Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Seventy percent of the Earth is covered by water. The other thirty percent is covered by Garry Maddox. (The Bill James Historical Abstract at 760.)
The above is generally a statement attributed to Ralph Kiner, the great major leaguer who played for the Pirates in his announcing days.
The other day I mentioned wanting to delve a little more into the past history of the Phillies and I talked recently about Johnny Callison’s arm and how dangerous an outfielder he was defensively for the Phillies. Today I want to talk about Garry Maddox and what his exceptional fielding skills meant for the 1970’s and 1980’s Phillies.
As I did my series on the Wiz Kids it occurred to me that most people who root for the Phillies never got to see Richie Ashburn in the outfield or to see Robin Roberts pitch, but many saw Johnny Callison play. I’d say that a fair number – if not a majority – of my readers saw Garry Maddox play and remember what a big and important part of those Phillies teams in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s Garry was. Garry Maddox was a standout fielder, in addition to being a good hitter, and helped the championship Phillies achieve their promise and fulfill their destiny to win the World Series. Maddox actually ranks at #56 in Bill James Historical Abstract for center fielders, so he has gotten his due.
At the age of 22 he broke in with the San Francisco Giants in 1972, logging 96 of his 121 games played as the Giants center fielder on a team that boasted a declining Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds and Willie McCovey. Future teammate Garry Matthews, the 1973 Rookie of the Year, played with Maddox.
Maddox played the next two seasons with the Giants, moving full-time into center field and posting very good numbers for them. In 1973 Maddox finished second in the National League in putouts to the Braves Dusty Baker, recording just twenty fewer put outs because he played sixteen fewer games. Maddox also played well in 1974 but struggled at the start of the 1975 campaign with the Giants. The Giants shipped him to the Phillies and Maddox immediately responded with a solid season, winning the Gold Glove in center field, the first of eight he would win.
From 1975 to 1982 Garry Maddox would win the Gold Glove each and every season. He was generally acknowledged to be fast with a terrific arm. Teams did not want to challenge him. In 1975 and 1976 he led the National League in Assists with thirteen and ten respectively. Maddox also led the N.L. in putouts in ’76 and ’78.
We’ll look at Range Factor first to give you a general overview of what Maddox was doing during those eight seasons:
Maddox / League Average
1975: 3.07 / 2.01
1976: 3.13 / 2.03
1977: 2.83 / 1.93
1978: 2.93 / 1.94
1979: 3.19 / 2.00
1980: 2.88 / 1.98
1981: 2.76 / 2.02
1982: 2.35 / 1.91
Range Factor: (Putouts + Assists) * 9 / IP. Essentially measures how much a player is involved in defensive plays.
It is a remarkable run of defensive dominance on Maddox part: consistently he was a play better than the rest of the league in Range Factor.
Let’s take a closer look at his season in 1976, which I believe was his best:
Fielding Percentage: .989
Range Factor: 3.13
Maddox led the N.L. in putouts by a margin of 55, despite playing just 144 games that season. Maddox also led the N.L. in Range Factor, posting a 3.13. Aside from future teammate Bake McBride, who posted a 3.12 playing just 66 games for the St. Louis Cardinals, nobody exceeded a 3.00. Maddox was a player whose range was tremendous: in a 2-1 victory over the Mets in Shea Stadium on July 31, 1976, Maddox recorded nine putouts in a nine inning game, an exceptional feat. Of the twenty-eight balls the Mets put into play that day against Jim Kaat, twenty-three were outs and Maddox got to nine.
Here is how many putouts Maddox recorded in those Gold Glove seasons:
1976: 441 (led N.L.)
1977: 383 (fourth in N.L)
1978: 444 (led N.L.)
1979: 433 (second in N.L.)
1980: 405 (third in N.L.)
1981: 251 (fifth in N.L.)
Maddox missed a lot of playing time and never played a full 162 games with the Phillies. In 1978 he played 154 games, a career-high, but never approached 162, usually playing about 140 games or so. Undoubtedly the lack of playing time prevented him from recording more put outs. In 1977 Dave Parker recorded 389 putouts, five more than Maddox in twenty more games. In 1979 Maddox played twenty-two fewer games than the Pirates Omar Moreno, who recorded 490 put outs. Could Maddox closed the gap of 57 putouts that separated him from Moreno in ’79 if he played 162 games? Maybe. It is worth noting that Maddox’s Range Factor of 3.19 was better than Moreno’s 3.09.
Maddox, had he played a full 162 games (or even just playing closer to 155 or so) would have almost certainly led the N.L. in put outs in 1977 and probably 1979 as well. It would have been a remarkable achievement, worthy of comparison to Richie Ashburn leading the N.L. in put outs from 1949-1954 & 1956-1958.
Maddox’s effect on the team’s defense in the ‘70s was probably considerable, though the ‘70s Phillies never ranked at the top of the league in DER, the stat I usually consider. My take on it is that the 1970s Phillies were a good but not great defensive team that heavily relied on the skills of players like Maddox and Mike Schmidt to obscure the fact that the Phillies probably didn’t back their formidable pitching staff with much of a defense. Without Maddox, the Phillies .500 record in one-run games during this time period would have been much worse and they probably would have lost the N.L. East to the powerful Pittsburgh Pirates during this time period. The Inquirer's Bill Conlon gave Maddox his nick-name: the Secretary of Defense. Without Maddox, the Phillies pitchers would have been defense-less.
Unfortunately Maddox’s biggest gaffe was a defensive one: Game Four of the 1978 NLCS against the L.A. Dodgers. After dropping the first two games to the Dodgers at the Vet, a place they had gone 54-28 at in ’78, the Phillies battled back to win game three and force another game in the best-of-five series. Trailing 3-2, the Phillies tied the game in the seventh with a Bake McBride home run and went into extra-innings. With two outs in the tenth inning, Ron Cey drew a walk. Dusty Baker, now a Dodger, lofted a fly ball to Maddox for what should have been the third out of the inning. Maddox muffed it, allowing Cey to advance to second base. Bill Russell singled up the middle to score Cey from second and the Dodgers advanced to the World Series against the Yankees. The Phillies would have to wait two years to win the World Series.
It is a shame though that Maddox is remembered by some fans for that play: he was consistently the best center fielder in baseball during the late 1970s. He also drove in the winning run and made the final putout of the 1980 NLCS. Without Garry Maddox, the Phillies wouldn’t have been in the 1978 NLCS. Also, to Maddox’s credit he accepted full responsibility for the foible, something a player like T.O. might want to take notes on.
I’ll let Maddox’s teammate and friend Mike Schmidt sum up Maddox defensive career: “I’ve seen Garry Maddox do it all. In my estimation, he’s the best defensive center fielder ever to play the game. This may sound like a bold statement, but as his teammate for all of these years I’ll stick by it.” (The Bill James Historical Abstract at 760-761, quoting Mike Schmidt’s Always on the Offense.)