Roger Clemens vs. Greg Maddux
Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Roger Clemens vs. Greg Maddux

Probably without question, the two greatest pitchers of the last generation were Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson probably have their supporters, but both Clemens and Maddux have the combined peaks, primes, and career length that put them into the conversation as the greatest pitcher in major-league history.

Roger Clemens won 354 games in his 24-year career. He led the league in wins 4 times, in ERA 7 times, strikeouts 5 times, and won a record 7 Cy Young Awards. Baseball-Reference credits Clemens with 140.3 wins above replacement (WAR).

Greg Maddux won 355 games, led his league in ERA 4 times, in innings pitched 5 times, won a record (at any position) 18 Gold Gloves, and 4 (consecutive) Cy Young Awards. Baseball-Reference doesn't think quite as highly of Maddux as of Clemens, but his 106.8 career WAR is still 7th all-time among pitchers.*
*Lefty Grove is credited with more pitching WAR than Maddux, but fewer overall WAR, including other aspects of their games (batting, baserunning).

For a time in the early 2000s, debating whether Clemens or Maddux was better made for a good baseball debate. The debate sort of fizzled, as Clemens had a late-career renaissance that seemed to push him definitively ahead of Maddux. Of course, then Clemens was named by Brian McNamee in the Mitchell Report. Nowadays, the debate between Clemens and Maddux seems to rest largely on your opinion of performance-enhancing drugs. If you penalize for them, you probably put Maddux ahead of Clemens. If you don't adjust for them, you probably put Clemens ahead of Maddux.

My Player won-lost records (which take no account at all of performance-enhancing drugs, of course) actually show Maddux and Clemens as having been much closer to each other in value over the course of their careers than Baseball-Reference and others (e.g., Fangraphs) seem to view them.

My player won-lost records for Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux are shown in the table below.

Roger Clemens Greg Maddux
Season Games pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
1984
217.15.50.5610.9
1.4
1985
155.94.50.5650.8
1.3
1986
3317.39.80.6384.0
5.3
61.62.30.418-0.2-0.0
1987
3618.412.00.6063.5
5.1
3410.113.90.423-1.3-0.2
1988
3518.112.00.6013.2
4.7
3717.812.80.5833.34.6
1989
3514.912.70.5391.3
2.6
3516.114.10.5321.73.0
1990
3116.68.80.6554.2
5.4
3516.014.80.5191.52.8
1991
3516.611.00.6013.0
4.3
3915.613.60.5331.73.0
1992
3215.610.00.6093.0
4.4
3517.612.30.5873.55.0
1993
2912.812.60.5040.2
1.4
3618.113.50.5712.94.3
1994
2410.68.00.5711.4
2.5
2514.58.20.6383.74.9
1995
238.86.70.5681.2
2.1
2816.67.70.6835.26.4
1996
3413.411.10.5461.4
2.8
3516.311.70.5823.14.5
1997
3418.39.50.6584.7
6.3
3314.59.20.6123.34.6
1998
3315.89.30.6303.5
4.9
3417.211.90.5923.54.9
1999
3013.012.30.5140.6
1.9
3316.012.90.5542.33.7
2000
3214.112.10.5391.2
2.6
3517.112.60.5773.14.5
2001
3314.39.00.6122.9
4.2
3516.211.80.5783.04.4
2002
2911.69.30.5561.4
2.5
3513.310.50.5572.03.1
2003
3313.611.10.5511.5
2.9
3713.613.80.4960.62.0
2004
3315.010.70.5843.0
4.3
3414.713.10.5291.73.1
2005
3214.19.90.5872.7
3.8
3512.614.80.461-0.30.9
2006
197.14.80.5961.4
2.0
3413.412.40.5191.22.5
2007
186.05.60.5170.3
1.0
3511.811.20.5130.92.1
2008
 
3410.213.90.423-1.2-0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS
(Regular Season)
709318.9228.40.58351.3
79.9
759330.9273.10.54845.274.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
Postseason3512.511.20.5261.0
2.2
3712.612.40.5040.82.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS744331.4239.60.58052.3
82.0
796343.5285.50.54646.076.1


In terms of bottom-line career wins over replacement level (pWORL), Clemens beats Maddux, 82.0 - 76.1, but they're close enough that the little things are liable to matter, and it's worth taking a closer look.

