posted on May, 3 2006 @ 03:44 PM
I agree with you to a large extent, because of the peak period of Maddux, which I never FULLY appreciated until my late-night work last night, and
which I have posted on another thread (where another post by you perhaps awaits me in a few minutes).
But what you CANNOT do is use unadjusted ERA's from different times and deem them comparable, and that's why Adjusted ERA was created. In the late
1920's and the 1930's, good hitters just murdered the super-live ball that was put in for Babe Ruth to wow customers with. Because the ball was a
whole lot better to hit than it is today, and because many ballparks--Sportsman's Park in St. Louis (both leagues), Bakers Bowl in Philly (NL only),
League Park in Cleveland (for lefties only), Ebbetts Field in Brooklyn (ditto), Fenway (for righties), Yankees Stadium (for lefties), and the Polo
Grounds (absolutely laughable for ANY pull-hitter)--were HR paradises, there were far more incredibly high-scoring games than in Maddux's and Clemens'
peak years. One year (1930), the National LEAGUE batted over .300 and had its last .400 hitter (Bill Terry), as well as Hack Wilson's 191 RB's and 56
HR's (which were an NL record until McGwire and Sosa in 1998); the A.L. hitting was every bit as absurd. Grove, somehow, had an E.R.A. like 2.54.
Grove was a MUCH more dominant pitcher, in his time, than Maddux has been--for overall career. And he was terrifying. He threw blazing fastballs
that moved unpredictably and were hard to pick up because of his release point. Like Gibson and Clemens, he was totally hard-nosed, and would have
knocked down his own mom with a fastball.
The difference in Career Adjusted ERA between Maddux and Grove is huge. A difference of 10 points--148 to 138--is a difference of over 20% in terms
of their respective superiority to the average pitcher of their respective times. And Grove's second great five-year run came with the young
superstar, Bob Feller, in his league, and only 8 total AL teams.
But if you look at that other post of mine, you will see VERY clear evidence:
Pedro and Maddux, in that order, have by far the greatest 3-year and 5-year peaks of any pitchers ever. Grove is next, if you disregard Dead Ball
phenom Walter Johnson, and Grove amazingly had two totally separate 5-year peaks with the same cumulative totals. Koufax came in last of the 8
pitchers I checked, with Clemens, Randy Johnson and Cy Young also in back of the aforementioned pitchers. I was stunned Randy Johnson didn't do
There are baseball historians who place great emphasis on peak periods, and THOSE people will perhaps rate Maddux even with Grove, or perhaps even
ahead of him, despite Grove's huge edge in career Adjusted ERA, ERA titles won (9 to 4), W-L % titles (Grove holds the record for those, too), etc.
I don't buy it. Grove was so great for so long, AND LOST 5 YEARS OFF THE FRONT END OF HIS M.L.B. CAREER, just like Ruth lost 5 years to the Dead Ball
Era and being a pitcher. But forget those 5 years and his career totals still blow away those of Maddux. NINE E.R.A. titles won while pitching in
horrible parks for southpaws?!! Single-seasons won-loss percentages like something out of a fantasy? Him personally carrying the A's to 3 straight
pennants over the Ruth-Gehrig machine, going 79-15 for 3 straight years (and how's that for a peak?)? A career W-L record of 300-141, easily the best
of any 300-game winner?
On CAREER value, the only pitcher close to Grove is Clemens. Pedro has the best "average" stats of all, but hasn't pitched nearly long enough to
compete, being almost 100 wins (and four ERA titles) shy of Grove. (The Cy Young Award, b.t.w., came into being the year after Cy Young's death at
age 88 in 1955.) But if you add it all up, I think YOU will have to agree Grove is #1 for career value.
To the extent you factor in "single-season" and "peak-period" stats to make your "career value" determination, I think that (1) you are making a
mistake, and (2) peak value should be separate from career value, as James always did it until his last book.
But IF you weigh peak value in assessing career value, then when you look at the shocking magnitude of Maddux's and Pedro's (in reverse order)
superiority over all others, you do have to entertain serious thoughts about Maddux, whose best 3- and 5- year runs just bury those of all but Pedro,
as the greatest pitcher ever. In fact, a much better case can then be made for him than Clemens, if you place the kind of emphasis on big seasons
that James' new system--and, I believe, Hootie--place.
P.S. Please note that when James wrote that big book of his, it included pitchers' stats through 2000--i.e., after all of Maddux's phenomenal
years--and he only rated Maddux as the 14th best pitcher ever, well behind Koufax, and with a bundle of Dead Ball pitchers ahead of him.
That is an indefensible position. I'm sure you'll agree, if you've seen my other thread and noted how utterly Maddux's best 5-year Adjusted ERA
period blows away the 5-year run on which Koufax's claim to greatness is entirely based, as well as the best 5-year runs of Grove, Clemens and Big
Unit (whose best 5-year run was, I thought, really great). Indeed, at the time James wrote that book, nobody could touch Maddux's 5-year run, because
Pedro's hadn't happened yet.
So if one places huge effort on a 3-year peak and a 5-year peak, in assessing CAREER value--as James did in that huge book--Maddux is quite arguably
better than Clemens (I don't think so, but it's very arguable), and remotely arguably better than Grove (although the difference between Career
Adjusted ERA's of 138 and 148 are just huge, amounting to about a 24% difference.
Last, Grove's 148 and Clemens' 143 are NOT close. They indicate that Grove was 48% ahead of his norm, and that Clemens was 43% ahead of his period
norm. Both are awesome numbers, but they're about 12% apart, which is a big difference. It's only half the difference between Grove and Maddux, but
it's still a big one, though Clemens' figure still leads any other retired pitcher from after the Dead Ball Era.
[Edited on 5/4/06 by BaseballHistoryNut]