Greg Maddux: Innings Eater

Of all of today's great myths that call out for laughter and derision, of all the present day's silly and illogical bits of dogma just begging for puncturing, there are few more ridiculous and absurd than the notion that the four words in the title of this column do not belong together.

This little bit of conventional wisdom isn't really such, unless your idea of wisdom is some guy on an internet message board throwing a dart at the phrase, "Doesn't eat innings" and deciding that's the new knock on Maddux.

That's not really a big deal. There is always somebody with a truly awful idea, like "Glitter," that they think is the most logical thought in the world.

It happens. But it only manages to become a problem when the one misguided fool manages to convince the head of a major studio that Mariah Carey is going be just fantastic in this role.

Isolated idiocy isn't a worry. It only becomes a problem when, like a virus, it multiplies and spreads.

I apologize if this outburst of Mariotti-esque bile and spleneticism is in any way unsightly; Maddux's second straight complete game (this one a four hit shut-out against the Reds) was after all a welcome diversion for a team whose last few pitching performances have included Carlos Zambrano's implosion, a bullpen meltdown of epic proportions, and Matt Clement doing... what it is that he does.

But somehow this idea that Maddux is a five-inning, 50-pitch wuss who takes himself out of games has gained substantial traction, both in fan communities (especially in the Atlanta Braves' nation), and amongst the Kruk's and Reynolds' of baseball, who make up the community of baseball punditry.

Any cursory look at the eye-popping inning totals Maddux has raked up over his amazing career will quickly prove the lie in that idea. He's ranked in the top 10 in the league in IP 15 times; has been first five times, second three times, fourth two times. He's second amongst active pitchers with 4,098 career innings pitched.

But Maddux is short, and he doesn't throw hard. Hence, wuss.

Oh, but wait. Those career numbers might be irrelevant. Maddux is older now. Heck, he's just plain OLD now. At this point, he's got to be merely a shell of his former self--an old man valiantly struggling to stay out there but failing because he simply doesn't have the stamina.


Yeah, not so much.

Maddux was sixth in the National League in innings pitched in 2003, six innings ahead of the next closest Atlanta Brave, Russ Ortiz, and four and a third ahead of the closest Cub, Carlos Zambrano.

But he's dropped off this year, right?

To an extent, yes. He has 129 innings in 2004, a figure that ranks him 11th in the NL, tied with the Cubs' very own Matt Clement.

So the Cubs have assembled an awe-inspiring rotation of giant flame-throwers, huge men with barrel chests and calves the size of a Steve Busby pitch count; young men with no gray or wrinkles, men in the prime of their lives with big arms and wide backs to carry the load.

And not one of them can manage to throw more innings than the pudgy 6'0", 38-year old with the 87 MPH fastball and bags under his eyes.

Greg Maddux doesn't throw many pitches in his innings. So what? Since when does ruthless efficiency on the mound qualify as a character defect?

Maddux also doesn't throw the baseball as hard as Kerry Wood. Again, so what? Few people do, and since when did we ever judge a pitcher's toughness or endurance by the number of digits on a radar gun?

Maddux doesn't roar like Clemens, or taunt like Zambrano, or otherwise tear at his breast in evident dismay.

So what?

Northsiders Report Top Stories