When fans think of 90s baseball, they can’t help but think Atlanta Braves. Thinking about the Atlanta Braves, the first thing remembered is the dominant pitching staff consisting of Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. No other trio in baseball history had the success over such a long period like these three. The numbers don’t lie: these Hall of Famers were truly a trio like no other.
Known for his fierce ability to peg the outside corner with pitch after pitch, Glavine was calm and composed even in the face of adversity. Glavine is one of the best southpaw pitchers to play the game. Hands down, his statistics speak for themselves. He was downright nasty in the 90s posting two CY Young seasons and six All-Star appearances. In 1995, Atlanta finally broke through and won the World Series. Glavine was named the World Series MVP and won The Babe Ruth Award for his postseason performance.
His most remarkable statistic is his wins above replacement (WAR). According to Baseball-Reference, in 22 seasons, Glavine posted a 73.9 WAR. Through the 90s decade, that averages 4.5 WAR per year. Glavine was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014 with 91 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) votes.
The Mad Dog… what an appropriate nickname earned by this fierce competitor who just straight-up hated to lose. Every time he took the baseball and walked to the mound, his calm, friendly demeanor changed into someone batters hated facing. It is just not well-known these days the masterful performances Maddux turned in. He was the only pitcher in MLB history to win 15+ games in 17 straight seasons. Maddux also won more games in the 90s than anyone else.
He was the first in MLB history to earn four straight Cy Young Awards between the years of 1992-1995. During that Cy Young pace, Maddux posted a 75–29 record with a 1.98 earned run average (ERA) all while allowing less than one baserunner per inning. Pitching 23 seasons in the big leagues, he compiled over 5,000 innings pitched, a 3.16 ERA and a career WAR of 104.8. In his dominant 90s, that translates to a 6.5 WAR per year. Maddux took home four Cy Young Awards, eight All-Star Game appearance and the MLB leading 18 Gold Gloves, winning his position every year in the 90s decade. Maddux was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014 with 97 percent of the BBWAA votes.
A true duel competitor in his day, John Smoltz was the fireball in the trio of Cy Young winners on the Braves’ 1990s staff. His fastball had life and movement that just blew by hitters, even when they knew it was coming. Winning his Cy Young in 1996, Smoltz won 24 games, pitched 250+ innings with six complete games and two shutouts and a sub 3.00 ERA. Smoltz achieved a 3.99 WAR over the 90s. His Cy Young year might not even be his most impressive season.
For Atlanta, Smoltz claimed the closer role in the 2002 season. After returning from Tommy John surgery, he set a National League record for saves with 55 in 59 opportunities. Smoltz stuck out 85 batters in just over 80 innings winning the Reliever of the Year Award for 2002. Smoltz is only the second player in MLB history to have a 20-win season and a 50 save season with Dennis Eckersley. He is the only pitcher in MLB history to have 200 career wins and 150 career saves. Just to prove his worth to the Braves, Smoltz returned to the mound in 2005-2007 as a starter. He won 14+ games each year with an average of 3.50 ERA. Smoltz was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015 with 82 percent of the BBWAA votes.
Since the 1990s there has not been another dominant trio of starting pitchers like Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz. Pitching in the same rotation for seven years, these un-hittable men also were able to stay healthy. The statistics they managed to put up and awards they accumulated have not been reproduced yet and probably never will. These guys weren’t an automatic win in the 90s, however, the Braves could pretty much count on being in the game every time their name was called. In other words, they truly were a trio like no other.