This weekend Cooperstown, New York will add six more names to be forever enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame. Highlighting the six inductees is Gregory Alan Maddux, who had a legitimate chance of being the first unanimous inductee voted in on his first ballot. However, the biggest adverse working against this historic feat was said to be because Maddux played during the dark ages of baseball, the steroid era. Ken Gurnick, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Harold and Hall of Fame voter, said that he would exclude “everybody from the steroid era.” Gurnick did not imply Greg Maddux was a user, but instead grouped together all of the players from the late 1980’s into the 1990’s and wrongly attached an asterisk to all of their careers.
It’s not enough that Maddux has never looked the part of a steroid user, but instead looks like he could be your friend’s dad from down the street. Physical appearances aside, his career speaks for itself. Maddux is a four time Cy Young winner, an eight time All-Star, and an 18 time Gold Glove Award winner, which is the most by any pitcher in the American or National League. He never dominated the league with a 100 mile per hour fast ball, but instead used his intelligence and high baseball IQ to set up the batter the way he wanted their plate appearance to go. He was always two pitches ahead of his competition and knew exactly what they would swing at. The late Tony Gwynn, who hit for a remarkable .429 against Maddux and never once struck out in 91 at-bats, sums up perfectly how number 31 was always thinking well beyond the next pitch.
“He’s like a meticulous surgeon out there … he puts the ball where he wants to. You see a pitch inside and wonder, ‘Is it the fastball or the cutter?’ That’s where he’s got you.”
The most remarkable statistic, to me at least, about Maddux 23 year career is that he only spent a total of 15 days on the disabled list. In a year that has seen so many pitchers go down with elbow injuries, this accomplishment further shows how great of an athlete Maddux was every single season. With 355 wins, Maddux comes out of the steroid era as one of the greatest pitchers to ever step on a pitching mound. Below are a list of “The Professors” fives best statistical seasons and visual proof of his dominance during his unforgettable career.
Record-19-2 in 28 games started (.905 winning percentage)
Innings pitched- 209.2
On his way his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award, the 1995 season was Maddux most dominant season. The Professor capped the season off with his only World Series Championship with the Braves and in that series he went 1-1 with a 2.58 ERA. But long before the Braves post-season success Maddux led the National League in every major pitching category, including being named the National League wins and ERA Champion. During his reign in 1995, Maddux gave up a career low 147 hits and only eight home runs, while having a strikeout per nine inning ratio of 7.8 which was also a career high. Maddux also finished third in MVP voting, but boasted the best WAR in the entire league that year.
Record- 20-11 in 35 games started (.645 winning percentage)
Innings pitcher- 268.0
Before Maddux teamed up with John Smoltz and future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine, he was the ace of the Chicago Cubs starting rotation. During his 1992 season, Maddux won his first of four consecutive Cy Young Awards and it was his only season where he won 20 games. That season, he had a career high in innings pitched with 268 and struck out nearly 200 batters.
What is truly remarkable about Maddux stint with the Cubs is that he did not win a Cy Young award sooner as he finished in the top three in voting only once. The end of the 1992 season was bitter for fans in Chicago as Maddux agent Scott Boras and Cubs general manager Larry Himes could not come to terms on keeping Maddux a member of the Cubs. He would eventually return to Chicago, but it was the next three seasons he spent in Atlanta that made Greg Maddux a household name.
1994- Atlanta Braves
Record- 16-6 in 25 games started (.727 winning percentage)
Innings pitched- 202
The 1994 season was cut short because of the baseball strike, but in 25 games that year Maddux showed his dominance in every start. He finished with a career-low 1.56 ERA, which was the second lowest average since Dwight Gooden posted a 1.53 ERA during his second season with the Mets in 1985. He led the National League in wins (16), and innings pitched (202) while still fanning 156 batters and giving up on four home runs all season. He finished fifth that year in most valuable player voting, but possibly could have challenged Jeff Bagwell for MVP had the full season played out. He also had a career high in batting average of .222, which was one of the few instances where a pitcher had a higher batting average than his ERA. 1994 was a season that many baseball fans would like to forget, but it’s a year where on the road to his third Cy Young Award Greg Maddux was unforgettable.
Record- 20-10 in 36 games started (.667 winning percentage)
Innings pitched- 267.0
In his first year in Atlanta, Maddux carried his momentum from Chicago on his way to his second consecutive Cy Young Award. This was Maddux second consecutive 20 game winning season and Mad Dog was business just like always, even in a new division. That season Maddux helped lead the Braves to 104 wins and a National League West title for the teams third consecutive year. The Braves would make it all the way to the NLCS, but eventually lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. Regardless, Maddux made a great first impression in Atlanta as he would spend the next 10 seasons in a Braves uniform.
1998- Atlanta Braves
Record- 18-9 in 34 games started (.667 winning percentage)
Innings pitched- 251.0
The 1998 season was Maddux only year I have listed where he did not win the Cy Young Award, but the Award did go to his teammate Tom Glavine and, interestingly enough, Maddux finished with a better statistical season while finishing fourth in voting. He had a better ERA than Glavine (2.47 vs. 2.22), more strikeouts (157 vs. 204), more innings pitched (229 vs. 251), he had five more complete games and a better WAR than Glavine’s 6.1. Maddux the competitor would have wanted to win that fifth Cy Young Award, but Maddux the teammate was happy to be a part of one of the greatest pitching staffs of all time. Between Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine, Kevin Millwood, and Denny Neagle, the Atlanta Braves dominated the 1998 National League. The five starting pitchers combined for a 2.97 ERA and won 88 games. Glavine was the star that season, but Maddux continued to be the ace of that starting rotation. It was his only season where he surpassed 200 strikeouts and he would eventually win his ninth Gold Glove Award. This season, and the other five listed, are just a small sample of the greatness Greg Maddux brought to the mound every start.