Over the past 20 years there have been dozens of pitchers that have challenged the best hitters in the game. They pushed the best teams to their limits and challenged some of the greatest records the game has to offer.
Pitchers like Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, and John Smoltz have lead the way. Through all the controversy there has been one pitcher who has truly weathered the storm. He has played the game with all the class in the world while bolstering one of the greatest resumes one could ever hope for. That player is #31, Greg Maddux.
On Friday Maddux will have his number retired by the Atlanta Braves. This is after he has had his number retired by the Chicago Cubs earlier this season. Here’s a look back on arguably the greatest pitcher in the last 50 years.
Greg Maddux began his career as a lanky pitcher for the Chicago Cubs in 1986 at the age of 20. Maddux would spend the next 7 season in Chicago, winning at least 15 games 5 times and at least 18 games 3 times. Despite having an excellent resume Maddux’s career was just about to take off. Maddux would then sign with the Atlanta Braves and begin a streak of dominance that has yet to be contested.
Maddux would spend the next 11 seasons with the Braves and would collect 3 of his 4 Cy Young Awards while accumulating 194 wins. Maddux’s best season came in 1995, where he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He would throw 10 complete games to go with 3 shutouts on his way to his 4th and final Cy Young Award and only World Series victory.
Maddux is an 8-time All-Star and an 18-time Gold Glove winner. Maddux was able to redefine the position from a defensive standpoint on his way to cementing himself as the great defensive pitcher of all time.
Maddux lead the league in wins 3 times (1992, 1994, 1995) and in ERA 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998). He lead the league in WHIP 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998) as well as walks per 9 innings pitched 9 times (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008). Maddux’s durability further proves why he is one of the greatest. In a stretch from 1990-1996 Maddux finished no worse than 2nd in the National League in innings pitched. That streak included 4 years (1991-1995) in which he lead the NL in innings pitched with no fewer than 202.0 (1994).
When it comes to all-time statistics Maddux ranks 13th in innings pitched (5008.1), 8th in wins (355), 4th in games started (740), and 10th in strikeouts (3371). This goes without mentioning he has only walked 999 batters in his entire career.
Not only is Maddux one of the greatest on the field, he has been an amazing human being off the field. In 1993 Maddux formed The Maddux Foundation which has raised over $850,000 for other various charities.
There is no doubt that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and is one of the greatest pitchers to ever grace the field. A tip of the cap to a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person.
“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”– Warren Spahn
I think just about everyone who voted on this year’s All-Star teams has been frustrated in some way or another. Some guys got snubbed despite having a stellar season in favor of someone having a mediocre season but has that “reputation.”
As an Atlanta Braves fan my biggest issue is having Brian McCann make the team as a reserve and not a starter in favor of Yadier Molina. McCann is easily having the better season despite spending time on the DL and having horrible eye problems. Molina just happens to be the more popular player so he gets the nod even though he hasn’t been playing as well.
Another issue I have as a Braves fan is the fact that neither Rafael Soriano (1-1, 1.63 ERA, 8 saves) or Mike Gonzalez ( 3-1, 3.20 ERA, 9 saves) got voted in. I try to be as unbiased as possible but dammit at least one of those guys deserves to be in St. Louis. Instead of one of them Ted Lilly (8-6, 3.32 ERA) made the team. I obviously see that his record doesn’t tell the tale of his season but if you want to play that game then Jair Jurrjens (6-7, 2.91) deserves to be there.
Something that puzzles me is why does the National League have 4 first baseman? They have 4 first baseman while only carrying 2 shortstops and 2 third baseman. As for the first baseman I think Lance Berkman is having just as good a season as Ryan Howard. People talk about versatility, Berkman can play the corner outfield positions as well as first base. Did I mention he switch hits? Ryan Howard already as 95 strikeouts. Who wants to see a guy take an 0-2 with 2K in a freaking All-Star game? There are 4 first baseman while someone like Casey Blake is left off the team.
In the American League Dustin Pedroia who is having a solid season is starting over Aaron Hill while Brian Roberts didn’t even make the team. Everyone jumped on the Josh Hamilton band wagon and sent him there, the guy hasn’t even played. Hamilton himself said he didn’t deserve to be there. He made it instead of a guy like Juan Rivera, who is killing the ball this year.
What this all boils down to his the All-Star game is a popularity contest. The average fan knows the most popular players and that’s about it. The most popular players aren’t always the best ones. As long as the All-Star game actually “counts” the leagues need to be presenting the best team possible. Something interesting, the National League has 2 more teams than the American League which means they have to have a representative from 2 more teams.
If MLB wants this game to actually count then I want the players making the decisions. No one knows the players like the players so it’s only right. If they want the fans to get involved then make the game count for nothing or give them power over the reserves at most.
Over and out,
The art of the stolen base…
For what seems like a decade now the stolen base has been a lost part of the game. Teams relied on the more spectacular 3-run home run. Stealing bases was just too risky. If the runner makes it he is in scoring position and also eliminates the traditional double play. On the other hand, if the runner gets caught you have a wasted out. Teams didn’t want to take that chance.
This year it seems as though teams are bringing it back. More teams are running and it speeds up the game as well as makes it more exciting. This year 13 teams have at least 52 stolen bases. I think that is a pretty nice statistic. Teams are no longer sitting back and waiting for that home run. Teams are being more aggressive and I think it is great for the game.
Not only is stealing bases exciting, it is almost essential for a team’s success. Of the top 10 teams in stolen bases 8 of them have winning records. The two who aren’t quite up to par are the New York Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks. Of the bottom 10 teams in stolen bases only 5 teams have winning records. (The Chicago Cubs are only 40-39).
Stealing bases also leads to scoring more runs. Of the top 10 teams in stolen bases 7 of them are also in the top 10 in runs scored. (The Los Angeles Dodgers were 4th in stolen bases and 11th in runs scored).
Stealing bases also helps prevent the double play. Of the top 10 teams in stolen bases only 2 (Boston and the New York Mets) were also in the top 10 in double plays hit into. However 5 of those teams were in the bottom 10 in double plays hit into with no more than 55 (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) and as few as 48 (Arizona Diamondbacks).
Even just having one great base stealer on your team can greatly improve it. Of the top 10 leaders in stolen bases 7 of them are on winning teams. Even if that player doesn’t steal a base just his presence on the base paths can cause havoc for the pitcher. Not only does the pitcher have to concentrate on the batter he also has to keep that threat close. The stolen base is making a comeback and I freaking love it.