With the recent trade and signing out of the way, we can get back to counting down to the 29 Most Important Braves During the Streak. Joe "The Hammer" Hamrahi will have the next review for you at the end of the weekend, and then we'll find out who number one will be. Up now is Greg Maddux.
He was already a dominant pitcher when he came to the Braves having just won a Cy Young award with the Cubs, but as if it were almost impossible to do so he continued to get better for the next several years winning three consecutive Cy Young awards as a Brave. In '94 and '95 he had possibly the two best seasons ever for a pitcher in Braves (not just Atlanta Braves) history. His ERA each of those years was 1.56 (in '94) and 1.63 (in '95) - better single season ERAs than any other Braves pitcher. He also holds four spots in the top ten in lowest single season WHIP for the Braves, including '95 which was the fifth-lowest WHIP total for any pitcher in baseball history.
Only three times in his eleven seasons as a Brave did Mad Dog's ERA ever go above 3.00. And while he only won 20 games once as a Brave, he won 19 games four times and never won fewer than 15 games (a streak he kept up for an amazing 17 consecutive seasons). Greg Maddux also has the best winning percentage in Braves franchise history. I could go on and on, but the point is that the seasons he spent in Atlanta and the impact they had on the team far outweighed those of Tom Glavine and just about everyone else (just about).
He was often called the professor and indeed helped many young Braves pitchers mature into great Major League pitchers. He could often be seen with his arm around other pitchers counseling them on the finer arts of how to deceive batters.
There are several other descriptions of Maddux that stick in my memory, descriptions repeated by announcers that were originally said by opposing managers. The first was that Maddux "under whelms" his opponents. He wasn't the power strikeout pitcher that most dominant pitchers were, but he was nonetheless overpowering - overpowering in how he out-thought his opponents in the batter's box. The other tidbit I remember was that Greg Maddux beats you "without ever breaking a sweat" - I always got a chuckle at that one.
While he may have been underwhelming and not a prototypical athlete he was no slouch in the field. As a fielder of his position Maddux must be considered the greatest of his era - 16 Gold Gloves don't lie.
In the postseason Maddux was good, but not great - something that also keeps him at just number #3 on this list. With his mastery of the regular season many expected him to be equally as dominant in all facets of the postseason, but he simply wasn't the overpowering pitcher he was at times during the regular season - especially towards the end of his stay in Atlanta. He did win 11 games in the postseason as a Brave, but he also lost 13 - though many of those losses were in very close games.