Chicago Cubs: What if the 1998 Cubs had Greg Maddux?
Chicago Cubs: What difference would Maddux have made?
With Maddux on top of the rotation and couple that with Wood’s 3.40 ERA, 3.16 FIP and 12.6 K/9 behind him and suddenly you have a deadly 1-2 punch. The rest of the top guys are not going to blow anyone away, but they can start 30+ games. Clark’s ERA was high but he had a 3.76 FIP and a 2.0 BB/9, so fair to say he pitched better than his traditional numbers looked. He could be the number three in the rotation and the four and five spots between Trachsel and Tapani.
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One thing seems certain – they win more than 90 games in the regular season. Having an all-time great pitcher on a team that scored the ninth-most runs in baseball that year (831) is going to result in more wins. Plus they’d have another guy who can make over 30 starts and pitch 250+ innings.
Maddux in that rotation has four guys pitching 200+ innings and making 30+ starts. This helps put relief on other arms. Beck is likely not pushed to the brink like he was and not being burned out by the postseason as he would not be needed quite as much.
Putting it all together, does Maddux make the 1998 Cubs a World Series team? No. There are still a lot of weaknesses. However the prospect of Maddux and a healthy Wood could see them win a five-game NLDS and not need 163 games to get to the postseason.
You have two great pitchers 1-2 it makes winning a five-game series much more possible. That elusive first playoff series win since 1908 could have come a bit sooner than the 2003 NLDS. Probably as far as they go in this scenario.
Obviously this is all hypothetical and things as a whole would be different if Maddux did not leave for the Cubs. It is just fun to think about.