What makes Mad Dog the coolest guy ever?

madduxI’m 90 percent sure his Twitter profile pic is a joke. That there is even 10 percent doubt makes Greg Maddux even more endearing.

No move — except signing J. Upton, Jay Hey, Medlen and Freeman to reasonable contract extensions –would make me happier than naming Mad Dog manager. I have no idea if he hasany interest, but I bet he hasn’t been asked.

Yet Terry Collins is on his third gig.

(Maddux’s WHIP in 1995? 0.811. That has nothing to do with him being a great manager — I just like remembering he was a Brave.)

Hire Mad Dog now!

It’s a crime that Greg Maddux isn’t employed by the organization that knows him best. How do you let that mind work for another team?

Craig Kimbrel is the latest to marvel at Mad Dog’s baseball smarts.

With a man on second base and Yadier Molina on deck, Kimbrel told Maddux he had no desire to intentionally walk Carlos Beltran.  Maddux, who was serving as Team USA’s pitching coach, responded by saying “Let’s throw two fastballs up and see if we can get him to pop it up.”

Beltran did his part to add to Maddux’s legend by popping Kimbrel’s first-pitch fastball to shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

“I was like you are a genius,” Kimbrel said of his reaction to Maddux after he returned to the dugout.  “How did you do that?  Like you knew that was going to happen.  I was like you want to come out here every time and tell me where to throw it.”

Mad Dog joins Twitter

The greatest pitcher of his generation has joined Twitter:

I wonder if serving as Team USA’s pitching coach has given Maddux the itch to return to the dugout? He’d be my first call if I was hiring a manager — experience be damned. No one can match Mad Dog’s baseball smarts and he has the temperament you want in a skipper.

Maddux slighted again, and was Smoltzie better than Glavine?

I’m thrilled that the last pitcher chosen in ESPN’s ranking of the 100 greatest players in MLB history is the perpetually underrated Knucksie, #100 overall.

Not so much with the highest-ranked pitcher: Roger Clemens.

ESPN cautions its list is a “judgment-free zone where Barry BondsRoger Clemens and even Pete Rose are welcome.” (Rose debased the game but earned every one of his 4,256 hits. He shouldn’t be lumped together with players who came upon their stats dishonestly.)

I don’t understand how you overlook the cheating, which allows ESPN to rank Barry Bonds ahead of The Hammer and Ted Williams. But those who do so will never convince me that Clemens was the best pitcher in baseball history. He wasn’t even the best of his generation.

His ranking, at #7 overall, speaks to to the most overrated stat in all of baseball: the strikeout. If Warren Spahn was pitching today the stat geeks would insist his 363 wins were attributable mostly to luck, as he averaged only 4.4 K/9 IP.

Strikeouts are about all that Clemens has over Mad Dog, who ranks at #13, third among pitchers (Walter Johnson finished 12th). I’m repeating myself but apparently some people refuse to listen.

Maddux has had as many dominant seasons as Clemens, finishing with an ERA under 3.00 nine times. Granted, Clemens did it 12 times, but in two other years Maddux finished with ERA’s of 3.00 and 3.05. And no pitcher in modern history (Pedro in ’99 was close) can match Maddux’s 1995 campaign: 19-2 with a 1.56 ERA and an 0.811 WHIP. Even though strikeouts were not his bread and butter he had more K’s that year (181) than hits and walks combined en route to his fourth consecutive Cy Young.

Maddux was more durable, totaling 200 innings or more 18 times. Add three more innings over two seasons and Maddux would have 20 seasons of 200 or more IP. Clemens topped 200 innings 15 times.

My favorite Maddux stat? From July 31, 1993, through August 4, 1995, a two-year period, Mad Dog had 56 quality starts in 57 games pitched.

And Maddux has been better in October, with a 3.27 ERA, compared to 3.75 for Clemens. His first Fall Classic appearance might have been his best; the fearsome Indians (with Manny Ramirez hitting seventh) managed to get but FOUR balls out of the infield in Game 1 of the ’95 Series. Time of game: 2:37.

Maddux had one more win and a better WHIP (1.143 to 1.158). Clemens had a better ERA (3.12 to 3.16) even though Mad Dog had ERA’s of 3.96 or higher in each of his last six seasons. Conversely, three of Clemens’ worst years came between his 30th and 34th birthdays, a period when most pitchers are at their best, or close to it. It’s reasonable, then, to conclude that had Clemens not cheated he wouldn’t have made it into the Top 100.

Oh, and Maddux was the best fielding pitcher of his era, if not ever.

If only he had juiced, or pitched for the Yankees and Red Sox. Or had a strikeout ratio like Tommy Hanson’s and John Rocker’s.

