Posts Tagged Greg Maddux

What Cy Young?

I was asked the following question on Quora.com earlier today:

How many times has a Cy Young award winner gone 0-2 or worse in the post-season?

My response was as follows:

Well, it’s happened to the best. Obviously, I am assuming this question was posted following Los Angeles Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw‘s second loss in the 2014 NL Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, a defeat that sent L.A. home for the winter.

In 1997, Seattle’s Randy Johnson, the AL Cy Young winner two years earlier (and a 20-game winner in that current season), went 0-2 against Baltimore in the Division Series as the Mariners lost three games to one. The following year, Johnson was 0-2 for Houston in the NL Division Series versus Kevin Brown’s San Diego Padres, with the 102-win Astros embarrassed in four games. (In 1997, Johnson was 20-4 with a 2.28 ERA, finishing second in the Cy Young race to Roger Clemens. In 1998, the Big Unit was 10-1 with a 1.28 ERA following a late-season trade to the Astros.)

madduxSpeaking of Brown, his wild-card Florida Marlins beat Greg Maddux twice in the 1997 NLCS, giving the four-time Cy Young-winning Maddux an 0-2 record in that series. The Braves, who won 101 games during the regular season and finished nine games ahead of Florida in the standings, lost to the Marlins four games to two. Maddux had won the Cy Young in 1992, 1993, 1994, and 1995, and was 19-4 with a 2.20 ERA in 1997. [1]

Brown’s 1998 Padres also handed the Braves’ Tom Glavine an 0-2 mark in the NLCS, with San Diego knocking off Atlanta in six games. Glavine had won the Cy Young in 1991 and would win it again that same 1998 season with a 20-6 record and a 2.47 ERA. The Padres had a good year with 98 victories, but they were underdogs against the Astros (102-60) and the Braves (106-56). San Diego’s brilliant run ended in the World Series, where the Padres were swept by the 114-win Yankees.

In 1993, the Toronto Blue Jays beat Cy Young winner Jack McDowell (22-10, 3.37 ERA in the regular season) twice in the ALCS as his Chicago White Sox went down four games to two. It was McDowell’s second straight 20-win season that year, and he was named the 1993 Cy Young in the offseason. McDowell was 0-2 with a 10.00 ERA in that 1993 ALCS, and then two years later in the AL Division Series with the Yankees against the Mariners, was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA (with the second loss coming in relief in the decisive fifth game).

So, it’s happened before. I’m sure others will chime in as far as exactly how many times it’s happened.

[1] 1997 was truly an odd season. In addition to Maddux and Johnson, a couple of other top pitchers went 0-2 in that year’s postseason. Brown himself went 0-2 in the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. Though Brown never won the Cy Young, he was runner-up to Atlanta’s John Smoltz a year earlier, and was also a 21-game winner in 1992. Andy Pettitte of the Yankees, meanwhile, was 0-2 also in the AL Division Series against Cleveland, one year after finishing second to Pat Hentgen for the AL Cy Young. The Indians also won two games in the 1997 ALCS that were started by Baltimore’s Mike Mussina, who got a pair of no-decisions as the Orioles couldn’t score in those two contests.

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Don’t give me the ball….

Twins right-hander Phil Hughes is one out shy of reaching 210 innings this season, which will cost him a $500,000 bonus. His half-million-dollar bonus kicks in if he reaches 210 innings, and he is at 209.2 after a rain delay forced him out of his final scheduled start on September 24 against Arizona, in a game where he went eight innings.

Of course, Hughes also set a record in that last start, as he finished the season with 16 walks and 186 strikeouts, with his 11.63 strikeouts-to-walks ratio the best all-time for pitchers with a qualifying number of innings. He also has the same number of wins and walks, 16.

Whose record did Hughes break? Bret Saberhagen, who had 143 strikeouts and 13 walks for the Mets in the strike-shortened 1994 season for an 11.00 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. That was a great year for Saberhagen, as he had more wins (14) than walks (13) for a bad Mets team. It was also Saberhagen’s final great season – he was 14-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 24 starts and finished third in the Cy Young race and 22nd in NL MVP balloting. He was also an All-Star that year for the third and final time in his career. (Yes, I know Saberhagen had some success with the Red Sox in the late 1990s – 15-8 with a 3.96 ERA in 1998 and 10-6 with a 2.95 ERA in 1999 – but by that time he was a No. 3 starter at best.)

