One of the great things baseball has brought to the world is information. As we prepare for the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, what better way to appreciate what Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas offered the sport than examining key stats from their careers.
Sports are something we watch for pleasure, but that doesn't mean there aren't things to be taken away from what happens on the field. In this era of stats and data, the ways to study and analyze the game are vast.
Sometimes we can get too caught up in the numbers instead of just watching games to see how things play out, but what better way to appreciate what these three legendary figures did between the lines than pointing out what made them so special?
As you settle in to watch what happens at Cooperstown on Sunday, keep these numbers in the back of your mind.
|Greg Maddux, RHP||Chicago Cubs (1986-92, 2004-06), Atlanta Braves (1993-2003), Los Angeles Dodgers (2006, 2008), San Diego Padres (2007-08)|
|Tom Glavine, LHP||Atlanta Braves (1987-2002, 2008), New York Mets (2003-07)|
|Frank Thomas, 1B/DH||Chicago White Sox (1990-2005), Oakland Athletics (2006, 2008), Toronto Blue Jays (2007-08)|
|Bobby Cox, Manager||Atlanta Braves (1978-81, 1990-2010), Toronto Blue Jays (1982-85)|
|Tony La Russa, Manager||Chicago White Sox (1979-86), Oakland Athletics (1986-95), St. Louis Cardinals (1996-2011)|
|Joe Torre, Manager||New York Mets (1977-81), Atlanta Braves (1982-84), St. Louis Cardinals (1990-95), New York Yankees (1996-2007), Los Angeles Dodgers (2008-10)|
That Maddux made the Hall of Fame isn't a surprise. By FanGraphs' wins above replacement metric, he ranks fourth all-time among pitchers with 113.9 behind Roger Clemens (139.5), Cy Young (135) and Walter Johnson (123.9).
Maddux (1992-95) and Randy Johnson (1999-2002) also hold the distinction of being the only pitchers to win four consecutive Cy Young awards. There are no shortage of stats to choose from when showing how great The Professor was. Here is a brief list:
|Stat||Times Led League|
|ERA||4 (1993-95, 1998)|
|ERA+||5 (1992-95, 1998)|
|Complete Games||3 (1993-95)|
|WHIP||4 (1993-95, 1998)|
Yet when you get down to the heart of things, Maddux was only able to lead the league in all those stats throughout his career because of durability. That's why his most impressive stat is seasons with at least 30 starts and 200 innings.
If you take out 1994 and 1995, since those seasons were shortened due to the player strike, Maddux made at least 30 starts every year from 1988-2008. He broke the 200-inning barrier 18 times in 19 years from 1988-2006. The one year he didn't was 2002 with 199.1 innings.
Even during the last two years of Maddux's career, he threw 198 and 194 innings, respectively. That level of durability over the course of a 23-year career is unheard of in today's baseball where seemingly every pitcher requires Tommy John surgery at some point.
It's not easy to standout when you pitched in the same rotation as Maddux for 10 years, but Glavine never felt like a second-class citizen after the right-hander moved to Atlanta in 1993.
Of course, it didn't hurt that Glavine was well-established in the big leagues by that point. He won a Cy Young award in 1991 with a 20-11 record, 246.2 innings pitched, 192 strikeouts, a league-leading 153 ERA+ and league-leading nine complete games.
Which stat for a 2014 Hall of Famer is the most impressive?
Glavine's resume doesn't look historically great looking back at it. He averaged 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.1 walks per nine innings with a 3.54 ERA and 1.314 WHIP.
However, what the crafty southpaw lacked in power and dominance, he more than made up for with location and durability. Glavine broke the 200-inning threshold 14 times in 22 years.
His best stat, though, doesn't cover an entire season or career. Glavine was The Man during Atlanta's only World Series title from those great teams in the 1990s and early 2000s. Specifically, his performance in Game 6 against Cleveland in 1995 is the stuff of legend.
With the Braves leading the series 3-2 and going against a lineup that ranked first during the regular season in runs (840), home runs (207), batting average (.291), on-base percentage (.361) and slugging percentage (.479), Glavine proceeded to throw eight innings of one-hit ball in a 1-0 victory.
Glavine's performance in Game 6 ranks third all-time among World Series deciding games with a game score of 85, via Baseball-Reference.com, trailing Sandy Koufax (88) in 1965 and Orval Overall (87) in 1908.
When you are a hitter playing during one of the most offense-heavy eras in baseball history, it's hard to stand out from the crowd. Frank Thomas wasn't a controversial presence during his playing days, nor did he have a flare for the dramatic.
All the Big Hurt did was perform at a high level for nearly two decades, including winning consecutive AL MVP awards in 1993 and 1994. He was the rare slugger who was just as good at hitting for average as he was at driving balls over the fence.
Of the 26 players in the 500 home run club, Thomas' .301 career average ranks ninth behind names like Ted Williams (.344), Babe Ruth (.342), Jimmie Foxx (.325) and Hank Aaron (.305).
As Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com wrote in her tribute to Thomas' career, the former Chicago White Sox star was a staple of the philosophy that was made famous years later by Billy Beane in Oakland:
Before 'Moneyball' helped inculcate a more general appreciation for patience at the plate, Thomas was an incomparable example of a hitter who would not be cheated. He led the league in walks and OBP four times while still producing prodigious power. He was the largest man to ever win a batting title when he batted .347 in 1997.
You can't put Thomas' ability in the batter's box into words. He was a hybrid at a time when power was all the rage in baseball, always hitting for a high average and posting on-base percentages over .400 every season from 1991-97 with at least 32 homers six times in that same span.
The only tragedy in Thomas' career is that he only played in the postseason three times in 19 years, never making it to a World Series. He was on Chicago's World Series team in 2005, but missed 128 games in the regular season and didn't play in the playoffs at all.
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