They didn’t make the list, of course, though Smoltzie and Glavine did. Some may quibble with Smoltz ranking 18 spots higher than his former teammate, but I’m good with it. Glavine had more wins and one more Cy Young Award, but Smoltzie had a better ERA and WHIP and, for three years, was as dominant a closer as the game has seen. And he had no  peer in October. Some people say that doesn’t matter, but they’re typically the same people who say cheaters deserve a pass.

20 years ago, the Bravos signed the best pitcher we’ll ever see

“This one hurts,” said Gene Michael, the general manager of the Yankees, who did manage to trade for Jim Abbott on Sunday. “He’s the best one out there. I never thought I could say this. But he’s a steal at $28 million. He’s a steal.”

Needless to say, Stick was right.

I remember where I was when Mad Dog signed: Atkins Park on Highland Ave., with CD. We were stunned, because, as you recall, JS liked to operate under the radar, and Barry Bonds was his supposed target.

Instead, the premier rotation in baseball got better, and for $6 million less than the Yankees offered. Maddux wanted to win, and in December 1992 the Braves afforded him the best opportunity.

How times have changed.

Med Dog, meet Mad Dog and Gibby

Medlen is on about as good a run as any Atlanta Braves pitcher ever, maybe any pitcher ever. After some (admittedly limited) research, I found a similar stretch composed by the master himself in 1994, and another super-human streak by Bob Gibson. That was perhaps Maddux’s best year. He was 16-6 — hard to figure how he lost six games, as he allowed more than 3 earned runs once in 25 starts — with a 1.56 ERA.

He posted a sub-2 ERA the next season, too.

Anyway, in 8 starts during July and August of 1994, Doggie pitched five complete games, with a .93 ERA, and allowed a .182 batting average. His record in that period was 6-2.

Medlen’s run this season has been even better than that by some measures. As commenters mentioned, he’s 8-0 in 10 starts, with a .76 ERA, a .195 opponents batting average, and a .821 WHIP.  He has completed “only” two games, but could easily have gone nine last night. Fredi, wisely I think, is careful to keep him fresh. Plus, Medlen was on a pitch count in his first couple starts as he was coming from the bullpen.

Maddux, of course, did his finest work at the height of the steroid era. I don’t think either of these guys has been tainted, but as a sign of the times, in 1994 Matt Williams — nice player but he never hit 40 HR in another season — and Frank Thomas — likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer — were both threatening Roger Maris’ season home run record when the strike hit.

In an entirely different era, Bob Gibson fashioned a jaw-dropping streak. In June-July 1968, he pitched 12 straight complete game wins, including eight shutouts, with a .50 ERA.

What Medlen is doing is nearly as impressive as what Gibson did. Of course, Gibson essentially pitched that way for an entire season.  Then again, the overall MLB ERAs in these three seasons add perspective:

1968: 2.98; so Gibby’s run was 2.48 under that

1994: 4.48, Mad Dog’s run was 3.55 under

2012: 3.99, MedDog’s run is 3.23 under.

Keep it up, MedDog.

The Junior Maddux

The real BMF

I’m downright giddy watching Kris Medlen twirl yet another gem. He’s not Greg Maddux — never will be.  No one will. But he’s the closest facsimile we’ve seen since Mad Dog departed for Chicago.

(And then he gives B-Mac a comical hug after the catcher is hit in the jimmy by a foul ball. Pure Maddux.)

You’ll notice it’s taken less than two hours to play 7 innings. Medlen’s barely worked a sweat.

Games like these are why I love baseball.

An antidote to sympathetic reportage of Roger Cheater’s ‘comeback’

Any credibility the Astros and Royals organizations had — and I’m not sure they had any — vanished Saturday night when they dispatched scouts to watch a 50-year-old cheater pitch to the likes of Joey Gathright and guys who will never be half as good as Chris Woodward.

Likewise, any scribe who doesn’t treat Clemens‘ return as a cynical attempt to get into Cooperstown (an appearance in the majors means he’ll have to wait five more years before he can be considered) should lose their press credentials.

This much we know: Greg Maddux won’t embarrass himself to win respect. His was earned, and it won’t ever be lost.

There’s no debating he’s the best pitcher of his generation. Those who tell you otherwise should be forced to watch NFL exhibition games on a continuous loop.

Maddux has had as many dominant seasons as Clemens, finishing with an ERA under 3.00 nine times. Granted, Clemens did it 12 times, but in two other years Maddux finished with ERA’s of 3.00 and 3.05. And no pitcher in modern history (a bold statement, but consider the era) matched Maddux’s 1995 campaign: 19-2 with a 1.56 ERA and an 0.811 WHIP. He had more strikeouts (181) than hits and walks combined en route to his fourth consecutive Cy Young.

