Saturday, November 9, 2019

Bazooka Gum's Stats of the Week

Glavine the workhorse: In his career Tom Glavine started 682 games which ranks 12th all-time in MLB history

Having his number: Greg Maddux gave up more career HR's (10) and RBI (23) and Hits (40, also tied in this category with Craig Biggio) to Luis Gonzalez than any other player in MLB

Mr. Consistency: John Smoltz 6 times in his career won 15 games or more in a season

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pitching In Their 40's: How Maddux, Glavine And Smoltz Faired

(3 minute read)

What does the number 42 have in common with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz? That was the age that each of the future Hall of Fame pitchers retired. Not that they didn’t have the desire to keep playing, but rather Father Time began to slow them down a bit, make them seem mortal on the mound. However, when age 40 came to these diamond kings, they each proved that they could still be durable and reliable. Gone were the days of Cy Young contentions and unquestioned dominance in the league. There was a new chapter in these men’s lives—pitching into their 40s and finding out how much age really played a part in a kid’s game.
Daniel Shirey; Getty Images 2016 

Tom Glavine proved that he could still be relied upon to start games. From age 40-42, Glavine started 79 games and logged 461.2 innings of work for the Mets and Braves in his last 3 years of play. He was 30-19 with a 4.33 ERA. He did have a complete game shutout at age 41 while he was a member of the New York Mets in a game vs the St. Louis Cardinals. Although it was only a 6 inning game due to rain in New York on June 27th, 2007, it still counts in the record book as a complete game shutout. It was his first since 2005.

Greg Maddux proved the 40s were just a number and started 101 games from age 40-42. Mad Dog worked in 602 innings and posted a 37-38 record with a 4.19 ERA in those 3 years with the Cubs, Dodgers and Padres. Maddux did have one complete game in 2007, his first since 2005, on May 14th, 2007 against the Cincinnati Reds completing 9 innings in the win 7-1 win. 

John Smoltz was also finished after the season he turned 42. With a season ending shoulder sugury in 2008 at age 41, his last season with the Braves, Smoltz went to play for the Red Sox and Cardinals in 2009. From ages 40-42, Smoltz recorded a 20-18 record (14 of those 20 wins came at age 40 with the Braves), 3.87 ERA in 311.2 innings of work. And over that 3 year span John started 52 games.

Even in their 40s, the trio of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz did have another shot at the playoffs. At age 40, Glavine and his Mets made it to the playoffs in 2006. There, the 40 year old southpaw posted 2-1, 2.45 ERA in the 2006 postseason in the NLDS and NLCS. There Glavine was up to his old tricks pitching 17 innings and giving up only 3 ER.

Greg Maddux tasted the postseason as well in his 40s. Maddux pitched twice in the postseason with the Dodgers at age 40 and 42 in 2006 NLDS and 2008 NLDS & NLCS respectively. He started only 1 game in the 2006 NLDS with the LA Dodgers against the Mets and was chased out of the game with 4 runs off 7 hits in only 4 innings of work. In the 2008 playoffs, Maddux didn’t start any games. He worked an inning out of the bullpen against the Cubs in the NLDS. In the NLCS later on that postseason as the Dodgers advanced, he appeared out of the bullpen again in 2 games pitching 3 innings giving up 3 hits vs the Phillies.

John Smoltz also had one last shot of the postseason. However, he was not the overly dominating postseason pitcher from days past. Smoltz pitched in the playoffs at 42 with the Cards. He came out of the bullpen in 1 game vs the Dodgers and worked 2 innings and gave up 1 ER off 4 hits. 

Age eventually catches up to even the most skilled and prolific of athletes. These three Hall of Famers are no exception to the rule that you can’t beat Father Time—hair turns gray, weight is gained and skill sets diminishes to varying degrees to the best of us. In their 40’s, these masters of the mound still had games where they recaptured, if not for just one game, what they had in their youths before age ran them down. It didn’t matter to me then nor does it now how they finished their careers. It was a true pleasure to watch my heroes play until the end. Isn’t that what heroes are supposed to do?

Friday, November 1, 2019

Bazooka Gum's Stats of the Week

Tom Glavine in 1993, became the first NL pitcher since Fergie Jenkins to win 20 games 3 straight seasons

Greg Maddux had 75 complete games in the 1990s giving him the most of any pitcher in MLB during that time

John Smoltz in his final 13 starts in 1991, in a push to get the Braves into the playoffs, posted an 8-1, 1.49 ERA during that stretch

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Greg Maddux's One And Only Save

(3 minute read)

Throughout Greg Maddux’s 23 year Hall of Fame career, fans have seen it all: Winning 355 MLB games, striking out 3371 hitters, leading the MLB in ERA 4 times, collecting 4 National League Cy Young Awards in a row, and even capturing a World Series championship. Most fans of  Mad Dog probably know every stat about this cerebral pitcher. However, there is something that most fans do not know. And it is something that has only happened one time in Maddux’s career and never again.

