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Tom Verducci
August 09, 2004
As remarkable as it is to win 300 games, Greg Maddux's real feat has been to thrive as a finesse pitcher in a power era
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August 09, 2004

Heady Stuff

As remarkable as it is to win 300 games, Greg Maddux's real feat has been to thrive as a finesse pitcher in a power era

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1) Make the balls look like strikes and the strikes look like balls.

2) Movement and location trump velocity every time.

3) When you're in trouble, think softer. Don't throw harder; locate better.

4) Have fun.

His physical gifts fading, Maddux must work harder than ever to keep those commandments. All except the last one, anyway.

Maddux's older brother Mike, now the pitching coach for the Brewers, pitched with modest success for 15 seasons, the last in 2000. "I remember my brother telling me in his last year or two, 'You don't know how good I have to pitch just to get out of an inning,' " Greg says. "I'm thinking, What's he talking about? I'm starting to understand more and more what he meant by that."

At his very best Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards (1992 to '95) and had the lowest ERA (2.14) in a six-year span (1992 to '97) since World War II, lower than the sublime six-year prime of Sandy Koufax (2.19) in a pitcher's era. Such was Maddux's sleight of hand with a baseball that future Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs called him "the David Copperfield of pitchers" after he shut out the New York Yankees over eight innings in Game 2 of the 1996 World Series.

Maddux, however, never did get enough credit for just how nasty his stuff was. He threw his fastball 90 or 91 mph with the sudden movement of a jackrabbit flushed from the brush. The ball naturally sank and ran away from lefthanders. A slight twist of the wrist, and it cut toward their hands.

"I pulled out tapes from 10 years ago, back when I was throwing up those really good years," Maddux says. "I made more mistakes then than I do now! It's just that I got away with them. My movement was better because my velocity was better."

Maddux typically throws at about 85 mph now. "I may not have the same success as I did earlier when I was doing it at faster speeds, but I can still have success," he says. "My bad games may be worse, though. I think I have to pitch better now than 10 years ago. I have to locate better because my stuff is not as good. It's still good enough to win, but not good enough to make mistakes. I don't throw hard enough for the ball to break as much as it used to."

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