Chat with Jayson Stark

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Welcome to The Show! Jayson Stark is stopping by Monday at 1 p.m. ET as part of our ongoing Hot Stove Heaters chats! Check back each day for a new topic and a new chat! Take it away, Jayson!

Talk about your rough choices: a 303-game winner or a 347-game winner. That's like asking which you would rather drive: a classic Rolls or a classic Bentley.

Then again, separating Greg Maddux from Tom Glavine has never been easy. Born 20 days apart in 1966. Teammates and rotation-mates for 10 years. Combined to win all but two of the eight National League Cy Youngs handed out between 1991 and '98. Known as much for their IQ as their MPH.

But making the rough choices is what we do here in Hot Stove Heater-ville. So let's examine the arguments for two of the greatest pitchers of our lifetimes:

The case for Glavine

This will come as a shock to all Mets fans who can't forget the last game Glavine ever pitched in New York, but he's still one of the most dependable left-handed starters alive. Yeah, still.

He made more quality starts last year (23) than any left-hander in the league and was second in the majors to C.C. Sabathia (25). He also led all NL left-handers in quality-start percentage (68 percent). And he has been no worse than second in the league in that department for three straight years. (He was at 69 percent and 70 percent the previous two seasons.)

Glavine may not be what he used to be. But if you view him over the six-month long-haul, as opposed to the messy-start-you-can't-forget short haul, he remains a terrific keep-you-in-the-game option. And that's what all those quality starts reflect.

He had more quality starts last year than Johan Santana, Brandon Webb or Matt Cain. And over the last three years, the Glavine-versus-Maddux quality-start standings are no contest:

  • 2007: Glavine 23, Maddux 18
  • 2006: Glavine 22, Maddux 17
  • 2005: Glavine 23, Maddux 18

The case for Maddux

Just because Maddux now averages under 80 pitches a start, some people have the mistaken impression that he has become a guy who taxes his bullpen. Uh, look again. He pitched 198 innings last year. And he now has worked at least 198 in 20 straight seasons. So who else has done that, you ask? Nobody. (Cy Young was the old record-holder, with 19.)

Obviously, Maddux is no longer the chisel-that-Cy-Young, 1.56-ERA machine he used to be. But while Glavine has morphed into a nibble-maniac, Maddux attacks hitters more than ever.

Only seven pitchers in the live-ball era have walked as few hitters as Maddux did last year (25) in a season of 198 innings or more. (It's the third time he's done that, of course.) And at one point last season, the Mad Dog went 244 consecutive hitters between walks -- a sign of just how aggressive he is in the strike zone.

Finally, don't underestimate how effective this guy is, even in his twilight years. Over the last three seasons, Maddux has more wins (42) than Mark Buehrle, Barry Zito or Brad Penny. He has thrown more innings (633) than Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy or Sabathia. He has allowed fewer base runners (11.23 per 9 IP) than Roy Oswalt, Carlos Zambrano or Tim Hudson. And he has a better strikeout-walk ratio (4.19) than Josh Beckett, Brandon Webb or John Smoltz.

The choice

What is it about Greg Maddux, anyway? Even though his numbers don't look much better than Glavine's -- and, in many cases, actually look worse -- nearly everyone I surveyed said they'd rather have Maddux than Glavine. And much as I respect Glavine the pitcher and human being, I'm with them all the way.

Maddux had to make a mid-career readjustment a few years back. But since he made it, he has been the same guy, year-in and year-out, for three straight seasons. (ERAs those last three years: 4.24, 4.20 and 4.14). Glavine, on the other hand, is trending in the wrong direction; his ERAs over the last three years look like this: 3.53, 3.82 and 4.45.

Glavine gives you more quality starts over the course of a season. But he also gives you more starts that turn into utter disasters. Maddux, on the other hand, is one of those rare commodities in this sport: a guy who almost always gives his team exactly what it expects.

Oh, and there's one more thing we shouldn't overlook here. Everyone who has ever played with Greg Maddux looks at him as, essentially, a genius. The ripple effect of that genius on everyone around him is incalculable. As an executive from one of Maddux's old teams put it, "Glavine might win more games, but in the big picture, Maddux will win more games for your team."

Vote: Which over-40 pitcher is better?

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