On October 12, 1998 in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series vs the San Diego Padres, Greg Maddux was called into the game into the bottom of the 9th by Braves manager Bobby Cox to stop the Padres surge. If the Padres won Game 5, the series was over for the Braves. So with a bullpen that was beleaguered , Maddux was the safest and most logical call to make out of the bullpen. 

In games 1-4, the first 2 in Atlanta and the next 2 in San Diego, the Braves bullpen posted a whopping 22.20 ERA in those games. They gave up a combined 5 runs in 11.2 innings of relief. Of those first 4 games of the NLCS, Braves starters posted a 3.04 ERA in 23.2 innings of work. In games 1-3, the trio of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz gave up 5 runs in 18 innings for a 2.50 ERA. Even with those stellar 3 pitching performances, the San Diego Padres took the first 3 games.

By the time Game 5 rolled around in San Diego, the Braves had found themselves with a 3-1 game deficit. If they were going to go to the 1998 World Series, they would have to beat the Padres 3 in a row. John Smoltz started Game 5 and wasn't nearly as dominating as he was in Game 1 where he gave up 2 ER on 4 hits in 7 innings. He lasted 6.2 innings giving up 4 runs on 9 hits. When Smoltz left the game in the 7th, it was 4-2 Padres. It looked bleak for the Braves until the top of the 8th were the Braves put a huge 5 spot on the board. 

Now the fortunes had turned and the Braves were up 7-4 going into the bottom of the 8th. The Braves bullpen came in and pitched a clean inning preserving the 7-4 lead. It was looking as if the Braves might make the series closer with a win. All they needed was one more good inning. And with a 3 run lead going into the bottom of the 9th, there was breathing room if a run was to go by, maybe 2.

When the Padres home half of the inning came in the 9th, the Braves had summoned Kerry Lightenberg into shut the door on the Padres and make the series 3-2. Lightenberg had already in Game 1 of the series given up a go-ahead home run back in Atlanta with the game 2-2 in the 10th. That was still in Kerry’s head as he began to pitch in this Braves elimination game. 

With the first two batters he faced, he walks Mark Sweeney and gives up a 2-run homer to the next batter in Greg Myers. It was now 7-6 with no outs. A 3 run lead had been whittled down to just 1 with that big blast. Bobby Cox had seen enough. The call to the bullpen was made and out came Greg Maddux for his first ever closing situation.

Maddux came into the game 7-6, no outs. He struck out power hitting Greg Vaughn, got Quilvio Veras to ground to short. There was 2 outs. Next batter he faced was Steve Finley and Maddux walked him. Next up was the dangerous Tony Gwynn. Gwynn who had hit Maddux very well in his career was held in check in Maddux’s only start of the ’98 NLCS going 0-3 in Game 3.

Same song, same story. Maddux gets Gwynn to roll a grounder to first base and that was the ballgame. The Braves were now down 3-2 in the series and Greg Maddux had collected his first and only save in his career albeit in the postseason. 

The Braves in Game 6 ended up losing 5-0 and their 106 win season went by the boards. But perhaps the most memorable aspect of that series was that Greg Maddux earned his first and only MLB save.

-Matthew McConkey

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Bazooka Gum's Stats of the Week

Tom Glavine in his career has won more games against the Washington Nationals than any other ball club in MLB with 33 total wins. On the flip side, he lost 24 games to the Nats, the most against any team in his career. And as far as the Nats go, Glavine faced them a career record 69 times.

Greg Maddux is the all time leader in putouts with 546 by a pitcher. Next closest is Kevin Brown with 388

John Smoltz's 1st MLB shutout was 5/16/1990 vs the Cubs and future teammate, Greg Maddux 4-0.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Smoltz's 15 K Games

(3 minute read)

15 strikeouts is a lot to have in a game. It’s an amazing feat to have accomplished. But to do it twice? That’s even better. And that’s exactly what John Smoltz did in a Braves uniform. Not only did he do it in 1992 on May 24th, he replicated that total in 2005. So how did Smoltz do it?

The scene was Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada against the Expos. In his storied career, John was just plain dominating in that ballpark. Smoltz was 10-3 in 15 starts, with a 2.01 ERA and a crazy .203 batting average against him. So for John to set an Atlanta Franchise record in strikeouts and a personal best, the venue couldn’t have been better.

