Reports are that Greg Maddux will announce his retirement from baseball on Monday.
This is a sad day for me, as I've never seen a better pitcher in my lifetime, and I had the pleasure of watching him pitch for my beloved Chicago Cubs for years(1986-1992, 2004-July 2006).
With 355 wins, an ERA of 3.55, a 1.143 WHIP, 3371 strikeouts with only 999 walks, 4 National League Cy Young awards, a record 18 Gold Gloves, 8 All-Star Games, Maddux is an absolute lock to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Greg is also the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to win at least 15 games in 17 straight seasons. Absolutely amazing.
Maddux truly made pitching an art. Young people that watched him pitch only the last few years never saw a fastball with velocity higher than 86 mph or so. When he first came up with the Cubs, he'd hit over 90 consistently on his fastball, but he really didn't know how to "pitch" yet. Greg learned that it's not how hard you throw, but it's about changing speeds and location.
Really, you don't want to use maximum effort if you don't need to. Why throw five pitches to strike a hitter out when you could get him to hit a groundball to the third baseman on the first pitch? Greg got groundball after groundball, and made hitters earn their at bats. He wasn't going to give you a free base. Much like the "Moneyball" fanatics of baseball these days, Greg knew the importance of a walk and made the hitter put the ball in play. But unlike most pitchers, he was able to hit the catcher's target on the edge of the strike zone just about every time with plenty of movement on his pitches. It's a lot easier said than done, but it was a walk in the park for Greg.
My favorite pitch to watch from Maddux was definitely the 2-seamer to left-handed hitters. Watching it on television, it appeared the pitch was going to hit the left-handed hitter, and then it would dart across the inside corner of the plate for a strike while the hitter bailed out. So many pitchers now use that pitch, but nobody's ever used it better than Maddux. To me, that pitch with him is like Michael Jordan's fadeaway jumper.
And changing speeds, something he and fellow Braves pitcher for many years in Tom Glavine did to absolute perfection. When you're changing speeds every pitch, an 86 mph fastball all of a sudden is much more effective. He'd throw an 86 mph fastball, then throw a changeup just at about 82. The pitches move much differently, and there's just a small difference in velocity, but enough to completely throw a hitter off.
I pitched from second grade through high school, and no pitcher influenced me more than Greg Maddux. I never threw hard(low 70's in high school), so I had to change speeds and throw stirkes to be effective, and nobody was better at it than Greg. I also always admired how well he defended his position, with his aforementioned 18 Gold Gloves to show for it. Young pitchers could learn more from watching Greg than any pitcher in the history of the game.
Not only was he great on the field, but Maddux is considered one of the best clubhouse guys around. He has a great personality, a terrific sense of humor, and has been a terrific mentor for younger players. Having this guy on your roster is pretty much having a great coach as well. Really, there's nothing at all that you can say bad about this guy.
Although he's 43, I really believe Greg could still be fairly effective for up to five more years or so if he wanted to pitch, but he's done plenty enough. I'm sure going to miss him though.