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Monday, April 20, 2020

Cubs legend Greg Maddux’s pitching philosophy: ‘It’s not a speed contest’

Cubs legend and Hall of Famer Greg Maddux didn’t blow hitters away on the mound. The right-hander used a combination of location and changing speeds to keep hitters off balance rather than blow them away with high velocity.

Maddux relied on a sinker, circle changeup, cutter, and two- and four-seam fastball during his 23-year career. Although his fastball often sat in the upper 80s, he enjoyed plenty of success.

“It’s not a speed contest, it’s a pitching contest,” Maddux told WSCR’s Matt Spiegel. “And I believe that. I bought in to that. I always relied on locating fastball and changing speeds when (I) had to. That was my way. When you’re facing Randy Johnson or Roger Clemens or somebody like that, that definitely throws better, you can go out and try and outpitch (them).”

Maddux also threw a slider and curveball, but told Spiegel he preferred doing so largely to induce swings and misses out of the zone. His goal, he said, was to rely on his own strengths rather than attack a hitter’s weaknesses, although he said there’s a fine line between the two.

Interesting philosophy for pitching- terrible philosophy for the Autobahn…..

 

QLE Posted: April 20, 2020 at 12:56 AM | 52 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: greg maddux, speed

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   1. dlf Posted: April 20, 2020 at 08:41 AM (#5942139)
I figured that his philosophy was, first you piss on their leg in the shower then you know you've got 'em!

One of the things that he did that few can is that he could make his cutter move both left and right. While he rarely threw a traditional breaking ball, he could get a little subtle movement that was just enough to throw off the hitter.
   2. dlf Posted: April 20, 2020 at 08:45 AM (#5942141)


Did I already break the thread with italics?



I'm blaming QLE.
   3. Ron J Posted: April 20, 2020 at 09:03 AM (#5942145)
Test
   4. Ron J Posted: April 20, 2020 at 09:04 AM (#5942146)
Test Test
   5. Starring RMc as Bradley Scotchman Posted: April 20, 2020 at 09:28 AM (#5942150)
How about this?
   6. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: April 20, 2020 at 09:29 AM (#5942151)

</i>

fudge.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: April 20, 2020 at 09:31 AM (#5942153)
I think QLE is going to have to fix it.
   8. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: April 20, 2020 at 10:14 AM (#5942165)
I suspect that the brackets around "them" at the end of the intro led to the italics in the rest of the post.

Maddux threw harder in his earliest days. That obviously wasn't what made him great, but he wasn't a soft tosser for the best part of his career.
   9. Itchy Row Posted: April 20, 2020 at 10:29 AM (#5942174)
Maddux used changes of fonts to keep hitters off-balance.
   10. The Duke Posted: April 20, 2020 at 10:33 AM (#5942181)
He’s so good, he knew how to change speed and fonts
   11. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: April 20, 2020 at 10:38 AM (#5942187)
Don't use brackets if you can avoid it. Parenthesis are OK but brackets make the system think you are giving it a code so when you had the brackets around the word "I" it thought that was the start of italicization.
   12. McCoy Posted: April 20, 2020 at 10:42 AM (#5942189)
Maddux was never a soft tosser. He just didn't throw hard. He wasn't trying to hit 95 on the gun. In his youth he'd hit 92 and occasionally 93. In his prime he liked to top out at 91. At the backend of his career he'd top out at 89 or so but hang out at mid to upper 80's.
   13. Ron J Posted: April 20, 2020 at 10:46 AM (#5942194)
#8 There are two scouting reports that flat nail him (and says something about MLB's obsession with speed that he was only graded a second rounder). Some things of note:

Interestingly his fastball was graded major league average when he was a High School senior. Also had a sharp curve, a promising change and "good control for a H.S. pitcher."

(Must have been fun to face even then.)

Some interesting comments from the scouts.

Good competitor.
Throws with very little effort.
Should have good control.
Should add velocity as he fills out (listed at 160 -- threw about 88 then)
Should use change more. (I wonder how many major league hitters felt that?)
Doubt if he'll be overpowering but should throw lots of ground balls.

I tracked his velocity reported in the various scouting books on offer. He was listed as throwing in the low 90s initially. As his career progressed you'd see notes like, can throw harder but rarely chooses to. He seemed to spot his best fastball as a very occasional change of pace.

