Jaffe: Rating Greg Maddux’s Hall of Fame candidacy

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at SI.com on December 16, 2013:

In the discussions I’ve had regarding this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, the crowded field of candidates and the ways that the process might be improved, I’ve heard one sentiment repeatedly: “Anybody who doesn’t vote for Greg Maddux ought to have his ballot revoked.”

Given the body of work in question, it’s not hard to see why. Maddux’s 355 wins are the most of any righthanded pitcher since World War II. He won four Cy Youngs, led the NL in ERA four times, made eight All-Star teams and helped his teams to the playoffs 13 times, including a run of 10 straight trips with the Braves from 1993-2003 (excepting the 1994 strike season). He was durable, too; in his 23-year career, he reached 190 innings 21 times (tied with Don Sutton for the all-time lead) and he did it consecutively, even topping 200 in the strike-shortened 1994 and ’95 seasons. Only once did he spend time on the disabled list. Most impressively, he excelled at a time when scoring was at its highest level since the 1920s and ’30s, making him the rare pitcher to stand out in an era typified by musclebound sluggers.

Unlike Roger Clemens, Maddux didn’t succeed due to mid-90s velocity; his fastball reached 93 mph in his early years, but generally ranged in the mid-to-high 80s in his prime. Instead, it was his exceptional command of a wide array of pitches, an ability to avoid hard contact and a cerebral approach founded in an understanding of effective velocity — the combination of speed and location — that made him great. Rob Neyer hailed him as “the smartest pitcher who ever lived” in the middle of his career, and the tag stuck, though longtime Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone later explained the source of Maddux’s genius: “He always told me, ‘When you can throw your fastball where you want, when you want, it’s amazing how smart you can be.’”

Read the full article here: http://mlb.si.com/2013/12/16/jaws-and-the-2014-hall-of-fame-ballot-greg-maddux/

Originally published: December 17, 2013. Last Updated: December 17, 2013.