Maddux was selected as the starting pitcher with the best control, though only by a surprisingly slim margin over Bob Tewksbury of the Texas Rangers. A much larger difference between them lies in the quality of their stuff. Among National League pitchers with at least 100 innings last year Maddux was the most difficult pitcher to hit (.207), while Tewksbury, then with the Cardinals, was the easiest (.304) with the exception of Dave Weathers of the Florida Marlins (.306).
Maddux's outstanding control allows him to pitch inside more than any pitcher in baseball. "But," says Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone, "he puts himself in position to do that more than anybody. He gets more offensive counts than anybody in baseball. It's 0 and 1, 0 and 2, and he'll take you out early."
Sure enough, Maddux is deadly if the first pitch is a strike. Hitters in such situations last year batted .163 against him with no home runs and a .190 on-base percentage.
When one American League executive heard that John Wetteland of the New York Yankees was selected as the most efficient reliever, the exec responded, "What? The guy had 10 blown saves last year. That's not the most efficient."
True, Wetteland did come through on only 71% of his opportunities last year with Montreal, only slightly better than the major league average of 67%. San Francisco closer Rod Beck, the runner-up in the survey, had 10 blown saves in the past three years, converting 90% of his 103 save opportunities in that span, including each of his past 40.
Still, Wetteland has such a deep arsenal of nasty pitches—fastball, cut fastball, slider, changeup and a hellacious curve—that he is the most feared closer in the game. He held opposing batters to a .202 average last season while striking out an average of one out of every 3.4 hitters he faced. "I don't know if he's the most efficient," Pittsburgh Pirate manager Jim Leyland says, "but he's the guy I least like to see come in." Even Beck cast his vote for Wetteland, saying, "He has control, he throws the ball hard, and he has a hook from hell. I'm glad he's out of the league."
Wetteland moved from the rotation to the bullpen full-time in 1991 while struggling in the Dodger farm system. Since then he has 105 saves in the big leagues, a 2.24 ERA and 289 strikeouts in 241⅓ innings. "I think I've been effective as a closer because closing suits my character," he says. "I'm an intense kind of guy. I'm not one of those guys who can pace I himself. I don't have a lot of stamina, but I'm explosive. That's ideal for this job."
Leyland and La Russa were born 2½ months apart in 1944, played against each other in the Southern League (1967) and worked on the same White Sox staff for four years (1982 through '85), with Leyland serving as third base coach and La Russa as manager. The search for the best strategist found them paired again: combined, they received two thirds of the votes. Fourteen other managers split the remaining third of the votes. Leyland, who begins his 10th season with Pittsburgh, barely edged La Russa.