Monday, July 16, 2012

Favorite Braves List - Ace

(Previous information about this list can be found here.)

Favorite Braves List (so far)
CA - Brian McCann
1B - Fred McGriff

To keep this list from dragging on from position-to-position, from now on, there will be a pitcher added to the team followed by a position player.  And unlike position players, there are no honorable mentions for most of the pitchers.  After all, while they may not be the ace of the starting staff, they could still make the team elsewhere.  Adam LaRoche has only one shot to make the team. 

Favorite Braves List - Ace
Greg Maddux

There are so few players that are more fun to use when playing the game "Fun With Numbers" than Greg Maddux.  For instance, Maddux recorded 546 putouts as a pitcher.  That's the best in history, but what is far more amazing than just being the best is the difference between first and second place (Kevin Brown in this instance).  Brown recorded 158 fewer putouts.  Jaime Moyer is considered the active leader at 279 and Moyer has pitched for 72 years.  Tim Hudson is second on the active list with 226, or 65th all-time.

I mean, in the sheer volume of amazing statistics that Maddux amassed in his illustrious career, putouts as a pitcher is hardly the most exciting, but it's still fun.  For me.  But, I am a dork. 

While Tom Glavine was the franchise's pick and John Smoltz left everything on the field, Maddux took the ball every fifth day (33-36 starts in every non-strike-shortened season) and performed often at heights few in this game have ever reached.  As a Brave, he took home fis final three Cy Youngs of his four straight award-winning seasons.  Twice, Maddux finished in the top five in MVP voting.  He did so without the aid of a mid-90's fastball, the world's best changeup, an unhittable splitter, or even an Eephus pitch.  Instead, Maddux employed sound mechanics, fearless resolve, and out-thought even the most astute hitters.  Well, aside from Tony Gwynn.

When people like to cite win-loss records for pitchers, I tend to think of Maddux.  From 1992 to 1998, Maddux finished with a FIP of 2.85 or lower.  He finished 1996 with a 15-11 record, but a 2.73 FIP.  That same team helped John Smoltz to his Cy Young-award winning season of 24 victories and finished fourth in runs scored for the season.  However, I guess it hurts that in 16 of his 35 starts, Atlanta scored three or less runs.  Maddux even lost two of his five complete game efforts. 

The even crazier thing is Javy Lopez caught 17 more innings than Eddie Perez for him that year.  Win-loss records are fucking stupid.

Mad Dog played for three other teams, but pitched over 500 innings more with the Braves than he did with the Cubs and had his best years with Atlanta as part of the Big Three.  Probably the biggest free agent acquisition of the franchise's history (yes, that includes some lady named Ruth), Maddux arrived in 1993 and simply posted the third best WAR of his career.  His two best seasons had yet to be played.

A strike-shortened 1994 robbed Maddux of seeing where his 1.559 ERA would ultimately rank over a full season, but since the dead-ball era, only Bob Gibson (1.123 in 1968) and Dwight Gooden (1.529 in 1985) have posted better ERAs than Maddux did in 1994. 

Since 1994, the closest anyone has come to Maddux is...well, Gregory Alan Maddux in 1995 with a 1.631 ERA.  Maddux posted his first of two 8 WAR seasons with an even 8.0 WAR while posting a 0.99 BB/9.  That's asinine.  It would be even more astounding if Maddux didn't better that number two years later.  His 0.81 WHIP in 1995 was sixth all time.  Better than Christy Mathewson ever did.  Better than Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Cy Young, Mordecai Brown, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and even better than Old Hoss Radbourn.  Thank God I could reference that name!  When Maddux completed his 1995 season, that WHIP actually stood fifth all-time, but Pedro Martinez's historically awesome 2000 season was better and pushed him down a notch.  In fact, Martinez owns the single season record in WHIP with 0.74. 

After his absolutely crappy 1996 season with just a measly 15-11 record (and 7.8 WAR), Maddux posted his single-season best of 8.2 WAR in 1997.  Included was a ridiculous walk rate of 0.77 BB/9.  To put that in terms of holy shit, Maddux walked 20 batters in 232.2 innings pitched.  Oh, and six were intentional. 

After a 7.6 WAR follow-up season in 1998, his production level tapered off a little to merely damn good. For the first time since 1988-1991, he posted four consecutive seasons with a FIP over three (the nerve) and the Braves, with the added pressure of financial troubles, decided to let Maddux go after a 36-start 2003 season in which Maddux turned 37.  He returned to Chicago and for five seasons, continued to take the ball whenever asked and at 42, while admittedly pitching in some friendly parks in Los Angeles and San Diego, Maddux turned in a 4.09 FIP and a 1.21 WHIP.  You have to be insanely good in your career to end your career with that much of a "down season."  From 1988 to 2008, his final season, his innings pitch LOW was 194 innings.

But Livan Hernandez is durable.  Maddux was extraordinary at his best and above average at his worst.  While a Brave, he was simply awesome.  In 363 starts, a shade over 2500 innings, and nearly 200 victories, Maddux put up a 2.63 ERA.  Only the dead-ball pitchers in franchise history were ahead of him when he left the Braves.  His WHIP as a Brave?  1.05...franchise best for anyone over a thousand innings. 

And I don't want to hear a thing about how he was small come October.  First, I hate the sample size issues with the playoffs, but regardless, he did post a 3.27 ERA in almost 200 innings in the playoffs, the lion-share coming with the Braves.  He recorded some notable stinkers along the way, but competition is pretty stiff in the playoffs.  To put it simply, the Braves have only one World Championship to show for their Streak, but the fault isn't on Maddux. 

To sum up, the Professor was an easy choice to be the ace of this four man rotation that will lead the Walk-Off Walk Braves. 

2 comments:

  1. Maddux.....sometimes it seemed like he got bored and toyed with hitters out there

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  2. I loved the stories about how every pitch by Maddux seemed to have a purpose. Sometimes, that pitch was the for the at-bat later in the game, but otherwise, for the next time the two teams played.

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