Sunday, September 27, 2015

The worst seasons to feature a Maddux

Jeff Samardzija pitched a Maddux earlier this week, needing only 88 pitches to complete the shutout. That's the fewest pitches used in any of this season's eight Madduxes, and one of only 39 Madduxes accomplished on 88 pitches or fewer since MLB began fully tracking pitch counts in 1988. While the especially low number of pitches needed make the accomplishment all the more impressive, what really stood out to me about it is that Samardzija was in the midst of a really bad season, and a horrific second half. I found myself wondering: Which pitchers have thrown a Maddux while having the worst season?


There are a variety of ways to rank seasons, both the good and the bad. I wanted to use a rate stat, not a counting one, and chose to go with ERA+, which is not to say that's the definitive best measure, but it's a good one.

(Updated through the end of the 2015 season)

Here are all the seasons in which a pitcher threw a Maddux and finished with an ERA+ below 80:

  • t1) Phillip Humber (2012): 66**(a)
  • t1) Jim Bullinger (1996): 66**(b)
  • 3) Ted Power (1988): 68**
  • t4) Drew Hutchinson (2015): 71**(c)
  • t4) Bruce Ruffin (1990): 71**
  • 6) Pedro Astacio (2006): 72**
  • t7) Clay Buchholz (2014): 75
  • t7) Aaron Cook (2012): 75**
  • t7) Jerry Reuss (1989): 75**
  • 10) Derek Holland (2009): 76**
  • 11) Ismael Valdez (2004): 77
  • t12) Bronson Arroyo (2011): 78
  • t12) Bob Tewksbury (1994): 78
  • t14) Jeff Samardzija (2015): 79
  • t14) Johan Santana (2012): 79**
  • t14) Joe Mays (2005): 79**
  • t14) Scott Sanderson (1992): 79
  • t14) Jimmy Jones (1991): 79**

** Did not qualify for ERA title
(a) That was Humber's perfect game
(b) Bullinger had -3.3 career bWAR, lowest total among the 187 pitchers who've thrown a Maddux.
(c) Turns out Samardzija doesn't have the worst ERA+ among guys who threw a Maddux this season.

Also worth mentioning: Bill Krueger pitched two Madduxes in 1992, a year in which he had an ERA+ of 88, giving him the worst season to feature more than one Maddux.

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The 18 seasons on the list come from 273 total player-seasons to include at least one Maddux, or roughly 1 out of every 15, which means more pitchers having a really bad season have pitched a Maddux than I would have predicted.

As the asterisks make clear, most of the pitchers on the list didn't get in enough work to be considered qualified. Not a big surprise, since if you're pitching that poorly, there's a good chance you're dealing with an injury that will eventually sideline you, or you're going to be removed from the rotation for ineffectiveness.

Samardzija is the only guy on the list who pitched 200+ innings in his season. Also, no one else has ever led the league in earned runs and hits allowed for a season in which they tossed a Maddux.

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