an incredible seven errors on the mound. The result? Gold Glove. In the last 12 seasons of Glavine’s Braves career he made a total of eight errors.

    I always viewed him as a hired gun as well. And a prima donna for the whole Javy thing and the way he would have a fit on the mound when he would get hit. Not one of my favorites but he was obviously a great pitcher.

  17. another Dave Roberts rumor…

    Atlanta GM John Schuerholz and his staff came to Naples with more modest goals. The Braves want to move Marcus Giles and upgrade the bullpen in front of Bob Wickman, and they’re looking for a leadoff hitter who can play left field or second base. Dave Roberts is one guy who might fit their needs. While Jones’ $13.5 million salary constitutes a significant chunk of Atlanta’s 2007 payroll, moving him isn’t part of the agenda.

    JS did say that the leadoff situation wasnt a priority, but I dont know if I like the Roberts in LF idea. Roberts, Renteria, Jones is an extremely old defense on the left side and top of the order. Too risky if you ask me. I see us moving Giles, Horam, and maybe a prospect or two. Ward will probably be our only FA signing

  18. Robert,

    You are a bit harsh with Maddux. He did stay in Atlanta for ten years–that’s not exactly a hired gun. As for being a prima donna, I don’t really know what you mean–he was clearly a perfectionist like a lot of great athletes.

    As for not holding on baserunners–who cares, not many guys got on base.

  19. As for not holding on baserunners–who cares, not many guys got on base.

    For his career, Maddux has allowed over 5300 runners to reach base. Even in his best (non-strike) years, he was allowing 275+ runners on base. Not holding them on obviously didn’t keep him from being a great PITCHER, but in my opinion, it does keep him from being a great DEFENDER. To me, it would be like giving the gold glove to Mike Piazza, an incredibly great hitter who blocked the plate well and allowed few wild pitches / passed balls, but couldn’t throw out Auntie Em.

  20. Good observation about the errors. But I think the key lies in his Put outs and Assist numbers. He simply gave himself plenty more opportunities by snagging more of those rockets up the middle than most pitchers can.

  21. It seems that Schuerholz wants to trade Giles for Linebrink, acquire a left-handed relief pitcher (I guess McBride isn’t enough) and work on the pitching staff (don’t know how.) Leadoff, he says, isn’t important. So it appears Schuerholz is on the right track, worrying about pitching and not the already powerful offense.

  22. I don’t care how bad Maddux was at holding on runners. He played the field at a level higher than pretty much anyone else. He snagged soooo many comebackers over the course of his career…. It’s just nuts.

  23. Also, it’s stunning how many rumors there are out there about Dave Roberts. Isn’t he like 35 or something? A .700 OPS from an OF isn’t really that tough to come by, is it?

  24. Also, Maddux is fourth among active pitchers in career WHIP. If he allowed over 5300 runners on base then I would love to see those numbers for an average pitcher.

    However, you are correct. Holding runners clearly was one of maddux’s biggest weaknesses. But in the end I don’t think it matters too incredibly much, He’s still one of the best and a clear HOFer.

  25. Greg Maddux fielded his position well. Whether he deserved all the awards is moot. After a time, perception becomes reality.

    Remember Rafael Palmeiro won the Gold Glove at first during a year he primarily wasa designated hitter. Official voters are as prone as the rest of us to falling into habits, and a habit is a good way to avoid headaches caused by thinking.

    What are the chances of Salty plus Davies for Crawford? Left field would be neither a defensive nor offensive liability, and our fly ball pitchers would have a stellar outfield behind them.

  26. Maddux has amazing reflexes and he definitely deserved many of his Gold Gloves, but I also agree that many Gold Gloves are won on reputation, which is kinda why I don’t always take them that seriously.

    Case in point: Derek Jeter. He eats up just about everything he gets to, but his range is limited, near the bottom of his league. Would you rather have a guy who gets to 60 more balls and makes 15 more errors? Or the guy who snags everything, but can’t make a play in the hole? I know who I’d rather have.

  27. I still want to see us try and trade Hudson. He’s an expensive 4th or 5th starter these days. I dont buy the fact that a different workout caused that much of a decline. Injuries maybe, but not a workout. Let’s just see if someone else can take him.

    Mets resigned El-Duque for 2yrs $6 mil –

    #24 – they only want pitching prospects for Crawford and I dont think we have the prospects they are looking for. Dont see it happening, but it would be nice.

  28. Devil Rays aren’t going to trade Carl Crawford, and even if they did, it would take three top-tier pitching prospects, which the Braves do not have.

