Vintage Maddux – Roy Smith
After last night’s game against the Giants, I have to make a few comments about Greg Maddux and about what a masterfully pitched game it was on both sides. Jason Schmidt and Greg Maddux are completely different pitchers, one a classic power pitcher, the other the epitome of finesse. However, both pitchers’ base philosophy is the same — work quick, throw strikes, change speeds. The philosophy is age old and was never more evident than last night.
Jim Kaat once said to me that pitching is an art, not a science. I believe that and Greg Maddux was Picasso last night. What Jim was saying is that pitching is as much feel as it is game planning. What Greg does better than anyone possibly in history is control the speed of the bat. In order to do that he attacks with his good sinking fastball, establishing his optimum speed in the hitters’ mind, then reacts from there. If he gets a groundball out early in the count, great. If the pitch is taken or fouled off, he decides his next pitch by the reaction of the hitter. He also takes into account his history with that hitter and the count, the score and what he has working that particular day. In other words, he is always the one dictating and it is almost impossible for the hitter to guess what’s coming because he can get all of his pitches over for strikes on any count. I read an article written before Hank Aaron faced Al Downing the night Aaron hit his 715th home run. Downing was asked what he was going to throw Hammerin’ Hank. Al said “You’ll have to tell me what the previous pitch was.” That is Maddux.
Whitey Ford once said that he felt like he held an invisible string attached to the hitters stride foot with which he either pulled it or left it taut whenever he wanted. That is also Maddux.