The Maddux and Top Pitching Performers in the Florida State League

Tony Dibrell, St. Lucie Mets - photo credit Bryan Green on Flickr

There are a lot of new statistics that have come to the forefront of baseball over the past several years, but my favorite is probably the Maddux. Named after Hall Fame Pitcher Gregory Alan Maddux of Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs fame and coined by baseball writer, Jason Lukehart, the Maddux measures a pitcher’s ability to get a lot of outs with the fewest amount of pitches possible. In order to earn a Maddux, you have to do three things. First, you have to throw a complete 9 inning game. Second, you have to keep the other team from scoring any runs during that game. And third, you have to do it all in less than 100 pitches. Since pitch counts have been recorded, Greg Maddux holds the most Madduxes in the major leagues (appropriately), and it is likely that he will maintain that distinction for a long time.

But how often does a Maddux happen in the minors, and specifically, in the Florida State League? There are various factors that could lead to a lack of Maddux sightings in the minors. A Maddux requires a certain amount of control which many minor league pitchers are still working on. You can’t walk a a lot of batters and still keep your pitch count below 100 pitches. You also have to pitch to contact, and you have to be pitching to hitters who make contact. You have to have a coach and front office who’s willing to run a pitcher in high A ball out to the mound for a complete nine innings. And the one thing that’s completely out of a pitcher’s control, the game has to actually go all 9 innings. There are scheduled 7 inning games in the Florida State League wherein a Maddux is impossible. There are also plenty of games shortened by rain in the Sunshine State. So how often does a Maddux actually occur?

From 2015-2018, there were 46 complete game shutouts thrown in the Florida State League. Of those 46 games, 34 of them were games that went less than 9 innings. Of the remaining 12, only five can be characterized as a Maddux. Oddly enough, four of those happened in 2015. Chaz Herbert of the Tampa Yankees, Jorge Ortega of the Brevard County Manatees, Jimmy Reed of the Palm Beach Cardinals, and Aaron Slegers of the Fort Myers Miracle all threw 9 inning shutouts while using less than 100 pitches in 2015. There was not a single Maddux thrown in 2016 or 2017 in the FSL. Then in 2018, Josh Prevost of the St. Lucie Mets threw the lone Maddux of the year. On average, we are lucky to see a single Maddux in the Florida State League in any given year.

The Florida Fire Frogs entered the season without a single complete game thrown in team history. In the month of May, they had two pitchers throw a Maddux. On May 1st, Nolan Kingham threw a complete game shutout in 85 pitches against the Lakeland Flying Tigers (Nolan followed this stellar outing by giving up 17 earned runs over his next 19.1 innings until he threw another complete game shutout to end the month on May 31st). Then Jasseel De La Cruz took the mound on May 18th and threw a 9 inning no hitter against the Jupiter Hammerheads with a total of 89 pitches. This start propelled De La Cruz into a promotion to AA Mississippi. In the past five years, there have been two full seasons where a Maddux was not thrown in the Florida State League. We had two in the month of May by pitchers on the same team. Baseball is weird.

Nolan Kingham and Jaseel De La Cruz have had a few of the most dominant and economical single game performances in the FSL this year. Here are some of the top pitching performers throughout the year currently in the Florida State League. These pitchers may not have had a single outing that matches the Madduxes of Kingham or De La Cruz, but all five have pitched with varying levels of consistent excellence since the beginning of the season.

Damon Jones, Clearwater Threshers
1.37 ERA, 52.2 IP, 80 K, 22 BB, 1.01 WHIP

Damon Jones is a 24-year-old pitcher out of Washington State who was drafted in the 18th round in 2017. So far this year, he has led the league in strikeouts and only given up 8 earned runs in 52.2 innings pitched. And those earned run numbers are inflated by a single forgettable start. On May 19th, Jones went 4.2 innings and gave up 5 earned runs. In his other 9 starts, he’s given up a single run or less, and on June 1st, Jones pitched 7 innings of shutout ball with 11 strikeouts.

Cody Bolton, Bradenton Marauders
1.81 ERA, 54.2 IP, 62 K, 12 BB, 0.90 WHIP

Cody Bolton is the youngest on this list at 20-years-old. He was taken by the Pirates organization in the 6th round of the 2017 draft. He’s done two things incredibly well this season: limiting free passes and keeping the ball in the park. He’s only given up 12 walks in 10 starts, and he’s only allowed 1 home run so far this year. His start on May 30th was his most impressive so far. He went six innings without giving up a run, and he only allowed 3 runners to reach base while striking out 8.

Hayden Deal, Florida Fire Frogs
1.64 ERA, 66 IP, 55 K, 15 BB, 1.00 WHIP

Hayden Deal is a 24-year-old out of Presbyterian College. The thing that stands out most about Deal’s season is his consistency. In his last 10 starts, he’s averaged 6 innings while giving up 2 runs or less in all of those starts. The southpaw hasn’t had the single game highs of some of the other Fire Frog pitchers, but he’s proven to be the most reliable from start to start.

Alex Fagalde, Palm Beach Cardinals
2.08 ERA, 69.1 IP, 60 K, 15 BB, 0.87 WHIP

Alex Fagalde is a 25-year-old former 30th round pick in the Cardinals organization. Fagalde leads the league with a 0.87 WHIP over 12 starts. Since a 2 inning outing on May 9th, Fagalde has put together an impressive string of starts going 34 IP while giving up 4 earned runs over 5 games.

Tony Dibrell, St. Lucie Mets
2.05 ERA, 57 IP, 51 K, 25 BB, 1.23 WHIP

Tony Dibrell is a 23-year-old former 4th round pick out of Kennesaw State in the 2017 draft. Dibrell has had a really solid season, consistently limiting teams to two runs or less in his starts while striking out almost a batter an inning. If there are two things that would help Dibrell take the next step as a pitcher, its limiting his walks and going deeper into games. Dibrell is averaging 3.95 walks per 9 innings pitched and he has not completed 7 innings in a start this year. Limiting the free passes would allow him to go deeper into games and could be the key to him progressing through the Mets system.

Sam is a lifelong baseball fan currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia. While I’m a fan of all Atlanta and University of Georgia sports, I love seeing prospects throughout the minor leagues develop their skills and come into their own. When not watching, listening, and reading about baseball, I spend my time working as a pastor, running, reading playing guitar, and hanging out with my wife, Natasha, and two dogs, Wall-e and Lucy.

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