I'll begin by looking at a few relatively minor factors: pitcher hitting, postseason performance, and fielding. I then look at how contextual factors affected Clemens's and Maddux's career value. From there, I move to the core of both players' value: their pitching. I end with a minor factor that actually has a fairly big impact on our assessment of whether Clemens or Maddux had the better career: the impact of the 1994-95 strike on their value.

Pitcher Offense
Greg Maddux pitched his entire career in the National League. Hence, outside of interleague games in American League parks, Maddux had to bat in the vast majority of his 740 games started. Overall, for his career, Maddux had 1,812 plate appearances, over which he hit like a fairly typical pitcher - .171/.191/.205. He did manage to hit 5 career home runs and even stole 11 bases (and was caught stealing only 3 times!).

Roger Clemens, on the other hand, pitched almost all of his career in the American League. Because of the DH rule, he had a mere 213 plate appearances in his career. His career rate stats were actually slightly better than Maddux's: .173/.236/.207 (OPS+ of 16 v. an OPS+ of 5 for Maddux), although Clemens had no career home runs or stolen bases.

Their context-neutral offensive won-lost records are compared below. The column headed WOPA (wins over positional average) compares their records to the average offensive performance for pitchers.

Roger Clemens Greg Maddux
Wins Losses Win Pct. WOPA Wins Losses Win Pct. WOPA
2.14.10.342
0.2
19.337.80.3381.3


Both Clemens and Maddux actually had slightly better offensive performances than an average pitcher - which, considering both of them had offensive winning percentages under 0.350, tells you just how bad a hitter an average pitcher is. Clemens had a (slightly) higher winning percentage, but Maddux had nearly 10 times as many decisions, and hence had (slightly) more wins above average. Overall, Maddux picks up about 1 win on Clemens relative to average (and perhaps a bit more than that relative to replacement level).

Postseason Performance
Roger Clemens pitched in 35 postseason games in his career, while Greg Maddux pitched in 37 postseason games. Neither Clemens nor Maddux really had much of a reputation as a particularly good postseason pitcher. Maddux actually had a losing (traditional) record in the postseason over his career, 11-14, although his ERA was fairly respectable (3.27 in 198 IP). Clemens had a winning (traditional) record (12-8), but with a somewhat higher ERA than Maddux (3.75) in almost the exact same number of innings (199).

In terms of Player won-lost records, both pitchers had lower winning percentages in the postseason than in the regular season, although both pitchers did have winning percentages over 0.500. Their overall postseason records are summarized below.

Roger Clemens Greg Maddux
Wins Losses Win Pct. WORL Wins Losses Win Pct. WORL
12.511.20.526
2.2
12.612.40.5042.0


Clemens had a somewhat higher winning percentage (0.526 - 0.504), but this is a bit misleading. Clemens pitched most of his postseason games in the AL, with the DH rule, while Maddux pitched most of his postseason games in the NL, with pitchers batting. Maddux's winning percentage here is dragged down, therefore, by his own hitting, which, like his regular-season batting, was bad in an absolute sense, but not especially terrible for a pitcher (although, honestly, it was pretty bad even for a pitcher: .073/.105/.109 over 64 PAs). Overall, taking pitcher hitting into account, Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux amassed virtually identical postseason value (as measured by pWORL) - 2.2 vs. 2.0.

Fielding
As I noted earlier, Greg Maddux won a record 18 Gold Gloves. Not only is that a record for a pitcher, but it is, in fact, a record at any position. In contrast, Roger Clemens never won a Gold Glove over his 24-year career.

Generally speaking, any pitcher valuation system that starts by considering the runs allowed by a pitcher will already implicitly incorporate pitcher fielding into that value. My system doesn't explicitly begin with runs allowed but rather measures value play by play. I am able, therefore, to distinguish between a pitcher's pitching value and a pitcher's fielding value.

