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Pedro or Greg?

Matt Imbrogno

March 2008

 

            Who do you take-Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux? These two men were two of the best pitchers of the 1990s and are sure shots for the Hall of Fame. Despite that similarity, one would think there are hardly two pitchers more different. Pedro Martinez is a fire-balling, intimidating, dominant, and downright scary pitcher. Greg Maddux was the "thinking man's" pitcher. He was dominant in a different way. While Pedro could make you look silly with his speed, Greg could do the same with his accuracy.

 

            Before we get into the side-by-side numbers comparison, let's take a look at the superlatives for these two highly decorated pitchers. Greg Maddux is a four-time Cy Young Award winner and has finished in the top five for the award-including wins-nine times. Arguably the best fielding pitcher of all time, Maddux has won a whopping seventeen Gold Gloves. He has four ERA titles with eleven top ten finishes and his career ERA is third on the active list. Maddux won the WHIP title four times as well, with FIFTEEN top ten finishes, good for fourth on the active list. Despite not being a strikeout pitcher, he still ranks third on the active strikeouts list and won three K/BB ratio titles, with ten top ten finishes and is eighth on the active list. As an added bonus, he's won the shutout titles five times, and finished in the top ten for that category twelve times. That's a lot of hardware.

 

            Pedro Martinez is a three time Cy Young Award winner with seven top five finishes. He's won the ERA crown five times, with eight top ten finishes, and he has the best ERA of any active pitcher. Pedro's WHIP is also the best among active players; he's won that title six times, with eleven top ten finishes. He's got three strikeout titles and is number five on the active list; he's won the K/BB title four times, and is number two on the active list for that category. Pedro boasts five K/9 titles as well. He finished in the top ten for that category eleven times and is number 3 on that active list. In 1999, Pedro became one of the few pitchers to win the pitching Triple Crown with an ERA of 2.07, 23 wins, and 313 strikeouts.

 

            So then, how do we choose between these two wonderful pitchers? How do we determine who's better? Well, maybe we could just decide that they're equals and it merely depends on what kind of pitcher you want-a strikeout guy or a finesse guy. But who wants to do that? That's more boring than, well, anything. What I'm gonna do, then, is do what I always do; I'm going to take a look at their numbers side by side and make my judgment after that. Here we go.

 

Stat

Greg Maddux

Pedro Martinez

Adv.

ERA

3.11

2.80

Pedro

IP

4814.3

2673.7

Maddux

WHIP

1.141

1.030

Pedro

SO

3,273

3,030

Maddux

BB

969

708

Pedro

H

4522

2046

Pedro

K/BB

3.37

4.27

Pedro

K/9

 6.11

10.19

Pedro

H/9

8.45

6.88

Pedro

BB/9

1.81

2.38

Maddux

Men on/9

10.26

9.26

Pedro

BAA

.249

.210

Pedro

OBPA

.291

.271

Pedro

SLGA

.356

.328

Pedro

OPSA

.647

.599

Pedro

 

            Okay let's see what we've got here. There are fifteen statistical categories up there and Pedro Martinez wins in twelve and Greg Maddux wins in three. Maddux's win in innings pitched is obvious since he has had a longer career. This also accounts for his superior strikeout total. However, it also shows why he's walked over two hundred more batters than Pedro has and give up a ton more hits. Counting stats like this are hard to examine when the players haven't played an equal amount of time. Let's look, then, at the stats that neutralize the amount of years one has played or innings one has pitched-the "per nine" statistical categories, ERA, and WHIP. Pedro Martinez beats Maddux in ERA by a pretty good amount, but in terms of the "per nine" categories, it can be skewed when someone has more or less innings pitched than his opponent. WHIP is a little better of a judge since it's on a per inning basis. There, the two are a little closer but Pedro again has an edge. It's rare for a pitcher to put up a sub 1.10 WHIP in one season, let alone for an entire career, but Pedro has done it. In fact, only two players in baseball history-Addie Joss (played 1902-1910) and Ed Walsh (1904-1917)-have lower WHIPs than Pedro Martinez. Pedro is the only pitcher from the modern era in the top ten for all-time WHIP and is one of four players in the top twenty for WHIP whose careers are in the latter half of the twentieth century. What that means is that Pedro is putting up numbers like they did back in the dead ball era. Today's baseball is anything but dead ball. This isn't to say that Maddux's 1.141 WHIP isn't excellent either, but Pedro's WHIP is just phenomenal. For the record, Maddux is 46th on the all-time WHIP list.

 

            Finally, we'll get down to the real per nine stats. Pedro wins in hits per nine and men on per nine. Maddux's 1.81 BB/9 is absolutely unreal, but Pedro's lower hits per nine and men on per nine totals-not to mention his incredible 10.19 K/9, also and advantage over Maddux (and just about anybody)-gives him the advantage in my mind. What this is to say is that even if we take out Pedro's strikeout advantage, he still puts up better numbers per nine innings than Greg Maddux does.

 

            A good measure of how good a pitcher is what his opponents do against him. For that, we'll look at the hitting against stats against each Maddux and Martinez. Pedro sweeps that category, besting Maddux in batting average against, on base percentage against, slugging percentage against, and OPS against. So it seems that hitters hit Pedro a little worse than they do Maddux. That could be due to Pedro's increase in velocity, but Maddux's deadly accuracy is just as effective. The numbers, though, point to Pedro.

 

            So whom do I take? I take Pedro Martinez over Greg Maddux. Why? Well it comes down to two reasons. First is the fact that I prefer strikeout pitchers to non-strikeout pitchers. When you strike a guy out, he's not putting his bat on the ball and there is the most minimal of chances he will get on base; the chances are next to zero (the rare dropped third strike being the exception). The second reason is because the numbers point to it. Just look at the table I provided earlier. Pedro has the edge in the statistics that you can compare between the two. Not only do I love Pedro, but also I think that he is the better pitcher than Greg Maddux. So, on the hot seat, if I had to pick between the two, I'd take Pedro-but I wouldn't mind having Maddux either.

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