  29. With his back-loaded contract, Hudson will be hard to move unless he were packaged with Andruw and shipped to Boston for Andruw’s usual trade suspects plus Beckett. I would rather have Andruw.

    Maybe the Yankees have someone they’re willing to swap for Hudson that JS would find acceptable. Still, I was excited when we first got Hudson and later when we signed him to a long tern contract. I’d hate to pack him off and have him turn into the Hudson of old again.

  30. I would rather him turn into the old Hudson elsewhere and us have more salary room, than him stay here and still suck it up. I really, really like Tim and hope he can turn it around though. We’ll be fine if he can get back to a 15 game winner and a sub 3.75-4 era

  31. @32 I agree. Dave Roberts? WTF? I read somewhere (Foxsports?)that there is a lot of interest in a dang outfielder with a career line of .270 .344 .371 Of course thats his agent talking. He had a career year last year in SD but you are right he turns 35 next May.

    Carl Crawford career: .292 .326 .434 Last season a career high .348 OBP. I think that your in love his stolen base totals. He is batting average heavy. If he doesn’t get 185/190 hits he is pretty much useless. I mean he doesn’t suck but he isn’t all that great either. Now if he could play center field really good then these are terrific numbers. I am not sure why we would trade away our top catching/hitting prospect and a potentially useful arm for him.

    But you’re probably on track with what will happen. The Braves are NOT an organizaton that emphasizes statistical analysis to make player acquisition decisions. The old tradition is speed at the top of the lineup so thats what we’ll get as a throw in for what ever relief pitcher we acquire for Marcus.

    Of course Schuerholz has been saying that a lead off hitter isn’t a priority too so maybe there’s hope that he is concentrating on what the team really needs.

  32. Johnny, dont forget about Juan Pierre. Those rumors are out there also. Who in their right mind would want him and also give him a 3 or 4 year deal. Speed definitely isnt that important

  33. Cubs Close On DeRosa?
    According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Radio 1000, the Cubs are about to finalize a three-year contract with 2B/3B/RF Mark DeRosa.

    DeRosa could start at second base and also play right field when the Cubs face a southpaw.

  34. Smitty, I’m guessing his Father will be soon to follow. There comes a time to step down and its getting close

  35. DeRosa is a classic example of a guy having a big year at the perfect time and then getting overpaid. Happens all the time. DeRo is a nice utility player that had a nice year. My guess is if you give him a lot of money and increase expectations, he will suck as he did when the Braves put him in the starting lineup. More power to him if he can get the money though. Won’t be the first time the Cubs screwed up.

  36. Well Marc, I guess we’ll find out…

    The Chicago Cubs have reached an agreement on a three-year contract with DeRosa worth approximately $13 million, a team official familiar with the deal told ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney.

  37. I agree with you totally, Marc S., but I’m glad he’s finally getting his payday–I liked him when he was a Brave, even when he was booting balls and striking out every night while Chipper’s legs were rotting out in left field.

  38. Couple things:

    Calling Maddux a clear hall of famer is like calling Ted Williams a pretty good hitter: understatement, much? The guy is one of the ten best pitchers in the history of the game.

    Carl Crawford can play for my team any day. Too bad the D-Rays won’t trade him.

    Huddy ain’t going anywhere thanks to the contract we gave him, so we better hope he figures out what he’s been doing wrong.

  39. We do have one or two pitchers that TB would want…the only problem is…it’s Chuckie or Davies…

    If we could get Crawford for Davies and Langy I would do it.

  40. It would probably take James, Davies, Horam, and Salty to get Crawford and we dont have the SP depth to try and get more offense right now. We have to get pitching first and foremost

  41. Carl is a good player, BUT he is going to be a free agent soon and he WILL ask for a buttload of money. I don’t think Davis nor Lerew would be worth it.

    PD: Why is my last message missing?

  42. We don’t need Crawford and we don’t need SP’s. What we need is…(drumroll) a better BULLPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Am I a big Maddux fan? For ten years, my family, both near and far, kept track of his starts because they couldn’t plan anything on those days!
    Remember the backdoor sliders? Remember him glaring after plunking Eddie Murray during the ’96 Series? Remember when he allowed 20 walks FOR THE SEASON?
    When I met him at Spring Training 2000, I tried desperately not to be the sweaty fat f**k fan that players hate. So I asked him if he’d noticed any big change after Lasik eye surgery. “Added twenty yards to my drive,” he answered.
    “Really,” I asked.
    “Looks like 20 to me,” he said smiling.

  44. I have a conspiracy theory: Maybe the Padres said that Peavy was available so that they could trade him for Andruw and Giles.