Another guy I remember is former Cards pitcher Bob Tewksbury, who in 1992 walked only 20 batters and went 16-5 with a 2.16 ERA. Never a big strikeout pitcher, Tewksbury had only 91 K’s in 233 innings that season. But he nearly had the same number of walks and victories! Tewksbury was also poised to win the ERA title, but the Giants gave reliever Bill Swift enough innings down the stretch and the San Francisco right-hander finished at 2.08 in 164.2 innings, beating him out. (The minimum number of innings to qualify for the ERA title is 162.)

bob tewksburyYou can also argue that the Cardinals’ main rival, the Chicago Cubs, cost Tewksbury that ERA title too. On August 31, his ERA was 2.01 after he gave up zero earned runs (and two runs total) in a complete-game victory over San Diego. He gave up two earned runs in each of his next two starts to improve to 16-5 with a 2.07 ERA. Then on September 18 at Wrigley Field, the Cubs pounded him for six earned runs in five innings and his ERA rose to 2.27. Tewksbury rebounded in his final two starts of the year – one earned run in 15 innings – but lost out to Swift.

Another thing too was at the time, he was thought of as a guy who would steal the Cy Young from reigning winner Tom Glavine, who raced out to a 19-3 start by August 19 before slumping late in the year (going 1-5 the rest of the way). On September 13, Tewksbury was 16-5 with three more starts to go, and had he won all three, would have had a shot. Alas, it was Greg Maddux (20-11, 2.18) of the Cubs who wound up being hot in the final weeks to take that sure Cy Young victory away from Glavine (20-8, 2.76).

So, that Hughes story made me think back to Tewksbury losing a couple of major accomplishments in 1992. Of course, they are not the same as one is money and the other is about awards… though I’m sure Tewksbury probably would have had some bonus clauses in his contract that would be triggered had he won the ERA title and/or the Cy Young.

In 1993, Tewksbury then went 17-10 (but with a mediocre 3.83 ERA) and walked just 20 batters, again nearly having the same number of victories and walks. He looked like the second coming of Bob Gibson the following year, winning each of his first six starts and getting out to an 8-1 record. Alas, the wheels fell off and he finished 12-10 with an ugly 5.32 ERA, notching a 6.72 earned-run average in his last 14 starts before the strike wiped out the remainder of the season. He walked 22 in 155.2 innings in 1994.Gullickson

Bill Gullickson was another guy who gave up a lot of hits and didn’t walk that many hitters, though he didn’t have the control that Tewksbury did. After going 20-9 with a 3.90 ERA for the powerful Tigers in 1991, Gullickson was poised to win 20 games for the second straight season. On August 7, he beat Toronto 7-2 on a complete-game eight-hitter to improve to 13-7 with at least 10 starts remaining. Alas, he went 1-6 in his final 10 starts with a 6.45 ERA, including 0-5 and 7.79 in September and October.

And finally back to the Twins, who have said that they would let Hughes pitch out of the bullpen on the final weekend of the season to get the one out to trigger the bonus, according to USA Today. However, Hughes has declined. …which reminds me of another Twins pitcher from 1988.

That season, lefty Allan Anderson had a scheduled start on the final day of the season, but teammate Bert Blyleven told manager Tom Kelly that if Anderson sat out, he would win the ERA title. Kelly gave the left-hander a choice, and Anderson decided to sit out indeed, backing into the ERA championship. It was the first time he had led the ERA race all season, because on the penultimate night of the season on October 1, ERA leader Teddy Higuera of the Brewers gave up three earned runs in 6.2 innings to bump his ERA from 2.41 to 2.45. More accurately, it was 2.4545. Anderson’s ERA was 2.4465, after his shutout against Oakland on September 27. While both ERAs rounded to 2.45, Anderson’s ERA was lower, and he won the ERA title by sitting out his final start on October 2.

