Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 26, 2005
BASEBALL: Automatic

At his peak, from August 1993 through the end of 1995 (about two full seasons), Greg Maddux was one of just three pitchers with an ERA below 3.20: Jose Rijo at 3.00, Randy Johnson at 2.74, and Maddux at 1.57. On the road during that period - when the Braves still played in The Launching Pad - Maddux was 28-2 with a 1.23 ERA.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

In many ways, Maddux is under-rated. I don't know why this is; maybe because he did not strike out 300 hitters a year like Clemens, Pedro, Randy, et al. If he played in NY, they'd have a monument for him in the outfield. He may be an all-time "top tenner."

Posted by: Steve at May 26, 2005 9:14 AM

I remember going to watch Maddux pitch during those days with a buddy and fellow fantasy baseball participant and the Braves won the game while Maddux went seven innings and gave up one earned run.

My buddy, who owned Maddux at the time, said "good game, but his ERA went up". It was June.

Posted by: RW at May 26, 2005 12:50 PM

Greg Maddux is the Christy Mathewson of his generation--but Roger Clemens is the Walter Johnson of that same generation. While Maddux reached an astonishing peak of performance, you have to give Clemens the nod as *the* greatest pitcher of the last twenty years. Both will be first-ballot Hall of Famers, and they both richly deserve the honor.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at May 26, 2005 3:29 PM

Scott, I happen to think that Clemens could be one of the top 5 pitchers of all time. Now, before I get slammed up against the wall, I'm factoring in things like Cy Young pitching during a different era (like, when the league's home-run hitter had 9) and folks like Walter Johnson never pitching to a black man (think Josh Gibson would've changed some pitchers' stats?). At the same time, I'm not going to slap away what the old guys did in one swoop, for they traveled by train & played mostly day games and didn't have today's knowledge about physics, supplements and fitness.

All that said, looking at what Clemens has done over his career - all of it except for the last 1.3 seasons going up against mammoth designated hitters instead of having an easy out as the #9 hitter, is remarkable. Plus, I'm in Georgia and have liked the guy since he was a rook, so I don't have the NY/BOS connection of hating him (like so many do).

In a nutshell, I'd go back further than 20 years. Koufax was phenomenal for those six years, but Clemens has been on top (with a few blips in Boston) for going on 20. He is and has been what most "experts" always imagined Nolan Ryan could have been.

We may never see another like him (although that Prior guy looks pretty impressive).

Posted by: RW at May 26, 2005 10:04 PM

I think I'd still rate Clemens behind Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove and, in all likelihood, Satchel Paige. Other than that, even someone like Young or Grover Alexander vs. Clemens is a tough call; if you put aside Paige on grounds of uncertainty, Clemens may rate as high as #3. Maddux is at the next step down, ahead of Seaver, who I regard as the best pitcher between Grove and Clemens, and probably not behind too many others.

Posted by: The Crank at May 26, 2005 10:09 PM

Scott, I happen to think that Clemens could be one of the top 5 pitchers of all time.

At this point--if we're talking career value--I'd say you could leave out the "could be." Peak value is a tad dicier, as you have to factor in guys like Koufax and Randy Johnson--and Alexander and Mathewson were awesome at their peaks. Leaving out Paige, my top ten would go:

1) The Big Train
2) Lefty Grove
3) The Rocket
4) Big Six
5) Cy Young
6) Ol' Pete
7) Warren Spahn
8) Greg Maddux
9) Tom Seaver
10) Steve Carlton

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at May 27, 2005 3:24 PM

This reminds me that I should at some point revisit my historical pitcher rankings, which I poured great effort into in the winter of 2000-01, but never published except for a few Hall of Fame columns. Clemens and Maddux ranked pretty high even then. Basically, when you look carefully at the numbers, you see that Mathewson and Spahn have been somewhat overrated because Mathewson benefitted from huge run support, and Spahn had both very good run support and favorable ballparks. I definitely came to the conclusion that Alexander and Young were better than Mathewson, and Maddux and Seaver were better than Spahn. (We also need to start talking about Randy Johnson in this conversation).

We'll have time to mull this all over, though. After Clemens, Maddux, Johnson and Pedro are gone, it's real hard to see any active pitcher who could wind up being worth discussing among the all time elite.

Posted by: The Crank at May 27, 2005 4:02 PM
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