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Monday, July 28, 2014

Greg Maddux Should Be In The Hall Of Fame As An Atlanta Braves

Last Sunday, the incredible Greg Maddux was officially inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a well deserved honor for one of baseball's greatest pitchers, and one of the best pitchers to ever play the game during my young lifetime. However, Maddux refused to be inducted with a logo, refusing to have either an Atlanta Braves or a Chicago Cubs logo on his plaque. As Maddux said during his induction speech:
People ask why my Hall of Fame plaque has no logo. I spent 12 years in Chicago and 11 in Atlanta, and both cities are very special to me. Without experiences in both cities, I wouldn't be standing here.
I understand Maddux's sentiment, and the Hall of Famer can do whatever he damn well pleases. However, his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame is immortal, and generations of fans will reflect on Maddux without knowing that is true contribution to baseball was when he was on the Atlanta Braves.

Greg Maddux was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1984 and made his first big league appearance with the team in 1986 where he pitched 31 innings. For the next six years, Maddux steadily improved with the North Siders which eventually culminated with Maddux winning the NL Cy Young for the Cubbies in 1992 after his first season of winning 20 games. During this 6+ year run with the Chicago Cubs, Maddux made two All-Star games, won 1 Cy Young, but never saw any post-season appearances outside of his 31 IP rookie year.

After winning the Cy Young, Greg Maddux left to the Atlanta Braves in free agency in 1993. He would immediately win three more NL Cy Youngs from 1993-1995. From 1993-1999, Greg Maddux was just absolutely filthy and dominant for the Atlanta Braves. He posted ERA+ of 170, 271, 260, 162, 189, and 187 during that stretch. Having an ERA+ of 100 means that you are an average pitcher, so having an ERA+ close to 200, and even close to 300 in 1994 and 1995 means you are 200 and 300 percent better than the average pitcher.

After 1992, Greg Maddux ended up spending 11 seasons on the Atlanta Braves, and all 11 years were during the prime of his career. Along with Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, Maddux helped anchor a rotation that went to 10 post seasons and 3 World Series. The Atlanta Braves won the World Series in 1995 beating a Cleveland Indians team that had just a Murder's Row of talent in the line up including Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, and Kenny Lofton. During his time with the Braves, Maddux went to six All-Star games and finished in the top 5 of Cy Young votes 4 other times.

After 2003, when he was 38 years old, Greg Maddux returned back to the Chicago Cubs. During this time, Maddux was just an average pitcher posting an ERA+ of 110, 104, and 109 during this 2.5 years back on The North Side. Maddux never went to any All Star games or post seasons from his second time around with the Cubs.

I ran the numbers thanks to Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, and here are Maddux's numbers on both the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves:

CUBS: 35.9 WAR, 2,106 IP, .017 WAR/IP, 3.99 WAR/season

BRAVES: 71.8 WAR, 2,526.2 IP, .028 WAR/IP, 6.53 WAR/season

WAR is a phenomenal statistic that essentially tells you how good of a player you are and puts it into a nice, round, numerical number for you to read. Maddux was exactly 200% better of a player during his stint with Atlanta than he was during his stint with Chicago. Now you accumulate WAR simply by being healthy and pitching innings, and since Maddux had more innings pitched on the Braves, I wanted to see how well he did with those innings while on Atlanta than on the Cubs. On a per innings basis, Maddux was a 150+% better pitcher and on a per season basis, Maddux was a 160+% better pitcher when he was an Atlanta Brave than when he was a Chicago Cub.

Here are some more fun statistics about Maddux's time as a Cub vs. his time as a Brave:

CUBS: 1 Cy Young, 2 All-Star games, 7.1 IP in the post season

BRAVES: 3 Cy Youngs, 6 All-Star games, 10 post-season appearances, 8 NLCS appearances, 3 World Series appearances, 1 World Series win

I can understand why Greg Maddux has a lot of respect for the Cubs, as they were the organization that trained him, but he didn't become GREG MADDUX in capital letters until he went to Atlanta. Greg Maddux worked out his kinks with the Chicago Cubs but became the Hall of Famer that we know and love today because of his work with the Atlanta Braves. Imagine if Michael Jordan was actually drafted by the Washington Wizards, and didn't come to the Chicago Bulls until 1987. Imagine he put up the exact same numbers and had the exact same career, but he spent the early part of his career in Washington (and of course the later part of it there as well). You would still remember Jordan as a Chicago Bull even though he started and ended his career in Washington. That's what's its like to say that Greg Maddux isn't an Atlanta Brave.

Whenever I think of Greg Maddux, I think of him as a part of the Atlanta Braves organization, and you should too. Whenever I take my kids to Cooperstown, and they take their kids there, and so on and so forth, I want them to see the Greg Maddux plaque and remember him fondly as an Atlanta Brave, not a guy who just to happened to be on the Cubs as well.


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