Year Inducted: 2014 (BBWAA, ballot #1, 555/571)
How great does a player have to be to have a stat named for him? Nolan Ryan threw seven no-hitters, but a no-hitter isn’t called a “Ryan”. Roger Clemens had two 20-strikeout games, but that occurrence isn’t called a “Clemens” either. And yet, rather colloquially, when a pitcher throws a complete game shutout with fewer than 100 pitches, he is credited with a “Maddux”. It’s named for when Atlanta Braves ace Greg Maddux threw such a gem against the Orioles in 1998, and one that he did 13 times in his illustrious career.
Along with a total of 13 Madduxes (Madduci?) in his career, Maddux carved out a resume that few could match during his career. While pitching in 23 years with the Braves, Cubs and other teams, Maddux developed a reputation as a control artist with so much movement on the ball that it was mystifying he could pinpoint it the way he did. In his 5008 innings, Maddux struck out 3371 batters against only 999 walks. Maddux walked less than 2 batters every 9 innings in his career, which is insane. Equally insane was his home run rate. Most pitchers that don’t walk batters get burned by the homer since they come right after hitters. Maddux, in the height of the steroid era, gave up 0.6 homers every 9 innings, inflated a lot due to a decline phase towards the end of his career. And he wasn’t a power pitcher, relying mostly on what was possibly the best changeup and two-seam fastball ever to baffle hitters with movement.
That pitching movement led Maddux to glory. He won 355 games, one more than anyone who pitched entirely after WWII (Clemens had 354). He had an ERA- of 76, an FIP- of 78, 122.8 RA9-WAR and 116.7 fWAR. Clemens probably holds the title of best pitcher of that era, but Maddux was pretty close. The only thing holding him back is a fairly long decline phase. The last six years of his career saw him put up an ERA above 4.00, a HR rate of 1.0 per 9 innings and a 3.97 FIP. Solid numbers, especially given the environment, but not nearly the dominance that he had displayed for the prior 17 seasons. Even with his decline accounted for, Maddux pitched better than practically everyone else on the planet for more than a decade.
And yet, with all of that said, Maddux didn’t receive a unanimous selection. 16 writers left Maddux off their ballots for whatever reason. This was the first year of a big outcry to reform the voting regulations, and to their credit the BBWAA has made great strides to improve balloting. It isn’t perfect yet, but it’s getting there.
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