Chicago Cubs: A legacy cemented in Cooperstown
Despite being an average-looking right-hander, Greg Maddux was the winningest pitcher of his generation and elevated “control” to a new definition throughout his career. His mastery of the strike zone truly seemed effortless.
He was one of the most consistent pitchers in the history of the game. Along with winning at least 15 games in 17 consecutive seasons and at least 13 in an astounding 20 consecutive seasons.
His superior pitching mechanics helped him avoid serious arm injuries throughout his career as he only landed on the disabled list once in 2002, for a total of 15 days. This reputation allowed him to pitch at least 200 innings (often upwards of nearly 270) in 18 seasons.
Maddux achieved this by frequently throwing complete games with low pitch counts. On July 22, 1997, Maddux needed just 78 pitches (63 pitches and 15 balls) to defeat the Chicago Cubs. Three weeks earlier, he needed just 84 in a shutout against the defending World Champion New York Yankees.
His ability to outthink and outwit opponents is legendary. He used every psychological edge he could. Once even intentionally allowing a home run to Houston’s Jeff Bagwell, in anticipation of facing him later in playoffs. As Bagwell would instinctively be looking for the same pitch again, Maddux would play mind games and catch him looking on another one.
He is one of only four pitchers (Ferguson Jenkins, Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez) to finish his career with at least 3,000 strikeouts while allowing fewer than 1,000 walks (he had 999). At one point in 2001, he pitched 72 1/3 consecutive innings without giving up a walk. This streak only ended after an intentional walk to Arizona’s Steve Finley. He frequently hit long streaks of 40 innings pitched without issuing a free pass during his career.
Maddux ended his career with 355 wins and only 227 losses, a .610 winning percentage. His win total ranks eighth-best all-time and his inning total (5,008 1/3) ranks 13th. His 18 career Gold Gloves is an all-time record for any position.
On May 3, 2009, the Cubs held a ceremony to retire the No. 31 worn by both Maddux and Fergie Jenkins. The Braves promptly retired the number themselves, two months later. Five years on, in his first year of eligibility, Maddux was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. However, there was a surprise as he opted not to have a team logo on his official plaque.