Career fielding value for Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux are shown in the next table.

Roger Clemens Greg Maddux
Wins Losses Win Pct. Wins
over 0.500
Wins Losses Win Pct. Wins
over 0.500
4.74.70.499
-0.0
12.09.60.5541.2


Not surprisingly, given their reputations, Maddux earned about 1.2 more wins over 0.500 as a fielder than Clemens. Not only did Maddux have the better winning percentage (0.554 - 0.499), but he also amassed 7.3 more raw fielding wins than Clemens (although he also amassed 4.9 more raw fielding losses).

Context
So far, the small things generally work (slightly) in Maddux's favor in the comparison with Clemens (note that these were already reflected in the comparison of pWins shown earlier). There is, however, one such factor which works in Clemens's favor: context.

The numbers shown in the first table in this article use pWins and pLosses. These are constructed to tie player wins to team wins. As such, they are calculated reflecting the context in which the events being valued took place.

I also calculate a set of context-neutral Player won-lost records, eWins and eLosses. A comparison of Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux, as measured by eWins and eLosses is shown next.

Roger Clemens Greg Maddux
Season Games eWins eLosses Win Pct. eWOPA eWORL Games eWins eLosses Win Pct. eWOPA eWORL
1984
217.86.90.5330.6
1.3
1985
155.84.20.5770.9
1.4
1986
3316.410.60.6073.1
4.4
61.92.50.434-0.20.0
1987
3618.412.20.6013.4
5.0
349.412.40.432-1.00.0
1988
3516.911.00.6053.1
4.4
3715.714.20.5241.52.7
1989
3515.712.60.5531.7
3.1
3515.113.90.5201.32.6
1990
3114.58.80.6223.1
4.2
3515.313.50.5321.73.0
1991
3516.511.20.5962.8
4.2
3916.615.20.5221.52.9
1992
3215.310.00.6052.9
4.3
3517.212.10.5873.54.8
1993
2911.510.00.5360.9
1.9
3617.012.90.5682.74.0
1994
2410.97.90.5811.6
2.7
2513.67.40.6473.64.7
1995
238.68.30.5110.4
1.3
2814.17.20.6634.25.2
1996
3415.511.30.5802.5
4.0
3516.310.30.6153.85.1
1997
3417.68.30.6794.9
6.4
3314.89.00.6223.64.9
1998
3315.29.60.6133.1
4.4
3416.710.50.6153.95.2
1999
3011.910.70.5260.8
2.0
3315.112.10.5552.23.5
2000
3213.311.50.5371.1
2.4
3516.412.10.5752.94.3
2001
3313.811.20.5521.6
3.0
3515.411.90.5652.63.9
2002
2911.59.70.5421.1
2.2
3513.610.70.5612.13.3
2003
3313.311.30.5401.2
2.6
3713.912.70.5231.32.7
2004
3314.211.20.5612.3
3.6
3414.113.20.5171.32.7
2005
3214.09.00.6093.1
4.2
3514.314.30.5000.82.1
2006
197.25.10.5831.3
1.9
3413.011.80.5251.42.6
2007
185.95.60.5150.3
0.9
3512.311.30.5221.12.3
2008
 
3411.712.30.4880.31.5
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS
(Regular Season)
709311.9228.20.57747.9
76.0
759323.6263.20.55146.074.1
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
Postseason3512.810.50.5491.5
2.7
3713.110.90.5461.82.9
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS744324.6238.70.57649.3
78.7
796336.6274.10.55147.877.0


Neutralizing the context in which Clemens and Maddux performed pulls their records even closer than they already were based on pWins and pLosses. The difference between their regular-season career values of eWORL (expected wins over replacement level) is a mere 1.9 wins. And adding in postseason decisions, Maddux moves within one win (over replacement level) of Clemens in total eWORL 78.7 - 77.0.

Adjusting for context has relatively little impact on Greg Maddux's career. Context gains him 0.0 regular-season wins over replacement level. He gives that back, and slightly more, however, in the postseason, when his strong context-neutral performance(s) didn't translate into postseason victories like one might have expected (see, for example, his (traditional) career postseason record of 11-14).