Mad Dog was more durable, totaling 200 innings or more 18 times, three more than Clemens. Add three more innings over two seasons and Maddux would have 20 seasons of 200 or more IP. My favorite Maddux stat? From July 31, 1993, through August 4, 1995, a two-year period, Mad Dog had 56 quality starts in 57 games pitched.

And Maddux was better in October, with a 3.27 ERA, compared to 3.75 for Clemens. His first Fall Classic appearance might have been his best; the fearsome Indians (with Manny Ramirez hitting seventh) managed to get but FOUR balls out of the infield in Game 1 of the ’95 Series. Time of game: 2:37.

Maddux’s final victory gave him one more win than Clemens. It came, as a Dodger, against the rival Giants and it was vintage Mad Dog, albeit an abbreviated version.

In six innings, Maddux threw only 47 pitches, 38 of which were strikes. He walked no one and allowed only two hits.

His last appearance came in a mop-up role in the playoffs versus Philly. Imagine Clemens saying this:

“It was a privilege,” he said. “I felt privileged to do it. I was glad I had a chance to pitch.”

No pitcher will ever match Maddux’s best seasons in Atlanta. Mad Dog topped 200 innings in both ’94 and ’95, when labor issues cost him probably a dozen or more starts combined.

He finished both seasons with 10 complete games and three shutouts, with WHIP’s of .896 and .811. His respective ERA’s (1.56 and 1.63) were more than 2.5 runs lower than the league averages.

Put it this way: Maddux was nearly three times better than the average pitcher was in ’94 and ’95 — the heart of the live ball era.

And he didn’t have to cheat to do it.

Some will claim that Clemens, like Barry Bonds, would’ve been a HOF’er had he not juiced. Not so.

Take a look at the Rocket’s final two seasons in Boston:

(’95) 10-5, 4.18 ERA, 1.436 WHIP

(’96) 10-13, 3.63 ERA, 1.327 WHIP

In ’93, his ERA was 4.46 and WHIP, 1.263. The Blue Jays signed him in ’97 and, at age 34, Clemens wins 21 games with an ERA of 2.05 and a career-best 292 strikeouts. He won 162 games after leaving Boston, at which point it’s assumed he began juicing. So nearly half his wins deserve an asterisk.

Still not convinced? John Rocker calls Clemens “the greatest pitcher of all time.”

Case rested.

Aug. 12 a day rich in Braves history

There was the Smoltz trade, referenced in the previous post, and this:

(1984)

All hell broke loose at Fulco between the Braves and Padres.

(2001)

Greg Maddux walked Steve Finley after going 72.1 innings without allowing a free pass.

(2011)

On the night the Braves effectively ended Carlos Zambrano’s Cubs career, we learned that Ernie Johnson Sr. died.

Thanks to Chris Jaffe at Hardball Times for the tip.

Why isn’t Larry Himes universally recognized as the stupidest GM ever?

There’s a reason the Cubs are the Cubs. Failing to re-sign Greg Maddux, who took less money to play for the Bravos (one of the many, many cool things about Mad Dog), then-Cubs GM Larry Himes argued the Little Bears were better off without the 26-year-old reigning Cy Young Award winner.

And how lamentable is the departure of Maddux? One day you have a Cy Young winner, and the next you don’t.

“Let’s just examine how this worked out,” Himes says. Isn’t it always the way? I knew how many games Maddux had won and he doesn’t ask. 20.

Himes forms with his hands an imaginary pile of money. This was Maddux’s money. Maddux didn’t take it in time. Now this money belongs to Jose Guzman and Dan Plesac and Greg Hibbard and Randy Myers.

Maddux in ’93: 20-10-2.36 ERA, 267 IP, 1.049 WHIP

Guzman, Hibbard and Myers’ combined ERA was roughly two runs higher than Mad Dog’s that year. Randy Myers saved 53, which was impressive, but by ’94 he was struggling to keep his WHIP below 1.4. Meanwhile, Guzman spent more time on the DL than in the rotation, Hibbard won once for the Mariners and Plesac pulled off a nifty impression of Craig Skok.

Maddux in ’94: 16-6-1.56 ERA, 0.896 WHIP.

David Ross, Jair Jurrjens

JJ and Mad Dog

JJ may just need to clear his head, writes Mark Bradley, who spoke with the now-Gwinnett Brave after his last start in Atlanta.

“A lot of people get on me about how fast I’m throwing. I need to go back to pitching. But [velocity] is a hot topic every time I pitch. Everyone wants to see how fast I’m throwing, and that gets in your mind.”

Too bad Greg Maddux, who SHOULD be employed as a special assistant by the Braves, isn’t around to counsel JJ.

“If you’re standing in the middle of the interstate and there’s a car coming at you, can you tell if it’s going 55 or 60?”

