Over the last three decades, few moves irked fans on the North Side more than the team’s unwillingness to pay up and retain a future Hall of Famer after arguably one of the best seasons of his illustrious career.
In 1992, Chicago Cubs right-hander Greg Maddux was absolutely dominant, winning 20 games for the only time in his 23 years in the big leagues. He led the league in several categories, including wins (20), games started (35), innings pitched (268), ERA+ (166), FIP (2.58) and HR/9 (0.2).
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
But after winning the first of four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards and after an emotional back-and-forth in the subsequent offseason, the two sides parted ways, with Maddux heading to Atlanta, where he spent the next 11 years of his career. Of course, during that time he was one of – if not the – most dominant pitcher in the league – and Cubs fans were constantly reminded of what might have been had he stayed with the team.
There’s nothing we can do about how history played itself out. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t look back at that 1992 season and appreciate just how great Maddux was for the Cubs.
In his home starts, the right-hander was near-unbeatable. He made 17 starts, working to a 1.91 ERA at Wrigley Field, striking out 110 and walking only 36. That’s not to say he was a slouch on the road, though. Maddux had a 2.47 ERA away from the Friendly Confines – a number most pitchers would take without question, at home or on the road.
What’s really remarkable though is the fact that he got better as the year went on – similar to Jake Arrieta’s historic 2015 season, when he also won the league’s top pitching honors. After the All-Star Break, Maddux made 16 starts and turned in a dazzling 1.93 ERA. In the month of July, he allowed five runs in five starts, spanning 40 innings. He followed that up with a 1.91 mark in August and 2.45 in September.
Now, the 1992 Cubs were a pretty not-so-great team. They finished below .500, winning just 78 games on the year, so Maddux got them over a quarter of those victories. But in the 11 games he lost that year, he still had more than respectable numbers: a .329 ERA, .290 opponent on-base percentage and 1.109 WHIP.
Seriously, find me a big league pitcher today who wouldn’t be happy with those numbers on the whole – let alone in games he lost.
If you take a deep dive down the rabbit hole and dig into the numbers Greg Maddux put up in that final season in Chicago (at least in regards to his first go-round with the Cubs), it’s nothing but astonishment after astonishment. I know we all remember what Arrieta did five years ago – but the fact that Maddux did this year-in and year-out, season after season is just a testament to his legendary standing in the game.