Roger Clemens, however, gains a combined 3.4 regular- and post-season wins over replacement level.

Pitching
Having disposed of (almost) all of the little stuff, then, we're left with the meat of the comparison of Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux: their pitching. Context-neutral pitching records for Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux are shown in the next table.

Roger Clemens Greg Maddux
Season Games Wins Losses Win Pct. WOPA Games Wins Losses Win Pct. WOPA
1984
217.16.30.528
0.4
1985
155.24.00.565
0.7
1986
3314.310.10.586
2.3
61.62.00.444-0.2
1987
3616.211.90.576
2.4
348.49.90.459-0.6
1988
3515.010.90.579
2.2
3713.111.50.5320.9
1989
3514.011.90.540
1.2
3512.311.20.5250.8
1990
3112.88.60.598
2.1
3512.610.80.5401.0
1991
3514.610.70.578
2.2
3913.612.30.5240.9
1992
3213.59.80.579
2.0
3513.89.80.5852.4
1993
2910.49.40.525
0.6
3614.010.20.5782.1
1994
249.67.40.565
1.1
2510.85.70.6532.7
1995
237.77.60.503
0.3
2811.25.70.6623.0
1996
3413.810.70.563
1.7
3513.18.20.6142.6
1997
3414.98.60.634
3.4
3312.27.20.6302.6
1998
3313.39.00.597
2.4
3413.48.40.6162.8
1999
3010.69.70.522
0.5
3311.99.80.5481.2
2000
3212.010.60.529
0.9
3513.69.80.5812.2
2001
3312.410.70.538
1.1
3512.69.70.5651.9
2002
2910.39.10.531
0.7
3510.88.70.5521.3
2003
3311.710.30.532
0.8
3711.610.10.5341.0
2004
3312.19.10.570
1.7
3411.610.60.5240.8
2005
3211.57.60.600
2.1
3511.811.30.5110.5
2006
196.24.20.596
1.1
3410.79.50.5300.8
2007
185.35.10.508
0.1
3510.48.80.5410.9
2008
 
349.89.80.4980.2
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS
(Regular Season)
709274.5213.50.562
33.9
759264.9211.10.55631.8


Roger Clemens amassed a slightly higher winning percentage over slightly more decisions than Greg Maddux. The two pitchers are, nevertheless, extremely close. If we remove the first two seasons of Maddux's career, when he was a below-average pitcher, he almost catches up to Clemens in winning percentage (0.561 - 0.562) and wins over positional average (32.6 - 33.9). Of course, those two seasons really happened for Maddux, and it is certainly to Clemens's credit that he never had a single season of his career when he was a below average pitcher.

The 1994-95 Player Strike
One factor that can come into play when trying to compare players is season lengths. Players from earlier generations who played in 154-game seasons simply had less time available to them to accumulate value than players who played in 162-game seasons. Of course, that doesn't matter in this case, since Maddux's and Clemens's careers spanned almost the exact same seasons and took place entirely in the era of 162-game seasons.

Actually, that last sentence is not necessarily accurate. Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux both played in 1994 and 1995, both of which were shortened due to a nasty labor strike that ultimately cost Major-League Baseball the 1994 World Series.

In theory, the 1994-95 strike affected Clemens and Maddux the same. They both missed the same time period to the strike. The reality was not necessarily the same, though.

Roger Clemens missed parts of one pretty good season (1994) and one fairly mediocre season by Roger Clemens standards (1995). For those two seasons combined, Clemens amassed a pWin-pLoss record of 19.4 - 14.7, good for a total of 4.6 pWORL.

If Clemens's records in these two seasons are blown up to 162-game equivalents, his record becomes 24.8 - 18.8, and his pWORL increases to 5.9. This implies that Roger Clemens lost perhaps 1.3 Player wins to the 1994-95 strike.