In that game, John had command early against the Expos and had a strikeout in every inning except the 6th as he scattered 6 Expos hits, recorded 15 K’s with a complete game, breaking former Atlanta Braves record holder Denny Lemaster’s 14 whiffs. And he got it done on 133 pitches as the Braves won 2-1. “I always enjoyed pitching in Montreal for some reason,” Smoltz said. “Maybe it was because of the controlled environment. I liked the domes. I liked pitching in conditions that were consistent.” (AJC, When John Smoltz Set Record With 15 Strikeouts; By Carroll Rogers Walton; May 24th, 2017)

The next time Smoltz would record 15 K’s in a game would be 13 years later in Atlanta vs the Mets on 4/10/2005. Now, this game turned out much differently than his 15 K performance against the Expos 13 years prior. The differences were that Smoltz and the Braves lost the game 6-1 to fellow gunslinger Pedro Martinez and John was out after 7.1 innings pitched. But he did have 15 K’s matching his career best and tying his own Atlanta franchise Braves record for K’s in a game. “I was so disappointed,” Smoltz said. “I would have rather not struck out one guy and win a game than to strike out that many and lose.” (AJC, When John Smoltz Set Record With 15 Strikeouts; By Carroll Rogers Walton; May 24th, 2017)

Smoltz’s K record for the Braves in Atlanta still stands as of this written article. As does Warren Spahn’s total Braves single game record of 18 K’s.  It took 26 years for Denny Lemaster’s 14 strikeout performance to be broken by John. 13 more years for Smoltz to match his own in 2005. In an era where big arms go for big punch-outs, maybe by the time 2024 rolls around someone will match both Smoltz performances of 15 and perhaps tie or break the great Warren Spahn. 

-Matthew McConkey

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Mr. Padre VS The Terrific Trio

(4 minute read)

As the trio of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz terrorized the National and American League hitters for over two decades with their pitching prowess and IQ, there was a hitter that lurked who could match their pitching acumen with the lumber. He was an 8-time batting champ, 7-time Sliver Slugger and collector of 3,141 hits and future Hall of Famer from the San Diego Padres. He was and still is what MLB hitters should strive to be—the bench mark of hitting.

Tony Gwynn was the best pure hitter Major League Baseball had seen since the long gone days of Ted Williams. In 19 consecutive years, Gwynn hit over .300 and in 7 different years .350 or better. The only time Mr. Padre didn’t hit .300 was his rookie season in 1982 and he then only hit .289 (55-190). His studious prep time in the art of hitting made Gwynn one of the most dangerous hitters of his time, if not all-time. And when Gwynn faced Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, it was a match-up of the best vs the best: Gwynn’s patience at the plate while Maddux nibbled corners with off speed pitches and fastballs. Smoltz’s power vs Gwynn’s ability to know what was coming next. And the chess match that was Gwynn and Glavine.

When it came to Tony Gwynn, John Smoltz had no answers on how to stop him. Inside, outside didn’t seem to work. Up and down in the zone was a no go as well. Gwynn wasn’t a hitter that would chase out of the strike zone so no luck there. Maybe it was how the ball came out of Smoltz’s hand, but whatever it was Gwynn posted a lifetime regular season .462 batting average off of the right handed power pitcher. In fact, Gwynn collected more RBI off of John than any other hitter in MLB. Smoltz, recording over 3,000 k’s lifetime, only managed to strike out Gwynn one time. In the postseason in 1998, Gwynn’s dominance over Smoltz seemed to wan as he went .286 (2-7) with one walk. Still no strikeouts. 

Greg Maddux, who was Gwynn’s counterpart in the art of pitching, had no answers either. The two knew each other well and had faced-off 107 times, the most in Gwynn’s career. The man known for keeping walks to a ridicouls low had walked Tony Gwynn 11 times in his career (10 in the regular season, 1 in the postseason), making Maddux the only pitcher to walk Gwynn that much. Of the 11 walks, 7 of them were intentional and those intentional walks were the most given to him by a
pitcher. In the regular season, Maddux was victimized by Mr. Padre having given up a .429 batting average lifetime (39-91). Unlike his teammate in Smoltz, Maddux did something spectacular—he blanked Gwynn in the batter’s box only in the years of 1993 and 2000 going 0-4 and 0-3 respectively. In the postseason, Maddux seemed to have the antidote when it came to Gwynn. In 1998’s postseason, Gwynn and Maddux faced off and Maddux got the better of him shutting down Mr. Padre 0-3. Maddux in his career never struck out Gwynn.

Tom Glavine had faced Gwynn 105 times, the second most behind Greg Maddux. Glavine and Gwynn were both lefties which could account for some of Tom’s success. Gwynn hit 20 points lower (.325) vs lefties than he did righties (.345). Nevertheless, Glavine was able to do something that not many could do: roll Gwynn into 4 double plays, second most in
Gwynn’s career. Glavine struck out Gwynn twice and walked him 6 times, one of those being intentional throughout their meetings. In the regular season career, Glavine held Gwynn to a .312 batting average, which was under performing by Tony’s standards while others would’ve loved to have that number. In the post season in 1998, Glavine put Gwynn in check keeping the game’s best hitter off kilter going 1-6 (.167).

-Matthew McConkey