Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Greg Maddux Had Rough Nights, Too

Normally, Vin Mazzaro doesn’t inspire comparisons with Greg Maddux. Greg Maddux was one of the best pitchers of all-time. He won 4 Cy Youngs, 18 Gold Gloves (13 straight from 1990-2002), and made 8 All-Star teams (that seems light, doesn’t it?). His 132 ERA+ (3.16 ERA) is 26th all-time among starting pitchers. His 3.37 K/BB is 17th. His 96.8 bWAR places him 9th among all pitchers. Vin Mazzaro has a career 5.24 ERA (84 ERA+), and I won’t embarrass him by trying to figure out where that ranks.

And normally, a performance like the one Mazzaro had on May 16th (2.1 IP, 11 H, 14 ER, 3 BB, 2 K) won’t inspire images of Greg Maddux, either. But I’m a weird guy, and that game made me wonder what Maddux’s worst game ever was. I mean, if he can have an epically bad night, then Mazzaro can rebound from that one, right? Well, maybe not. Maddux had an excellent repertoire, impeccable command, and a pedigree, and Mazzaro has a repertoire, some command, and probably bought Pedigree for his dog. But I thought it would be fun to see what Maddux’s worst performance was, so let’s take a look.

August 5th, 1988 probably started out like any other for Greg Maddux. In the midst of his first awesome season, he had begun to tire as the 249 innings began to mount on the 22-year old. But this was not his night. Facing a pretty terrible Philadelphia Phillies team, Maddux couldn’t make it out of the third inning. The first inning started out innocent enough—2 singles but a double-play ended any threat. But things steamrolled in the second inning as a single, an uncharacteristic wild pitch, a single, another single, and two doubles saw 4 runs cross the plate. The third inning was worse. Beginning with a Mike Schmidt home run, he allowed three singles (along with a strikeout) before he was replaced. Jeff Pico made it worse by allowing his two inherited runners to score. All told, Maddux’s night posted a GameScore of 5 (2.1 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 2 K, 1 HR).

By 1999, Maddux had passed his prime, but he was still having a typically great 19-win season. One of those did not come on May 4th. Facing a good St. Louis Cardinals team, Maddux started off the game a lot like the above performance and pitched a scoreless first. Six runs, however, came racing across the plate, capped off by a Mark McGwire home run. Maddux responded well by pitching two more scoreless innings until allowing a couple of doubles and a 2-run single (somehow, Ray Lankford did not score from second on the Fernando Tatis double) and getting yanked from the game. With a GameScore of 8 (4.1 IP, 12 H, 8 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR), it was a little better than August 5th, 1988.

2003 saw a rough start for Maddux. Book-ended by a couple bad starts (one in which he allowed 10 runs), Maddux had an awful start on April 5th against Florida and a young Josh Beckett. This time Maddux didn’t get out of the first unscathed. 3 hits and 2 errors gave the Marlins a 3-0 lead. An inning later, Maddux got the first two outs before the wheels came off. Ivan Rodriguez hit a home run, Derrek Lee singled, Mike Lowell homered, Juan Encarnacion singled, Todd Hollandsworth got an intentional pass (intentional walks are almost always a terrible idea), and current-Brave Alex Gonzalez finished the outburst by blasting a 3-run homer, giving the Marlins a 9-0 lead. Maddux would get the last out but was replaced before the third inning. He finished that game with a GameScore of 8 (2 IP, 8 H, 9 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 3 HR). Though the August 5th game has the worst GameScore, the three home runs in this one might give it the slight edge in Worst Greg Maddux Start Ever.

Maddux, of course, is not the only Hall of Fame-caliber pitcher to have bad games. John Smoltz had a GameScore of 3 in a 1994 game (I would have thought it was the Baltimore game in 1999 in which the Braves lost 22-1, but that was only 6th on Smoltzie’s list). Tom Glavine, the final member of the Big Three, once had a GameScore of -1. Roger Clemens had a GameScore of 2 in 1995. Randy Johnson had the worst one yet at -5 on April 10th, 1994. Today’s giant Roy Halladay had a -7 in 1999, but his worst since The Change was in 2007 when he netted a 6.

Oddities like this are fun, and with that, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Mark Smith, and you may have seen some of my work over at another SweetSpot blog called It Is About the Money, Stupid, even though I’m not a Yankees fan … like at all. I now become the second (I believe) “blogger” to write for 2 Sweetspot blogs (Chip, who writes at IIATMS and Fire Brand of the AL, was the first), and IIATMS has both, which is odd. I’m glad to be joining The Platoon Advantage even though I don’t know how a platoon works with three people. I don’t know if I’m the lefty, the righty, or the pitcher pitching to the platoon. And if I am the pitcher, I have to be a guy like Pat Venditte and throw from both hands because, if I just get to pitch from one hand, there’s no real reason to have a platoon, right? Anyway, I’m happy to be here, and if anything, I hope to bring a new perspective to the goings-on and the has-happened of baseball.

Oh yeah, you might be interested in Vin Mazzaro’s GameScore from his “performance”. Oddly, it was so bad GameScore refused to give it a score.

Oh yeah, follow me on Twitter @Mark_L_Smith because I have witty things to say there, too.

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