Five HOF’ers in one decade

Here’s a question I hope someone with the time and inclination can answer:

The news of Chipper’s retirement means the Braves, in all likelihood, will send four players and one manager to Cooperstown in one decade. Has any franchise ever produced five Hall of Famers inducted in such a short span of time?

They may end up sending six, if HOF voters ever come around on the Crime Dog, who is definitely worthy.

Cooperstown 2014

I had been a little unclear as to who was eligible when so thanks to DOB for clearing it up.

Not only will Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine surely be first-ballot inductees that July day at Cooperstown, but going in alongside the pair of 300-game winners could be their former Braves manager Bobby Cox.

And here’s one that a lot of folks might not have thought about: longtime Braves GM John Schuerholz could also be enshrined that year, which would be quite an aligning of stars for the Braves and their fans, who’s certainly flock to Cooperstown in droves for that happening.

JS will also be on the Veterans Committee ballot, along with Bobby, starting in 2013. Both will be eligible for the first time in 2014, along with Torre and LaRussa. The veterans committee can only induct four at a time, so JS’ biggest competition will come from Lou Piniella, suggests DOB. Smoltz will be eligible the following year.

Bring back Mad Dog

Maddux‘s deal expires in December. He received a message from Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts last weekend, but said they have been playing phone tag so far. Maddux is not sure if there’s a job for him under the next GM, or if he wants to return anyway.

“I don’t know, and I would feel the same way if Jim [Hendry] was still there now,” he said. I’m just trying to get my feet wet and figure out what I want to do in my post-baseball career.”

If it was up to me Mad Dog would be the Braves’ next manager. Seriously. No one’s got more baseball smarts than Maddux and he has a skipper’s disposition.

Make him a special assistant to the GM this year and groom him as Fredi’s replacement in 2013.

The Greg Maddux of hitters

Fascinating breakdown of Ol’ Hoss by SI’s Michael Bamberger.

It helps that he has some ridiculous gifts. He was in a visiting clubhouse a while back, reading the crawl on a cable channel from about 30 feet away. A teammate said, ‘You can read that?’ Jones thought, You can’t? He can remember hundreds, maybe thousands of at-bats, what he hit off whom. One night last week, after a game in which he saw two dozen pitches, he could remember in detail all but two or three of them: count, pitch, location, result. He watches game tape like a detective, and if a pitcher tends to slightly open his glove before throwing a curve, Jones knows it.

Sounds like Mad Dog, no? Because he speaks with a drawl and enjoys hunting and fishing, some dismiss Chipper as a good ol’ boy who succeeds on talent alone, but his baseball smarts are what distinguishes him from 99 percent of his contemporaries.

I would not be surprised if he ends up managing the Braves down the road. Fine by me. I’d hire Maddux, too, if he was ever interested. I’d take their baseball IQ’s over Fredi’s any day.

Rarefied air

Call him ace

I don’t compare anyone to Greg Maddux. But no Braves pitcher has come as close to the sustained excellence of Mad Dog as JJ in 2011. Consider:

He’s pitched into the 7th in all but one start and hasn’t given up more than two earned runs or walked more than two in any of his outings. His only loss was in a 2-1 game; two of his seven wins have come against the Phillies.

Sunday, with two of the Braves’ best relievers unable to go, JJ nearly went the distance. He could have easily gone nine.

Ten years ago tonight, a Maddux masterpiece

Thanks to Hardball Times for the reminder. I’m not sure  I’d call it Maddux’s greatest game ever — his 76-pitch complete game against the Cubs and 84-pitch shutout vs. the Yankees in 1997 are tough to beat. That year Mad Dog had only ONE 3-0 count.

But he was pretty damn impressive on May 2, 2001, recording 14 strikeouts en route to his 100th career complete game. Against the Brewers, coincidentally.The Braves entered the game three games under .500 and trotted out a line-up including B.J. Surhoff, whose solo homer accounted for the game’s only run, batting clean-up and ending with Rico Brogna, Keith “Capt. Mediocre” Lockhart and Paul Bako.

As if achieving all-time one-game peaks in strikeouts and game scores en route to a 1-0 complete game shutout wasn’t enough, Maddux also banged out a hit of his own at the plate. Plus, he had a sacrifice hit. Neither his hit nor his SH led to Atlanta’s only run (that was courtesy of a B. J. Surhoff solo shot in the second inning), but it was an overall fantastic day for Maddux.

He got better as he went along, retired the last 13 batters of the game, eight of whom Maddux fanned, including six in a row at one point.

Bizarre fact: Maddux walked the game’s leadoff hitter. Not only was that the only walk (and one of only three baserunners) he allowed all day, but Maddux rarely ever walked the leadoff batter. He did that in only 14 of his 740 starts, just once ever 53 starts. He’d only done it once in the previous seven seasons (though, to be fair, it was the year before).