EDIT: Woo hoo. Fixed!
   14. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 20, 2020 at 11:19 AM (#5942209)
As his career progressed you'd see notes like, can throw harder but rarely chooses to.
He was Ichiro before Ichiro was Ichiro.
   15. Howie Menckel Posted: April 20, 2020 at 11:26 AM (#5942215)
Proffer:

Maddux and Glavine would not have been stars in a game without human umpires.

they each had an uncanny ability - almost like "muscle memory" - to consistently hit the bullseye. that is to say, throw a pitch a few inches out of the strike zone, and get a strike call. keep hitting that same "bullseye," and keep getting the same call.

it's a remarkable skill, kind of a "pitch framing" - but by the pitcher, not the catcher.

yet take human error out of the equation.....
   16. Ron J Posted: April 20, 2020 at 11:46 AM (#5942225)
#15 Maybe Glavine. Maddux though was not so much about that particular skill. His stuff didn't seem overwhelming, but neither did Pete Alexander's and I think Maddux is kind of a spiritual successor to Alexander.
   17. villageidiom Posted: April 20, 2020 at 11:47 AM (#5942227)
He was Ichiro before Ichiro was Ichiro.
Ichiro could have been Ichiro before Ichiro if he wanted to.
   18. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: April 20, 2020 at 11:50 AM (#5942230)
13 - The problem with scouting a guy like Maddux is 99% of the time the raw stuff just won't get it done. We saw it in the NBA for years, how many guys were "the next Larry Bird?" So many teams said "yeah he can't run and can't jump but he's a good player" about guys who weren't Bird and those players busted regularly. Same thing with pitchers. Finding "the next Maddux" is going to be a fool's errand. The obsession with the radar gun is frustrating but Maddux had better stuff than people are giving him credit for. His control wasn't good or even great, it was ridiculous. He also had the ability to move the ball around so hitters never were comfortable. The other thing about Maddux is I think he played in an era when there was SUCH an obsession with taking pitches that played into his hands. Guys were down in the count 0-2 before they knew what hit them.
   19. dlf Posted: April 20, 2020 at 12:09 PM (#5942241)
#15 - Maddux was a better version of Zack Grienke. Admittedly, the East/West strikezone was larger in the 90s than now (but perhaps smaller North/South) but the ability to move the ball any direction at any speed and hit a bubble gum wrapper at 60' is going to be successful in any era.
   20. Ron J Posted: April 20, 2020 at 12:10 PM (#5942242)
#18 No disagreement. Scouting is hard. I just find it fascinating how well they project him and then dismiss an all-time great as worth a second.

It's hard to quantify the ability to throw quality strikes (never mind project the future ability)
   21. Brian Posted: April 20, 2020 at 04:04 PM (#5942351)
Don't know what pitch category you'd put it in but Maddux' best pitch to lefties was thrown right at their belt buckle. The batter would pull away and the ball would tail over the plate. If somehow the batter hung in there and swung it was so far inside, and so late in getting there, that they would pull it foul. Saw him throw this pitch into the same 4 inch window a few thousand times.
   22. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 20, 2020 at 04:36 PM (#5942363)

they each had an uncanny ability - almost like "muscle memory" - to consistently hit the bullseye. that is to say, throw a pitch a few inches out of the strike zone, and get a strike call


Even if this were true:

A) were hitters that good that they avoided swinging on those pitches knowing they'd be barely out of the zone?

B) or are pitches slightly out of the zone so much more difficult to hit than pitches slightly into the zone that it turns mere mortals into pitching gods?
   23. Howie Menckel Posted: April 20, 2020 at 04:57 PM (#5942371)
fair points. also, while an everyday batter might only get 8 to 15 AB per year against them, after a number of years a veteran would - under this scenario - get nailed with enough called strikes that he would no longer take that pitch.

which gets to Point B.
   24. McCoy Posted: April 20, 2020 at 07:35 PM (#5942444)
Maddux in one of the books said in high school he would try to throw as hard as he could. He would throw 4 seam fastballs but then he realized he just was never going to be a flamethrower so he developed his two seam fastball and realized the importance of movement and location.
   25. SoSH U at work Posted: April 20, 2020 at 08:10 PM (#5942474)
it's a remarkable skill, kind of a "pitch framing" - but by the pitcher, not the catcher.


That's what pitch framing actually is. If the catcher doesn't have to move, or move much, for the pitch, he's going to get an expanded strike zone. It's not about stealing pitches by moving the glove, for crying out loud.
   26. The Duke Posted: April 20, 2020 at 10:26 PM (#5942511)
Glavine would not be successful today. I don’t know how he did it but he got calls so far off the plate it wasn’t even funny. That would never happen today. Maddux, if memory serves, painted the black all game long. I think he would still be successful today, maybe more so.

I always thought Maddux was the best pure pitcher I ever saw. There was a guy on the Cardinals, John Tudor, who did that for a few years and was a real treat to watch but Maddux did it for a whole career.
   27. Howie Menckel Posted: April 20, 2020 at 11:59 PM (#5942551)
That's what pitch framing actually is. If the catcher doesn't have to move, or move much, for the pitch, he's going to get an expanded strike zone. It's not about stealing pitches by moving the glove, for crying out loud.

I'm very surprised that anyone would say "it's not about stealing pitches by moving the glove"

but maybe you can get somebody to "second" your motion.