  45. Pedro,

    We do need Carl Crawford for many reasons!!!

    1. Langerhans/Diaz aren’t cutting it. Langy is good for defense, Diaz is good for offense. Crawford can do both, better.

    2. Speed. Crawford is one of the fastest players in baseball. Lets face it, we can’t steal bases for shit. It would help so much to have a player on base that pitchers have to actually worry about.

    3. Proven Lead-off hitter. We don’t have anyone that can hit leadoff, guess what…..Crawford can.

    I understand your point that we need bullpen help. And I agree with you 100% on that. But in all likely hood, were going to send Giles for Linebrink. I know alot of people are worried about him, I don’t understand that either. Even if he is mediocre it’s still better than Yates/Ray/Sosa etc. I say offer Kyle Davies, Langy and/or Lerew or something for Crawford.

  46. Those were some nice arguments, but I’m one of those people who think that trading for Linebrink isn’t a good idea. I mean Petco was a very BIG stadium, also Linebrink can’t set-up and close all the games. Those were some nice points, though.

  47. There’s a higher chance that Emmit Smith wins the Dancing with the stars trophy than the Braves getting Crawford or Peavy.

  48. One nickname that Greg never got was “Mr october”. I called Greg “Mr April to Sept” maddux

  49. For some “unknown” reason Maddux is hated in Puerto Rico. I don’t know why they hate him. Does anyone know???

  50. One nickname that Greg never got was “Mr october”. I called Greg “Mr April to Sept” maddux

    Yeah, that lifetime ERA of 2.81 for the Braves in post-season sure was teh suck!

    did this fix the italics?

  51. @63 We were number 2 in the NL with our lousy lead off guy , Marcus Giles. Last season Giles had a .341 OBP in his worst year. That is the stat that you need to concentrate on. Stolen bases barely matter. We couldn’t steal last year and the only team that scored more runs than us were the Phils and they play in a little league playground. Pitching Pitching Pitching. If it is going to be Giles straight up for Linebrink so be it but statistical patterns say we are in for a disappointment. Heavily worked, turning 30, decline second half last season. It all adds up to Chris Rietsma.

    Man this free agent season is going to be insane. Mark DeRosa a guy that should be in the majors but making 600000 as a reserve is going to be making 4 mil plus a year off of one good season. The Cubs obviously don’t take into account park effects. It could still work out becuase Wrigley ain’t exactly a pitchers park but Ameriquest I think was the best hitters park in the AL last season.

  52. Thanks badamon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Now,Johnny I don’t know what else to add to that excellente comparison. But remember that the Cubs is the only franchise to not wanting the World series.

  53. For some “unknown” reason Maddux is hated in Puerto Rico. I don’t know why they hate him. Does anyone know???

    This is the first time I’ve heard that, pedro. If it’s true, I can only assume it’s because he didn’t want Javy Lopez, who is Puerto Rican, catching him.

  54. What to say about Maddux? Spoiled us rotten. The pitching triumph of brain over brawn.

    My favorite stat about Maddux is not his 10 CGs in 1995, but his innings pitched in 1994. In a very short strike year he managed 200+ innings, averaging 8 innings a start. Think about that. If you asked most long-time baseball fans when was the last time a pitcher averaged 8 innings a start in a season they’d probably go back to the 60s for their guess. He had 10 CGs in his 25 games started.

    Most painfully amusing maddux moment – when he went 50-some innings without giving up a walk, and then ended the streak with a walk to Joey freaking Hamilton – a pitcher!

  55. The D.O.B. article lists Craig Counsell as a possible option. This doesn’t thrill me. However, someone mentioned in a previous thread that the Mets ballpark is being renamed and wondered if a Braves player would name his kid “Citi” since Chipper named his son Shea. You’ve got to admit, Citi Counsell would be a cool name. Sorry guys, I couldn’t resist.

  56. Mac, you disappointed me! I was hoping Mad Dog to go #1.
    Absolutely my favourite pitcher..

    Seriously, given the FA market, Hudson performing even at current level is NOT overpaid. And if the Pads are stupid enough to put Peavy on the market, I sure hope we go for it. Will Andruw/Giles/HoRam get it done?
    Anyone else in the camp for giving Reitsma another try? As set up man now..

  57. The new D-Backs uni is another new low. Looks like a cross between the Nationals & the Blue Jays or something. Dumb. Stupid. Bad. It’ll probably sell.

  58. Agreed Ububba….

    If you click on the launch party video, you’ll see Eric Byrnes stumble on the cat walk and then try and play it of by jogging the rest of the way. Kinda humerous.

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