It wasn't until I saw Greg Maddux walk off the mound after the bottom of the fifth inning on Sunday that I began thinking—Is he the greatest pitcher of this era?
As the game cut to commercial, I began naming all of the great pitchers I've witnessed in my 19 short years: Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Martinez, Johnson, Cone, Schilling, Mussina.
Can I say I'd backseat Maddux to any of them? After the fall of Roger Clemens, no.
You see, Maddux has still got it. Completing five innings on Sunday for his 349th career victory, he allowed no runs and gave up only two hits.
With Clemens out of the picture, let's take a look at Maddux's other competitors.
While he was neck and neck with Maddux for years, a move to the New York Mets simply killed his comfortable Atlanta win total. He didn't take well to Shea Stadium, seeing his ERA increase a great amount.
Let's also keep in mind that Glavine has the left-handed advantage over Maddux, a lethal weapon in any stage of a pitcher's career. This just goes on to further show that Maddux is a more quality pitcher than Tommy G.
His 209 career victories look non-existent compared to Maddux's 349, and a few years in the bullpen salvaged Smoltzy's ERA a bit. As of now, Smoltz doesn't match Maddux's strikeout numbers either.
While he took the liberty of crowning himself the best pitcher of his era, Pedro doesn't match up to Maddux in numbers. Still 140 wins behind Maddux, Pedro proved he isn't nearly as durable either.
Injuries aside, Maddux's 109 career complete games can't even be touched by Pedro's 46. Although Pedro gets the nod when it comes to ERA, his other stats don't even make him half the pitcher Maddux is.
Like Glavine, the lefty factor has helped Johnson tremendously, as well as his great height. With only two less seasons in the big leagues than Maddux, I'll let you do the math.
He has 65 less wins than Maddux, a higher ERA, 33 more home runs surrendered, and 501 more free passes. While Maddux spent all those years being a pitcher, Johnson was a thrower who only recently learned to pitch.
Advantage to Maddux.
Cone is my favorite pitcher of all time—I had to include him.
While injuries and a strike prevented him from winning 200 games, Coney's presence was always strong. However, Maddux takes the cake in wins, ERA, CGs, and Ks. No contest.
Despite the fact that he's still pitching—and somewhat effectively—Schilling isn't nearly as durable as Maddux. He will fall far short of Maddux in starts, and thus wins. His ERA is almost a half run higher and he has surprisingly less strikeouts.
While Schilling experienced six or seven years of greatness, Maddux has experienced practically a career of it.
Falling short of only Clemens, Glavine, and Johnson in wins on this competitor list, Mussina's 251 is still far less than 349. Mussina has never won 20 games and his ERA is more than a half run higher than Maddux's.
Maddux takes this no contest.
When all is said and done, Greg Maddux is the best pitcher of this era. He survived the steroids era while keeping his name clean and dominating throughout. While people will look at Clemens' and Johnson's strikeouts and Pedro's winning percentage, Maddux is the most complete pitcher of them all.
So when my grandsons are sitting on my lap 50 years down the road and they ask me, "Pop, who was the greatest pitcher you ever saw?" I'll mention Clemens. I'll speak of Glavine and Smoltz. I'll certainly glorify Cone's heart. I might even name drop Johnson and Pedro.
But when push comes to shove, I'll look down and say "Greg Maddux."
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