What Phil Hughes has decided in 2014 – declining to pitch again just so that he could make an extra $500,000 – is certainly more admirable than what Anderson had chosen in 1988. Bravo, Phil Hughes.

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Flashback to 1995: A 1-0 gem featuring few, few pitches

I was interested in the Cleveland-Seattle game from July 30 because of the major-league record Felix Hernandez was potentially about to break, but as it turned out, it was the Indians’ starter that was making the headlines.

Corey Kluber, who is now the ace in Cleveland after the Indians traded Justin Masterson earlier in the day, threw an 85-pitch shutout to defeat Hernandez and the Mariners, 2-0. In his previous outing, the 28-year-old right-hander had taken a perfect game into the seventh inning against Kansas City back on July 24 in the Indians’ eventual 2-1 loss to the Royals.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Kluber’s gem against Seattle marked just the seventh major-league shutout on 85 or fewer pitches in the 21st century [1].

That stat – so few pitches in a shutout – reminds me of a game in particular, one that featured Greg Maddux against his former Cubs teammate, Mike Morgan. It was an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game back in the 1995 season, where the Atlanta Braves beat the St. Louis Cardinals 1-0 in a contest that took under two hours to complete.

That night, Maddux tossed a two-hit shutout to outpitch Morgan, who allowed only six hits and a walk over eight innings [2]. A quick search on Baseball-Reference.com reveals that that game took place on August 20, 1995, with Maddux throwing only 88 pitches – 66 for strikes – in his nine innings.

mike morganAs for Morgan? He threw 84 pitches – 55 for strikes – over his eight innings of work. It might have been his best start of the season – and he did come within two outs of throwing a no-hitter against the Montreal Expos over a month earlier on July 3.

A tidy, efficient game for both pitchers, with the only run of the game coming in the third inning when Marquis Grissom led off with a double, moved to third on Jeff Blauser’s sacrifice but, and came home on Chipper Jones’ grounder to second base. That was all the scoring for the night, with the game lasting only an hour and 50 minutes.

Any baseball fan knows about Maddux’s dominance that season – where the Braves ace right-hander went 19-2 and captured his fourth consecutive Cy Young Award – so I won’t talk much more about him.

Let’s talk a little bit about Morgan, who went just 7-7 despite a respectable 3.56 ERA in 21 starts. Apparently, if you made him throw enough pitches – something that the Braves didn’t do – you were going to get to him in the late innings. More specifically, Morgan was virtually unhittable in his first 75 pitches in 1995, but became a batting practice pitcher on his 76th pitch onward.

That’s what Dodger third-base coach Joey Amalfitano told first baseman Eric Karros before he stepped up to the plate to face Morgan in the sixth inning on August 9, 1995. Next thing you knew, Karros stroked a two-run homer on the Cardinals right-hander’s 76th pitch of the night, and the Dodgers – with knuckleballer Tom Candiotti on the mound – went on to beat St. Louis, 4-2.

Speaking of Candiotti, he himself also once tossed a complete-game 1-0 shutout where he threw only 85 pitches. The knuckleballer fanned three and didn’t walk a hitter in the four-hit shutout. But that was a spring-training game back in 1987 between the Cleveland Indians and the Oakland Athletics, though the A’s did have their everyday players in the lineup that afternoon. According to an old San Jose Mercury News story from March 28, 1987, Tony Phillips (0-for-3), Carney Lansford (0-for-3), Jose Canseco (2-for-3), Reggie Jackson (0-for-3), and Mark McGwire (0-for-3) all played in that game.

Ahhhhh…great memories, and it’s thanks to Corey Kluber, the new ace of the Indians.

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[1] According to that same Yahoo! Sports story, Kluber faced one batter over the minimum in nine complete innings for his second straight start, which marked the first time it had happened in big-league history.

[2] Poor Morgan. He was also the losing pitcher in Dennis Martinez’s perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 1991, dropping a hard-luck 2-0 decision. He gave up only four hits in a complete-game effort, with both runs off of him unearned.

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Dominant streaks: Clemens, Johnson, Pedro… and who?

Back on June 29, Seattle Mariners ace right-hander Felix Hernandez allowed only one hit over eight shutout innings to defeat the visiting Cleveland Indians 3-0, giving up just Lonnie Chisenhall’s fifth-inning single.

