clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Oakland A's starter Kendall Graveman throws a 'Maddux' against the White Sox

Oakland Athletics v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

On Friday night, Oakland A’s starter Kendall Graveman had the best game of his young career. Not only did the right-hander throw his first shutout, he tossed what has become known as a “Maddux.”

Coined by Jason Lukehart (former manager of SB Nation’s Let’s Go Tribe), and named after Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, the term Maddux applies to a game in which the starter throws a shutout in under 100 pitches. It signifies the cool, efficient dominance of The Professor, and it should come as no surprise that the man himself leads the career list by nearly double over the runner-up (13, to seven for Zane Smith, going back through 1973). Graveman’s line against the White Sox on Friday:

Graveman, 8/19: 9 ip, 0 runs, 5 Ks, 0 BB, 2 hits, 98 pitches

The last A’s pitcher to throw a Maddux was Rich Harden, back in 2005 against the Rangers (in only 81 pitches!). The rest of Oakland’s list includes Tim Hudson (3 times), Mark Mulder, Kenny Rogers, Cory Lidle, and Doug Johns. The earliest on that list is from 1995, so who knows how many times it may have happened before that, but that still makes Graveman one of just seven A’s pitches in the last two decades to achieve this feat.

And in an incredible twist, it turns out that Graveman had a phone conversation with Maddux himself on Tuesday. But I’ll let Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle tell that story.

Some more facts about Graveman’s gem:

  • The only other Maddux thrown this season was by Jered Weaver of the Angels ... against Oakland back in June. D’oh. He threw 95 pitches, and not a single one reached 86 mph (that’s not a joke, I actually just went and checked Gameday). I think the next term we need to create is one for throwing a shutout without ever hitting 90 mph on a single pitch. A Moyer, perhaps?
  • Graveman would not qualify for a Moyer, since his sinker was hitting 95 mph early in the evening and touched 94 throughout the night.
  • The two hits allowed were a career-low.
  • He earned a Game Score of 88, by far the highest of his career. His previous high was 70, recorded earlier this year and once in 2015.
  • Unsurprisingly, this was also the highest Game Score by any A’s pitcher this season, surpassing Sean Manaea’s 79 on July 22 (vs. Rays, 8 shutout innings, 7 Ks). Next on the list are Rich Hill (77), Manaea again (73), and then ... Ross Detwiler, of course (72, tied with another Hill start).
  • It was also tied for the 16th-best start in all of MLB. Madison Bumgarner holds the top spot at 98 (one-hit shutout, 14 Ks). There have also been a pair of 97s, thanks to shutouts by Jaime Garcia (13 Ks) and Vincent Velasquez (16 Ks).
  • It was Graveman’s third career complete game, but only the second time he’s gone nine innings. He went the distance in a road loss last year, tossing only eight frames. His other nine-inning game came on July 23, allowing three runs in a victory over Tampa Bay.
  • Graveman had just flirted with a Maddux on July 9 against the Astros. He carried a shutout through eight innings on 90 pitches, but he led off the 9th by allowing a pair of singles and was lifted for Ryan Dull. That was also the game in which Dull finally allowed an inherited runner to score, though you can hardly blame him when he’s handed runners on first and third, no outs, with Jose Altuve up. He still wrapped up the save, at least.
  • The narrative surrounding Graveman lately has involved his pitch selection. He started using his sinker more, in the 60-80% range, and it seems to be working. So what about this game? Of his 98 pitches, Brooks says he threw 34 sinkers (35%), while MLB Gameday says 69 (70%). Either way, though, he’s still throwing a ton of fastballs and very few offspeed or breaking balls.
  • And since settling on his new fastball-heavy arsenal? The switch seems to have come on his June 17 start, and here’s what he’s done in a dozen outings since then:

Graveman, since 6/17: 3.20 ERA, 81⅔ ip, 38 Ks, 12 BB, 74 hits, 7 HR

That’s nearly seven innings per start, on an average of 93 pitches, which is no small detail for a team whose rotation is in such tatters that one of the spots is held by a middle reliever because there was no one left. The strikeouts are low, but it’s been worth it to eat innings more efficiently -- and he’s preventing runs anyway. And all of this comes with totally normal, sustainable hit and HR rates, so it’s not just a stretch of BABIP luck.

All of this has lowered his season ERA to 4.09, for an ERA+ of 99 (basically league average). If this is the pitcher Graveman is now, then he will have hit what I think many of us envisioned as his ceiling when he was acquired in the Josh Donaldson trade — an efficient innings-eater who is good enough to slot in as a No. 3. He’s still not immune to getting roughed up now and then, thanks to allowing lots of contact, but more often than not he’s delivering seven quick innings and putting the team in a position to win. The A’s are 9-3 in those last dozen games, during a stretch in which they’ve been 26-30 overall.

Congrats to Graveman on throwing his first Maddux. I have a strong feeling that it won’t be his last.

A million thanks to Baseball-Reference, especially their Play Index, for basically all of this info.