Mad Dog – Pud and a Dying Breed

“Too many pitchers, that’s all, there are just too many pitchers. Ten or twelve on a team. Don’t see how any of them get enough work.”

Cy Young

As July winds down and the annual trade winds pick up and the slamming of the teams that have done nothing but disappoint us begins to heat up I turn my head towards something that makes me smile when watching the game, milestones.

Yep, milestones… each game is an invitation to acquire more mundane, more meaningless, or meaningful minutia to roll about in your head and this season with it’s 600th homer by the throat slashing Ken Griffey Jr. or the 500 by the Manny child… or even the 2000 hit by Mark Grudzielanek making him the 251st man to reach that plateau in the history of the game. That’s pretty impressive…especially considering as the season started 8545 men had had at least 1 hit as a MLB player.

All these items seemed to have eclipsed an even larger milestone that occurred when I was out of the country earlier this spring, and that would be Greg Maddux’s 350th win, making this even a larger item to me was that last night Greg won 351, more than 2 months since he won 350, enduring his worst drought on the mound in his career.

350… roll that around in your mouth, three – five – OOOOOOO, now THAT’S a milestone. 350, that’s the domain of the few, it’s the area that is seldom visited and we as fans of the game today have been luck enough to see it scaled twice in the past 2 season, albeit the first guy is now awash in the cloud of accusations and old beer cans.

But nevertheless 350 is the subject, the milestone gleams brightly and boasts the best of the best in the games annuals, to make my point below are the guys who have gotten there and teh year they achieved the feat.

WINS                             W        L       BFP     RSAA
1    Cy Young                    511      316    30058      813   1902
2    Walter Johnson              417      279    23749      643   1923
T3   Grover C Alexander          373      208    20928      524   1927
T3   Christy Mathewson           373      188    19136      405   1913
5    Warren Spahn                363      245    21547      319   1963
6    Kid Nichols                 361      208    21243      678   1904
7    Pud Galvin                  360      308    25234      147   1891
8    Roger Clemens               354      184    20240      732   2007
9    Greg Maddux                 351      214    19617      559   2008

To really appreciate the feat that Maddux has achieved let’s look at the peers he sits with now in the club, all are HOF players and all are legends for their abilities and stamina on the mound, and if you look carefully you’ll see that 66% of them achieved the feat within the first 51 years of organized pro ball. Wow…. That’s a small window to climb in, since 1928 only three men have achieved 350 wins in a season, and as the game changes and specialization increases it’s possible that it might not happen again or for a LONG time.. Alexander’s 350th win was separated by 35 years from Warren Spahn’s and Spahn’s was separated 44 years from the Rockets… thus see you in 40 years plus and we’ll see if anyone is close to 350.

I’m doubting it currently, but never say never in this game, it can swing to pitching and defense in a mater of decades, however the love of offense and the smaller parks and the other stuff in today’s game makes that less than likely.

If we look at the Runs Saved Against Average for these pitchers prior to this season they stack up like this:

RSAA                           RSAA       W
1    Cy Young                    813      511
2    Roger Clemens               732      354
3    Kid Nichols                 678      361
4    Walter Johnson              643      417
5    Greg Maddux                 559      347
6    Grover C Alexander          524      373
7    Christy Mathewson           405      373
8    Warren Spahn                319      363
9    Pud Galvin                  147      360

If anyone is an outlier on this list it’s Pud Galvin, a man who didn’t even make Bill James’s list of the top 100 pitchers in the games history in his tome The Historical Baseball Abstract. Anyone who has read Bill’s work and his opinions on the quality of 19th century play is probably not surprised, especially if they themselves spend time looking at the era that Pud threw (shorter distance to the plate, restrictions on arm slot etc..) all these what-if’s are even more highlighted when we look at the RSAA of each pitcher, compared to his peers in the 350 club Galvin is a lightweight, a man who doesn’t belong, falling more 100% behind his nearest peer in RSAA, add this to the fact that he was out of the game by the time the mound reached its current distance from the plate and you’re even less impressed.

Back to Maddux, the man is a workhorse in an era that doesn’t posses many of those types anymore, and this is seen in the amount of games he has started over the years. This season Greg is on the way to achieving 35 starts this season, that is an impressive number for a man his age, even more impressive is the fact that if he achieves 34 starts then he will have his 16th season of having 34 or more starts, ranking him second all time behind Cy Young

GAMES STARTED >= 34

1    Cy Young                 17
2    Greg Maddux              15
T3   Don Sutton               13
T3   Warren Spahn             13
T5   Kid Nichols              12
T5   Steve Carlton            12
T5   Christy Mathewson        12
T5   Gaylord Perry            12
T5   Phil Niekro              12
T10  Bert Blyleven            11
T10  Walter Johnson           11
T10  Jack Morris              11
T10  Tom Seaver               11
T10  Pud Galvin               11
T10  Ferguson Jenkins         11
T10  Jim Bunning              11
T10  Jim Kaat                 11

The vast majority of these men pitched in one of the two deadball eras of baseball history and only Greg Maddux pitched in the current steroid/HR era, an era that has been less than unkind to pitchers. True Maddux last won his Cy Young’s prior to the big HR explosion, but he has been ticking along since then like Cy Young himself did back in the day and probably would even now.

To place Maddux’s durability in making starts year after year into a context that relates to the Reds makes the feat even more amazing to this pitching starved Reds fan. Because simply put the Reds have never experienced a true workhorse starter who was able to stick around for years upon years as well as perform heads and shoulders above his peers. Here’s the Reds list of starts with 34 starts plus in their career.

Read it and weep, and take the time to appreciate Greg Maddux, because we won’t be seeing his type again very soon

34 starts
1    Tom Browning              6
T2   Eppa Rixey                5
T2   Noodles Hahn              5
T4   Paul Derringer            4
T4   Bucky Walters             4
T6   Dolf Luque                3
T6   Mario Soto                3
T6   Bob Purkey                3
T6   Pete Donohue              3
T6   Gary Nolan                3

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