A Hard Goodbye – Part Two
March 6, 2008 Leave a comment
Last week marked the beginning of my multi-part retrospective look at the storied career of Greg Maddux. In the initial article, I explored the reported reasoning behind his usage of personal catchers and provided statistics posted with each of these catchers. As it turned out, other than 1994-95, when Maddux was utterly untouchable with Charlie O’ Brien (probably very little to do with O’ Brien) Maddux posted his best numbers with Javy Lopez behind the plate. This article will explore those 1994-95 seasons, infamously cut short by the labor strike. The question I will try to answer is – What would Maddux’s numbers have looked like had both seasons been full?
Maddux’s final 1994 start came on August 11th and his first 1995 start on April 26th. Judging by normal Maddux seasons, which consisted of 5-6 April starts, 5-6 August starts, and 5 September starts, he missed approximately 15 starts due to the strike. Even if we compare if his career average to what he posted in those two seasons, the numbers suggest he would have made between 68-70 starts while he only made 53.
Most fans see his 1994 (16-6, 1.56) and 1995 (19-2, 1.63) W-L and ERA and consider them to be Maddux being Maddux. That is and is not saying enough; by saying he is doing what he normally does we write off the sheer insanity of his seasons but also means that Maddux is expected to post amazing seasons due to the quality of his career. He always wins 15+ games and posts low-ERAs, so this is closer to the norm than an outlier. What tends to be forgotten, though, is how the strike effected those seasons. While Maddux posted amazing numbers, those extra fifteen starts may have propelled him into the best back to back seasons in the modern era (which I count as 1969-present).
In 1994, Greg went 16-6 with a 1.56 ERA. He recorded 10 CG and 3 SHO, only giving up more than three earned runs once in 25 starts. He posted Game Scores of 50+ in 23/25 starts and recorded an AQS in 24/25; his Game Scores were 70+ in 12/25 starts. He pitched 202 innings, giving up 31 BB while striking out 156 (K:BB of 5:01); his WHIP was 0.89 and his ERA+ was 271, second only to Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season.
In 1995, he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He again recorded 10 CG, this time with 2 SHO, and gave up over three earned runs just twice out of 28 starts. He posted Game Scores of 50+ in 25/28 starts, and recorded an AQS in 22/28; 16 of his starts resulted in Game Scores of 70+. He pitched 209.2 innings, giving up 23 walks while striking out 181 (K:BB of 7.87). His WHIP was 0.81 and his ERA+ was 262, third behind Pedro in 2000 and himself in 1994.
His totals for these two years: 53 GS, 35-8 W-L, 20 CG, 5 SHO, 48/53 Game Scores 50+, 46/53 AQS, 411.2 IP, 7.77 IP/GM, 54 BB, 337 K.
His averages for these two years: 27 GS, 205.2 IP, 7.62 IP/GM, 10 CG, 3 SHO, 27 BB, 169 K (K:BB of 6.26), 18-4 W-L, 1.59 ERA, 266 ERA+.
Filling in the Blanks
In order to see how Maddux may have performed in the starts he missed, I used the standings from 1994 and 1995 at the time each of his starts in order to compile his statistics against teams both above and below .500. Then, using the Braves media guides from 1994 and 1995, I compared his results against these teams to whom he most likely would have faced.
In 1994, his numbers broke down like this:
- Under .500: 11 GS, 9-1, 88.2 IP, 66 H, 15 ER, 17 BB, 71 K
- At .500: 3 GS, 3-0, 26 IP, 14 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 20 K
- Above .500: 11 GS, 4-5, 87.1 IP, 70 H, 19 ER, 13 BB, 65 K
Though only going 4-5 against over .500 teams, he still pitched tremendously against them, save for one game against the Expos. According to the schedule, his additional 10 starts in 1994 would have been against 4 teams above .500 and 6 teams below .500. A momentum factor also had to be taken into account as his final six starts saw him go for: 52 IP, 34 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 38 K, 0.87 ERA, and 0.71 WHIP. In those final six games, two were against above .500 teams and he went for: 16 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, and 15 K.
Based on the amount of run support the Braves had provided him, combined with his percentage of decisions received (received a lot because he stayed in the game for so long) and how he fared against teams above and below .500, I feel good about saying Maddux may have gone 8-1 with 1 no-decision in those 10 starts. In the same starts I have him as going for an additional: 78 IP, 55 H, 14 ER, 8 BB, and 47 K.
That would put his 1994 totals at: 35 GS, 24-7 W-L, 280 IP, 205 H, 49 ER, 39 BB, 203 K, 1.58 ERA, and 0.89 WHIP. Now, onto 1995:
In 1995, Maddux posted the following numbers against his opposing teams:
- Under .500: 14 GS, 11-0, 103.1 IP, 73 H, 16 ER, 10 BB, 91 K
- At .500: 5 GS, 3-0, 38.2 IP, 21 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 32 K
- Above .500: 9 GS, 5-2, 67.2 IP, 53 H, 14 ER, 9 BB, 58 K
According to the April 1995 schedule, assuming Maddux was to be opening day starter, he likely would have made five more starts, three against under .500 teams. Based again on how he fared against the strength of his opponents, combined with the run support received, and the percentage of decisions received (this time 21 in 28 starts, lower than 1994), I feel good filling in those blanks with 2-1 W-L, 2 no-decisions, 34.2 IP, 21 H, 6 ER, 6 BB, and 31 K.
This would put his 1995 season at: 33 GS, 244.1 IP, 168 H, 44 ER, 29 BB, 212 K, a 21-3 W-L, 1.62 ERA, and 0.80 WHIP.
Based on this, those two seasons would average out to: 34 GS, 262 IP, 187 H, 46 ER, 34 BB, 208 K, a 23-5 W-L, 1.58 ERA, 0.86 WHIP.
To put that in perspective, with those numbers rounding out his 1994 and 1995 seasons, Maddux would be entering the 2008 season at 357 Wins; by winning only 9 games in 2008 he would finish his illustrious career #5 all-time in Wins behind Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Pete “Grover Cleveland” Alexander. Though unlikely, if he were to win 18 games this year, he would then end up higher than the latter two and directly behind Cy and Walter.
If you have read any of my previous work you will know how much I dislike the W-L record, as it is, but with these 1994-1995 filled in numbers, Maddux would finish his career after accumulating a win total only thought of as possible in the early years of baseball in today’s bullpen-heavy game.