Monday, March 10, 2014

The Best Pitching Duos in History (Part X--1990-1999)

Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux/ Atlanta Braves (1993-1999)

A left-hander, Glavine made a living off of painting the corners and expanding the strike zone. He was a 20-game winner on five occasions--all with the Braves. Extremely durable, he led the league in starts six times. He won two Cy Young Awards and finished among the top five in voting four other times. With 305 career wins, he was a lock for the Hall of Fame in 2014. Another attribute that may have put him over the top was his hitting. Glavine was a Silver Slugger recipient four times and compiled a .289 average in '96.

Maddux was among the greatest pitchers of the 90s and perhaps of all time, winning at least 15 games in seventeen consecutive seasons. He captured four straight Cy Young Awards from '92-'95 in addition to four ERA titles (though not in succession). Aside from Jim Kaat, no other hurler has come close to matching Maddux's record for defensive excellence. By the time he retired, he had eighteen Gold Gloves in his collection. Interestingly, Maddux threw softer rather than harder when he was in a jam. He had one of the best circle changes in the majors. He was elected to the Hall in 2014 alongside his former teammate.

Based on the stat-line below, many would agree that Maddux and Glavine were perhaps the greatest pitching duo in modern history (at least during the pitch-count era). 

                                          1993        1994        1995        1996        1997       1998        1999
Greg Maddux                       20-10       16-6         19-2        15-11       19-4        18-9        19-9
Tom Glavine                         22-8         13-9         16-7        15-10       14-7        20-6       14-11

Mike Mussina and Scott Erickson/ Baltimore Orioles (1995-1999)

A right-hander, Mussina was one of the Orioles' top pitchers from 1992-'99, reaching the 15-win threshold six times. He led the league in '95 with 19 victories while additionally pacing the loop in shutouts. In '92, his .783 winning percentage was tops in the AL. "Moose's" best pitch was a knuckle curve--a standard curve thrown with bent fingers to allow for a better grip, tighter spin and increased movement. A five-time All-Star, he won six Gold Gloves and finished among the top ten in Cy Young voting eight times. During the second half of his career, he spent nearly a decade with the Yankees and retired on a high note after finally winning 20 games in 2008.

Erickson established himself at age 23 with a 20-8 season in Minnesota. He followed with horrible efforts in '93/'94, losing a league-high 19 games in the former campaign. His ERA stood at 5.95 when he was traded to the Orioles in July of '95. The change of scenery was an instant cure as he went 9-4 the rest of the way and lowered his ERA by over 100 points. Four more successful campaigns followed. From '96-'99, he worked 220-plus innings and the workload caught up with him. After '99, he was never terribly effective again.

                                                                1995          1996         1997          1998          1999
Mike Mussina                                            19-9           19-11        15-8           13-10        18-7
Scott Erickson                                            9-4*          13-12        16-7           16-13        15-12

*--Erickson did not arrive in Baltimore until July

Charles Nagy and Orel Hershiser/Cleveland Indians (1995-1997)

In his early days, Nagy was a star pitcher for Team USA, helping the squad to a Gold Medal at the Seoul Olympics in '88. The right-handed Nagy was Cleveland's Iron Man, never missing a start from Oct. 3, 1993 through May 16, 2000. In that remarkable span, he won at least 15 games in six consecutive seasons. He was removed from the rotation when he developed bone chips in his elbow. He pitched a few more years, but was never effective again.

Hershiser is best known for his long stint with the Dodgers and his miraculous '88 season. During that storied campaign, he led the NL in wins (23), shutouts (8) and complete games (15) and finished third with an ERA of 2.26. He also set the record for consecutive scoreless innings with 59. He continued his success in the playoffs that year, capturing MVP honors in the NLCS and World Series. At seasons' end, he became the only hurler to win both of those accolades along with a Cy Young Award. He was thirty-six years-old when he joined th Indians in '95, but still had a few good years left in him, winning 13 or more games in four of five seasons with the Tribe. His overall record in Cleveland was 69-43.

                                                                           1995               1996               1997
Charles Nagy                                                       16-6                17-5                15-11
Orel Hershiser                                                      16-8                15-9                14-8

Andy Pettitte and David Cone/ New York Yankees (1997-1999)

Pettitte had a variety of pitches in his arsenal, among them a slider, curve, change and cutter. He kept runners close to the bag with his deceptive move to first (which bordered on a balk at times). He executed 100 successful pickoffs in his career. Among the most productive left-handers in Yankee history, he won more than 200 games in pinstripes (256 overall). He was a member of the fabled "Core Four," which included other home grown stars Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada. Together, they won five World Series rings.

Cone had a breakthrough season in 1988, posting a 20-3 record and 2.22 ERA. He captured a Cy Young Award with the Royals in '94. Two years later, he suffered a career-threatening aneurysm in his shoulder and made a successful comeback. Cone used a split-fingered fastball, slider and a curve. A finesse pitcher, his offerings had dramatic movement and his high pitch counts prevented him from going deep into games at times. In '97, he ended up with eleven no decisions and in '99 ten more. His earned run averages were more than economical and he could easily have won 15 or more games in either campaign had things turned out differently. He authored his personal masterpiece in '99--a perfect game against the Expos on Old Timer's Day at Yankee Stadium.

                                                                             1997               1998               1999
Andy Pettitte                                                          18-7                16-11             14-11
David Cone                                                             12-6                 20-7               12-9

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