Well, Greg Maddux won’t make it to 15 wins this year. His 14-11 record will not extend his already major-league record of 18 seasons with 15 or more wins. But I would be willing to bet he has set a record for seasons with 14 or more wins, just as he already owns the record for seasons with 13 or more wins.
347 wins is just freaking amazing in this day and age. And he’s still seven games behind allegedly steroid-pumped rival Roger Clemens. Now I don’t know if Clemens actually used or uses steroids, but if he did, I’m sure it accounts for a lot more than seven games in the win column over the 24 years Clemens has pitched.
Still Maddux gained eight games on Clemens this year, and Clemens could well retire again, so Maddux has a very good chance of passing Clemens next year, even if he “only” wins 14 games next year.
If he does win 14 games next year that would put him at 361 career wins, tied with Kid Nichols for #7 all time. More importantly it would put him only two games behind Warren Spahn on the all-time list (Spahn has 363 wins). Why is that important?
Because of the top 10 pitchers in the all-time list, only Maddux, Clemens and Spahn played in anything remotely resembling the “modern era.” All the rest played in the “dead ball” era where pitchers did not have to throw 90 mph to get batters out, and so they were able to pitch a whole lot more often, and they pitched a lot more complete games. That’s why Cy Young is not only the winningest pitcher in major league history, but also the losingest. He just pitched a frigging LOT of games and got the decision in over 90% of them. Modern pitchers, by comparison, get a decision in about 70% of their games, and they pitch a lot fewer of them.
So for Maddux to pass Spahn would pretty much make him the winningest pitcher in MLB history for the “live ball era” and most baseball aficionados would know what that means in terms of his ability and his place in baseball history.
Now, Maddux could retire, or he could find it hard at his age to get into a rotation, but at 14 wins he probably is still in the top 20 pitchers or so in the league this year, so I would guess he won’t find a problem with playing another season. And if he pulls off another 14 win season next year, he’ll probably be back in 2009 as well.
I personally hope he does come back and that he plays at least two more years and passes Spahn. Let’s say he drops to 13 wins next year and 12 wins in 2009. That would put him at 372 wins.That is one win fewer than Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander, who are tied for #3 on the all time list.
Personally I think Maddux has a shot at passing Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander. And that’s something that is hard to believe. Both of them were dead-ball era pitchers and if anyone had suggested 20 years ago that a modern day pitcher could possibly catch them in total wins, they would have been laughed at. That’s basically 375 wins. That’s 25 wins short of 400 wins. That’s pretty much inconceivable for a modern pitcher in a five man rotation getting pulled in the sixth inning and having to rely on a bevy of bullpen pitchers to hold onto the lead to get the win. Until Clemens and Maddux started climbing up the all-time list I dont’ think anybody thought that a modern pitcher could get within sight of 400 wins.
Which makes me wonder if 400 wins is even remotely possible for even Maddux. To get there would take 53 more wins. At 12 wins per season that is slightly more than four seasons. At 13 wins per season it is almost exactly 4 seasons.
Is it remotely possible that Maddux could pitch for four more years? And continue to be an effective pitcher winning 13 games per year?
Well, this was his 22nd season. Four more years would put him at 26 seasons. There are two pitchers who pitched effectively at the major league level for that long. Tommy John, who pitched 26 seasons and Nolan Ryan who pitched 27. Tommy John came back from a devastating elbow injury and Nolan Ryan was a fastball pitcher. Maddux has never been injured significantly and he has always been a pitcher, not a hurler. So his body is probably capable of going a few more years.
Personally I think it’s all about how bad Maddux wants to pitch. He’s already a first-ballot Hall of Fame lock, so there is little beyond a desire to play that keeps Maddux pitching. But if anyone ever again has even a remote chance to reach the 400 win plateau, I think that person is Maddux, and nobody else.