The strike could not have come at a worse time for Greg Maddux. Those two seasons, 1994 and 1995, were the years in which Greg Maddux made his case for possibly being the greatest pitcher in major-league history. Maddux's record over those two seasons was a jaw-dropping pWin-pLoss record of 31.1 - 16.0, good for a total of 11.3 pWORL.

If those records are blown up to 162-game equivalents, Maddux's record becomes 39.3 - 20.4, and his pWORL increases to 14.1. This would imply that Greg Maddux might have lost 2.9 Player wins to the 1994-95 strike.

In other words, normalizing for the 1994-95 strike in this way gives Greg Maddux 1.6 more wins than Roger Clemens. Adjusting both players' entire careers to 162-game seasons produces the following career comparison.

Roger Clemens Greg Maddux
Season Games pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL Games pWins pLosses Win Pct. pWOPA pWORL
1984
217.15.50.5610.9
1.4
1985
155.94.50.5650.8
1.3
1986
3317.59.90.6384.0
5.3
61.62.30.418-0.2-0.1
1987
3618.412.00.6063.5
5.1
3410.213.90.423-1.4-0.2
1988
3518.112.00.6013.2
4.7
3717.712.70.5833.34.6
1989
3514.912.70.5391.3
2.6
3516.114.10.5321.73.0
1990
3116.68.80.6554.2
5.4
3516.014.80.5191.52.8
1991
3516.611.00.6013.0
4.3
3915.713.80.5331.73.0
1992
3215.610.00.6093.0
4.4
3517.612.30.5873.55.0
1993
2912.812.60.5040.2
1.4
3618.113.50.5712.94.3
1994
3414.911.20.5712.0
3.5
3620.711.70.6385.26.9
1995
269.97.50.5681.4
2.4
3218.78.70.6835.97.2
1996
3413.411.10.5461.4
2.8
3516.311.70.5823.14.5
1997
3418.39.50.6584.7
6.3
3314.59.20.6123.34.6
1998
3315.79.20.6303.5
4.8
3417.211.90.5923.54.9
1999
3013.012.30.5140.6
1.9
3316.012.90.5542.33.7
2000
3214.212.20.5391.3
2.6
3517.112.60.5773.14.5
2001
3314.39.10.6122.9
4.2
3516.211.80.5783.04.4
2002
2911.79.30.5561.4
2.5
3513.410.60.5572.03.1
2003
3313.511.00.5511.5
2.9
3713.613.80.4960.62.0
2004
3315.010.70.5843.0
4.3
3414.713.10.5291.73.1
2005
3214.09.80.5872.7
3.8
3512.614.80.461-0.30.9
2006
197.14.80.5961.4
2.0
176.76.20.5190.61.2
2007
186.05.60.5170.3
1.0
3511.711.10.5130.92.1
2008
 
175.16.90.423-0.6-0.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS
(Regular Season)
722324.4232.50.58252.1
81.1
740327.5264.60.55347.475.7
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
Postseason3512.511.20.5261.0
2.2
3712.612.40.5040.82.0
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
CAREER RECORDS757336.9243.70.58053.0
83.3
777340.1277.00.55148.277.8


So Who Was Better? Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux
So, after all of that, who was better, Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux? The best answer is that it was too close to call and/or that a case could be made for either one of them. After adjusting for the 1994-95 strike, the postseason, and everything else, Clemens still leads Maddux in career pWORL, 83.3 to 77.8, and pWOPA, 53.0 to 48.2. Maddux does lead in pWins, 340.1 to 336.9. Maddux also leads in context-neutral wins, WOPA, and WORL.

At the season level, adjusting 1994 and 1995 up to 162-game equivalents, gives Maddux more pWOPA and more pWORL in both of those seasons than Roger Clemens managed in any season. Outside of those two seasons, though, Clemens holds his own with Maddux in terms of peak and prime. They each have 4 seasons of pWORL of 5.0 or higher, and Clemens beats Maddux in seasons with 4+ pWORL (11-10).

It's a tough call. If push came to shove, I guess I'd pick Clemens, but I probably wouldn't argue the case too hard.

Article revised on August 28, 2014.

All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.

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