For Hernandez, who walked three, it was his ninth consecutive start where he had pitched at least seven innings while giving up two runs or fewer. During that stretch, Hernandez was 6-1 with a 1.30 ERA with 77 strikeouts and just 10 walks over 69 innings. In those nine outings, he surrendered a total of 42 hits and one homer.

The nine consecutive starts with seven or more innings with two or fewer runs is a Mariners club record, and in fact is a rare feat in baseball. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Tom Seaver holds the longest such streak in big-league history, going 13 straight starts in 1971 where he allowed two runs or fewer while working at least seven innings.

From 2001-2013, only six pitchers had such a streak of at least eight consecutive starts, which shows how rare Hernandez’s feat has been.

ClemensAs for the 1990s? Well, only five pitchers in that decade had a stretch of eight straight starts where they gave up only two runs or fewer while pitching at least seven innings. The list includes fireballers Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. You would expect to see those names, as Clemens, Johnson, and Martinez were three of the most dominant pitchers in the 1990s, as well as in baseball history. Surprisingly, Ed Whitson accomplished this feat during the 1990 season, when he went 5-0 with a 0.99 ERA in those eight consecutive starts from July 25 to September 2 for the San Diego Padres. During his streak, Whitson walked just eight batters in 63.1 innings.

Who was the fifth pitcher to accomplish that rare feat in the 1990s with eight consecutive such starts? No, not Greg Maddux [1]. Not Tom Glavine or John Smoltz. Not Mike Mussina.

Nope. The fifth guy who did it was Los Angeles Dodgers knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who accomplished the feat in 1993.

During a season which saw the Dodgers finish 81-81, the highlights were rookie Mike Piazza’s monster season and the team’s 12-1 rout over the Giants on the final day of the year to knock San Francisco out of the postseason.

But there was also the overlooked Candiotti and his pitching throughout the summer, as he had a 1.85 ERA in 22 starts from May 1 to the end of August. Entering play on September 1, Candiotti’s 2.43 ERA was the best in the major leagues, marking the second time in three years that he had the ERA lead at one point in the final weeks of the season.

The knuckleballer’s streak of eight straight starts with two or fewer runs and seven or more innings took place from July 18 to August 25, when he pitched to a 1.32 ERA over 61.1 innings while allowing only 17 walks and four home runs. Included in that streak was a 2-1 win on July 28 in San Francisco, where he held Giants sluggers Will Clark, Matt Williams, and Barry Bonds to one hit in 10 at-bats.

Candiotti went only 5-0 in that streak because he didn’t get enough support in the other three starts. On August 9, he gave up two runs over eight frames but the Dodgers lost 3-2 in 11 innings against Colorado. (The Dodgers couldn’t touch Rockies right-hander Greg Harris, who would be 4-20 with a 6.60 ERA in a Colorado uniform in 1993-94.) On August 20 in St. Louis, Candiotti allowed two runs over seven innings but left the game trailing 2-0 against rookie Rene Arocha, before the Dodgers rallied for three runs in the ninth to spare him a heart-breaking loss. Five nights later, he gave up one run on four hits over eight innings against Pittsburgh, only to leave the game trailing 1-0 to Pirates rookie Paul Wagner. The Dodgers tied it in the bottom of the eighth but ultimately lost 2-1 in 12 innings.

That performance in that last outing on August 25 lowered Candiotti’s ERA to 2.43, tops in all of baseball.

Certainly, when you think about long stretches of dominant pitching, you think of guys such as Felix Hernandez, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez. Ed Whitson? Well, at least he threw a fastball.

Tom Candiotti, a guy who threw a knuckleball? You would have never figured he had had such a long run of great pitching. But it happened. Back in that underrated 1993 season.

[1] Even in Maddux’s dominant 1994-95 seasons, when he had sub-2.00 ERAs of 1.56 and 1.63, respectively, he didn’t have that many starts in a row with seven or more innings with two or fewer runs allowed. The longest streak he had in those seasons lasted “only” a half-dozen. Maddux had six consecutive such starts in 1994, and again six straight in 1995.

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