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Greg Maddux: The Splash 11

In a traditional sense, Greg Maddux has all of the accolades of a GOAT contender. He cleared the 300-win and 3,000-strikeout marks as per usual, and he posted a career 3.16 ERA. However, the surface stats fail to scratch the surface of why Maddux was such a dominant pitcher in his prime.

Mad Dog Greg Maddux

Maddux made it his mission to keep the walks from piling up. After the 1994 MLB strike, Maddux simply stopped walking batters. Over his final 14 seasons, he led the National League in walks per nine nine times, posting 1.339 walks per nine. Since the introduction of the World Series in 1903, Maddux’s 1995-2008 walks per nine would be fifth behind four Dead Ball Era pitchers (among those with 1,000 innings pitched).

Chicks Dig the Long Ball

120 pitchers threw 1,000 innings between 1988 and 2000. 119 of them allowed a home run on average at least once every 18 innings. The remaining one? Greg Maddux. When baseball around him was shifting into the Steroid Era, Maddux took a “Nah, I don’t allow homers” approach to pitching. He led the NL in home runs per nine in 1992, 1994, 1995, and 1997.

Is Maddux the FIP God?

Fielding independent pitching, known as FIP, is a pitching metric that removes fielding from the ERA equation. It boils pitching down to the three true outcomes: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. It is adjusted so that the average FIP and the average ERA are the same.

Despite his 3,371 strikeouts, Maddux was merely a strikeout accumulator as he posted the fourth-fewest strikeouts per nine among those in the 3,000-strikeout club. In walks allowed and home runs allowed metrics, Maddux fares much better as he has the lowest walk rate of the 3,000-strikeout club, and only Walter Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and Bob Gibson allowed fewer home runs per nine.

The Maddux:

Greg Maddux’s legacy is likely strongest through one new-age stat: the Maddux. The goal of the Maddux is efficiency: complete a game allowing no runs while throwing fewer than 100 pitches. Maddux had 13 Madduxes, almost twice as many as the next most (Zane Smith with seven). In his career, Maddux had 31 starts that saw him pitch nine innings without going over 100 pitches. One key to reducing the pitch count is walking no one. Of Maddux’s 109 complete games, 39 came without a walk. Of his 35 career shutouts, 18 came without a walk. Between 1986 and 2008, only David Wells and Roger Clemens had half as many nine-inning starts with zero walks. Maddux had 42 such starts while Wells and Clemens had 23.

The Peak:

In 1994 and 1995, the baseball world lacked certainty. Over the two seasons, the only guarantee was that Greg Maddux was the best pitcher on the planet. In both seasons, he led the NL in WAR, wins, ERA, WHIP, innings pitched, complete games, shutouts, home runs per nine, ERA+, FIP, adjusted pitching runs, adjusted pitching wins, base-out runs saved, win probability added, situational wins saved, base-out wins saved while being the best fielding pitcher. He was unanimous Cy Young in both seasons.

The Mount Rushmore of Pitching Seasons:

ERA+ is one of the most useful stats when comparing pitchers across different eras. It is adjusted based on the run environment of the current season. League-average is always 100. Seasons above 100 are above average, and seasons below 100 are below average.

When pitched, 1994 Greg Maddux posted the second-highest ERA+ in baseball history (271). Only Dutch Leonard (1914, ERA+ of 279) and Pedro Martinez (2000, ERA+ of 291) have ever surpassed the season.

In 1995, Maddux decided that pitching one of the best seasons of all-time was not enough, so he struck more batters out, walked fewer batters, and turned in the third-best season by ERA+ at the time (since passed by 2000 Martinez).

Maddux’s strongest case for being known as the best pitcher of all-time rests in these two seasons. In terms of run prevention in any era, Maddux would have two faces on the ERA+ Mount Rushmore. For two seasons, he pitched at a level of run prevention that only two pitchers have hit in a single season, let alone back-to-back. There have been four pitching seasons with 162+ innings pitched and an ERA+ of 260: Maddux had two of them back-to-back.

Dropping the cut-off to an ERA+ of 200 only adds a couple of names: Walter Johnson (1912-1913, 1918-1919) and Pedro Martinez (1999-2000, 2002-2003).


Maddux has a resume that can be stacked up with anyone in the history of baseball. For the traditionalists, he has a trio of wins titles and four ERA titles. He led the NL in complete games three times and shutouts five times. Between 1991 and 1995, he led the NL in innings every season. For the award junkie, he won four Cy Young Awards, 18 Gold Gloves, made eight All-Star teams, and racked up the third-most Cy Young shares. In terms of advanced metrics, he led the NL in WAR thrice and has the eighth-highest pitching WAR in MLB history. He led the NL in ERA+ five times, FIP four times, and WHIP four times. In his 11-year peak (1992-2002), he had an ERA+ of 171 and a WHIP of 1.036.

Just about the only knock on Maddux’s career is his “struggles” in the playoffs. While looking at his record (11-14) might indicate that he struggled, wins and losses are a hilariously awful way to measure pitching success. Maddux had a streak of 12 consecutive playoff series with an ERA under 3.00, stretching from the 1995 NLCS through the 1999 World Series. He had a World Series ERA of 2.09 and a WHIP of 0.905, so his 2-3 record in the World Series can be misleading.

Is Maddux the greatest starter of all-time?

Maddux’s absolute peak (1994-1995) is as high as any pitcher’s peak, so he has a realistic argument of being the best starting pitcher of all time.

For the hub of the Splash 11, go here.

Be sure to follow me @MrSplashMan19 on Twitter for MLB content, future “the Splash 11” articles, and other sports content. Follow us on Twitter @OT_Heroics for more great content!

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1198 days ago
His playoff struggles were largely due to the Braves' pathetic batting performances in the playoffs in the 90s.
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