A Comparison of Wins Per Inning Pitched - Greg Maddux and Cy Young

Martin JanstinContributor IMay 22, 2009

MILWAUKEE - SEPTEMBER 28: Starting pitcher Greg Maddux #30 of the San Diego Padres delivers the ball against the Milwaukee Brewers on September 28, 2007 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Cy Young has a number of all-time records that would be difficult to beat by today’s pitchers. He has the most games started, complete games, innings pitched, wins and losses. In many of these categories, nobody even comes close. His 511 wins are 94 more than the next guy, and his 7356 innings pitched are 1352.2 more than second place.

In modern day baseball, the most successful pitchers, as far as wins go, is Greg Maddux who leads with 355. Maddux is at 13th in innings pitched, but at 5008.1, that’s far less than Young. Of course, the win statistic is widely known as being far from the best measurement of a pitcher’s success and skill.

On top of that, pitchers are used in a completely different way, making comparisons between the present and past bordering on the impossible. Regardless of its true worth, the win statistic is nevertheless one that inevitably gets highlighted, and as for comparing players, well, that’s part of the fun of statistics.

With this in mind, I indeed attempted a comparison…

I had the notion to check to see which pitcher won the highest percentage of games that they started. For instance, Young won 511 out of 815 starts (62.3%), while Maddux won 355 out of 740 (48.0%).

That might not be such a fair comparison, though, since pitchers are generally taken out of games pretty soon these days and don’t have much of a chance at more wins. I thought I might try out wins per innings pitched for a more accurate (and yet still imperfect) comparison.

Here’s the data for some of the pitchers on the top wins list:

1) Cy Young                W: 511             GS: 815           IP: 7356           W per IP: .069

2) Walter Johnson:        W: 417             GS 666            IP: 5914.1        W per IP: .071

3) Grover Alexander     W: 373             GS: 600           IP: 5190           W per IP: .072

3) Christy Mathewson  W: 373             GS 551            IP: 4780.2        W per IP: .078

5) Pud Galvin               W: 365             GS: 688           IP: 6003.1        W per IP: .061

6) Warren Spahn          W: 363             GS: 665           IP: 5243.2        W per IP: .069

7) Kid Nichols              W: 361             GS: 561           IP: 5056.1        W per IP: .071

8) Greg Maddux           W: 355             GS: 740           IP: 5008.1        W per IP: .071

9) Roger Clemens         W: 354             GS: 707           IP: 4916.2        W per IP: .072

10) Tim Keefe              W: 342             GS: 594           IP: 5049.2        W per IP: .068

 21) Tom Glavine           W: 305             GS: 682           IP: 4413.1        W per IP: .069

24) Randy Johnson       W:  298            GS: 593           IP: 4070           W per IP: .073


The results seem surprisingly consistent, considering that some of these players played as much as a century apart.

Aside from Galvin and Mathewson, the remaining ten pitchers all ranged from a W per IP of .068 to .073. At this rate, had Mathewson pitched as many innings as Young, he could have reached around 574 wins. Maddux could have reached 522. Randy Johnson has less innings pitched than anyone else on my list.

Had he pitched the same amount as Maddux, for instance, maybe he would have reached 366 wins. Of course, longevity counts for something (quite a lot, actually) in baseball records.

Who is to say that Maddux could have kept up the rate of .071 wins per inning pitched had he thrown in 2,000 more innings? Stats like win counts increase with longevity, but percentages (batting average, ERA), tend to get worse as players age.

While Cy Young’s 511 wins are impressive, the fact that he kept winning at a rate of .069 per inning pitched throughout 7356 innings is impressive indeed.