When the pitching GOAT debate comes up, it rightfully boils down to the likes of Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, and many other greats. The discussions oftentimes leave out Greg Maddux. Some people would consider them his GOAT, and while I don’t, he is the MROAT of pitching. MROAT, or Most Reliable of All Time, is something I came up with to describe the career of Maddux. His story is one of a guy who was great, and unlike many other top pitchers ever, was always there to pitch a full season at a productive or elite level.
Greg Maddux: As Durable As It Gets
Greg Maddux had only two seasons where he didn’t pitch 194 innings in a season. Those were his first two seasons in the league, meaning from his age 22 to age 42 seasons (last year in the league), he had logged at least 194 innings. His durability allowed him to have a whopping 744 games pitches, with 740 starts. This is without mentioning his 198 innings in the postseason over 35 games pitched (30 starts). He has the 4th most starts of all time and is easily the most durable pitcher of his generation, and one of the most durable of all time.
Greg Maddux Was Even More Reliable Than Nolan Ryan
Yes, Nolan Ryan pitched 27 seasons in the majors compared to Maddux’s 23, but unlike Ryan, Maddux had an unbelievably long prime. Nolan Ryan had dips in performance in certain seasons where he’d go from an eight-win season to a two-win season, unlike Maddux, who from 1990-2001 never had a season with an fWAR below five or FIP above 3.40. Over that span, he was first in fWAR, second in FIP and second in ERA. An 11 season prime is rarer for pitchers seeing that unless your Randy Johnson, you probably developed an injury that caused you to spiral. With that being said, wouldn’t it be just unfair if even after his prime he was still good?
Post Prime Greg Maddux Was Still A Workhorse
From 2002-2008 which would be Maddux’s age 36-42 seasons, he managed to post a 3.92 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 3.73 xFIP, and 3.94 SIERA. Those were not amazing marks, but they were still good enough to be a reliable arm in the rotation. He also managed to have the 8th most innings pitched in that timespan and had a 3.4 fWAR per season. Over 20 seasons that’s a 68 fWAR, which makes you wonder if his post-prime career was still a borderline Hall of Fame career. Was he some Cy Young starter after 2001? No, but if you’re getting a 3.4 fWAR and 3.92 ERA in a high scoring era, you take it.
Greg Maddux’s Legacy Was Lost To Better Starters
If he had done this today, everyone would be talking about Greg Maddux. The issue is that he pitched in an era with Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, and Randy Johnson. Even his own rotation had two other Hall of Famers on it. Sadly, this means he didn’t have the legacy he deserves. No one knows him as the iron man he was in his career, or as the dominant arm. Yes he gets known for his control and his ability to limit pitches per start, but that’s not enough to tell the story.
Maddux was an elite starter who was everything you could ask for. Dominant, reliable, and always healthy.
Where Does Greg Maddux Rank All Time?
Where he ranks all time is a hard question because there are a lot of factors at play, but I have a range for him. In his career, he is fourth in fWAR, 20th in ERA- (minimum 2,000 innings) and 14th in FIP- (minimum 2,000 innings). Is he the best of all time? No, but could he have a case for top-five all time? Certainly, his volume surely helps. Personally, I’d say he’s probably my fifth, sixth, or seventh best starter of all time, but there’s a case for him to be top three. Greg Maddux is easily one of the greatest ever, and it’s a shame that he isn’t remembered as the most reliable starter ever.
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