Maddux Not Giving in to Age Just Yet

Now THAT's what you signed up for. Well, that and an extra four strikeouts or so.

Yes, Greg Maddux's dominant, 10-strikeout effort against the Mets on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field was a much needed boost for a Cubs team that entered the game ranked a mediocre seventh in the National League in ERA.

For a club that entered the season with a team motto of, "Prior-Maddux-Wood, It's All Stone's Fault … " that wasn't particularly good.

In the second year of his second go-round with Chicago, Maddux is putting together a season remarkably reminiscent of his first year with the Cubs, only with slightly better peripherals in most of the key areas.

After pacing the Cubs in innings pitched last year, the elderly right-hander is second in that category with 42 2/3 innings this season. He trails only Carlos Zambrano, who was born and bred to be Dusty Baker's gruesome and inhuman science experiment in an effort to see how much stress a right arm can handle until it snaps off at the shoulder.

It's just like Universal Soldier, without Belgians.

What makes Maddux's last two seasons fascinating from an analytical perspective is the fairly dramatic uptick we've seen in his strikeout rate.

Notice the following table:

Year

IP

K/9

Total K's

2000

249.1

6.86

190

2001

233.0

6.68

173

2002

199.1

5.33

118

2003

218.1

5.11

124

2004

212.2

6.40

151

2005

42.2

6.61

31



The strikeout rate augurs well, as a pitcher's K/9 ratio is one of the most important statistics in trying to evaluate an aging pitcher's prospects for future success. The sample size is still too small to draw any real conclusions, but as mentioned above, it's encouraging.

The other two peripheral stats that I like to use, home runs and walks, are slightly off from previous years. Maddux's HR/9 rate is down to 1.28 from 1.48 in 2004. It's still too high, and far above his career average, but it's still nice to see.

And after giving up four home runs in his first two starts, Maddux has given up only two in his last five outings.

Unfortunately, Maddux has become wilder than a Vatican bacchanalia, watching his walk rate skyrocket to a Sears Tower-esque - for his standards anyway - 2.13 free passes per nine innings.

A sample size of seven starts simply isn't enough to draw any lasting conclusions. That said, it's certainly worth noting that despite many grim assertions of Maddux's imminent collapse one day, he has remained an important staff anchor for a Cubs team that always seems to be just one day shy of hitting the rocks.

More on Strikeouts

Maddux's 10-strikeout performance against the Mets is tied with seven other games for eighth place on his list of most K's for a single game. In case you're curious, his highest single game strikeout total is 14, recorded on May 2, 2001 in a 1-0 Braves victory over the Brewers. Tyler Houston and Jeromy Burnitz both struck out thrice in that game, and Richie Sexson fanned twice.

Interestingly, another record was set that night, as Jose Hernandez went down on strikes only once, no doubt tying a career-low.

Maddux has recorded 16 double-digit strikeout performances with an 11-2 record in those starts. His first such outing came with the Cubs in September of 1987, when he struck out 10 Phillies in what eventually turned out to be a 3-2 Cubs loss. Jay Baller was the losing pitcher.

(Statistics provided by RetroSheet.org.)

E-mail Andrew Bare at andrewbare29@hotmail.com.


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