The Myth of Greg Maddux, the Soft Tosser
Since Andrew Cashner, no high ceiling starting pitching prospects both succeeded in the upper minors and eventually debuted with the Cubs. They have, however, had a variety of pitching prospects with mediocre fastball velocity, but good control, or at least reported good control. From Nick Struck to Chris Rusin, this tradition is now being held up by Kyle Hendricks. With Jake Arrieta likely not ready for the start of the season, some call for Hendricks to get a shot at a spot in the rotation to start the season, despite Hendricks only starting six Triple A games.
The back end of this tradition, however, always involves the proponents of the soft tossing prospects arguing, “but Greg Maddux didn’t throw hard!”
In some ways that statement is correct. Maddux never threw 95, and spent the last 6 or 7 years of his career with his fastball velocity slowly creeping from the high 80s to the mid 80s. But prior to his decline, Maddux threw a 92 mile per hour fastball. A 92 mile per hour fastball with fantastic movement and pinpoint control and command.
The four elements of a fastball are velocity, movement, control and command. On the 20-80 scouting scale, Maddux’s velocity through his prime was a 55-60, solidly above average, and the movement, command and control were all 70s to 80s.
So, first of all, comparing guys who throw 89-90 to in prime Maddux is inaccurate. There’s a big difference between 89 and 92.
Second, comparing a guy who has above average to good control in the minors to the pitcher with the greatest combination of pitch movement and control in the history of baseball is a disservice to the young pitcher.
I’m rooting for Hendricks. He could be a solid, cost controlled back end of the rotation piece. But let’s allow him to be that before we start comparing him to one of the greatest pitchers, if not the greatest pitcher, of most of our lifetimes.