I'm ok with your first point since that's exactly what I'm asking BBTFers what they think about Maddux. catcher sets up two inches outside, Maddux hits a bullseye, and it's STEERIKE!"

but I don't know how many thousand times you have to watch a pitch get caught outside the strike zone, then "framed in" by the catcher with rather noticeable movement on the TV broadcast - complete with a graphic showing the ball missing the strike zone and thus the movement - and then getting the strike call to convince you. apparently it's more thousands of times than I would have anticipated.
   28. SoSH U at work Posted: April 21, 2020 at 01:31 AM (#5942555)
but I don't know how many thousand times you have to watch a pitch get caught outside the strike zone, then "framed in" by the catcher with rather noticeable movement on the TV broadcast - complete with a graphic showing the ball missing the strike zone and thus the movement - and then getting the strike call to convince you. apparently it's more thousands of times than I would have anticipated.


Catchers have always tried to pull the ball back over the plate, it's natural. That isn't what gets strikes.

Pitch framing is catching the ball quietly, with little to no movement. If a catcher sets up on the inside, and has to jerk his mitt across the plate, the pitch is almost always going to be a ball, even if it catches the outside corner. If the catcher sets up just off the outside, and the pitcher hits the spot, it's typically going to be a strike. Pitch framing is the ability to catch the ball quietly, not tricking the umpire with some sleight of hand after the ball has crossed the plate.

If you watch the most famous bad zone game in history, the Marlins-Braves NLCS game, Livan is getting those wide strikes by consistently throwing the ball where Charles Johnson is setting up and Johnson barely having to move. It's not because Chuck was yanking the ball back over the plate.
   29. PreservedFish Posted: April 21, 2020 at 08:30 AM (#5942585)
To be fair, though, catchers are (or were) explicitly taught that dragging the ball back into the zone steals strikes, and for decades announcers referred to glove-moving as an important skill. (I always found it funny when a color guy would praise a catcher for his wisdom in framing a pitch that way, because I was taught to do the same thing when I was like 9).
   30. Ron J Posted: April 21, 2020 at 08:39 AM (#5942589)
#29 what SoSH is talking about goes back to a Craig Wright study in the 80s. Wright spent a great deal of time studying film of the catchers with the best and worst CERA relative to "expected" results and found that glove movement correlated strongly with called balls.
   31. Ron J Posted: April 21, 2020 at 08:46 AM (#5942590)
Found the quote I was looking for. From The Diamond Appraised.

"[...] A catcher can get more strike calls on borderline pitches by *not* showing the umpire his glove as a target, or at least by drawing back after the target is given. The best catchers - particularly the ones who call fewer walks in matched innings - tend to give a full open-faced target to the pitcher and hold the glove closer to their body. [...]

At first, the technique may seem counterproductive, giving a better target to the pitcher, but at the cost of losing the umpire by taking the glove out of his view. It would also seem to hurt your chances of getting a strike call by making you move more to go after bad pitches, particularly the low ones.

But that isn't the way it works. It's easy enough to handle pitches around the strike zone with the glove held close to the body. The excess movement going after a bad pitch doesn't make a difference, because those are obvious ball calls anyway. It may even help emphasise to the umpire that if the catcher has to move a lot, it's a ball. Now consider the borderline pitch. Along with his natural judgement, the umpire is instinctively looking for clues. If he can't see the glove clearly, he may rely on the catchers's movement; he didn't move, so it's a strike."

Wright also points out that poor catcher's mechanics can create balls. He specifically cites Gino Petralli.
   32. PreservedFish Posted: April 21, 2020 at 08:52 AM (#5942591)
I know that SOSH U is correct. I'm just saying that there appeared to be widespread belief in the game itself that moving the glove could be productive.
   33. McCoy Posted: April 22, 2020 at 10:54 AM (#5943006)
I remember BPro did a study on it and embedded video clips to highlight their points. There's a clip of Molina moving his glove from middle low to middle middle to catch the ball and the ump calling a ball on a strike down the middle. Molina thumps his chest to tell the pitcher my bad.

For the catchers the skill isn't no movement but "quiet" movement. Setup right so the ump can get the look you want. Adjust your glove and body subtly so it didn't appear you're lunging or jabbing at a ball out of the zone.

The Molina's weren't statues out there. They moved, they just did it quietly.
   34. Howie Menckel Posted: April 22, 2020 at 12:27 PM (#5943036)
Adjust your glove and body subtly so it didn't appear you're lunging or jabbing at a ball out of the zone.

that almost sounds like "pitch framing by a catcher."
   35. Nasty Nate Posted: April 22, 2020 at 12:31 PM (#5943038)
Proffer:

Maddux and Glavine would not have been stars in a game without human umpires.

they each had an uncanny ability - almost like "muscle memory" - to consistently hit the bullseye. that is to say, throw a pitch a few inches out of the strike zone, and get a strike call. keep hitting that same "bullseye," and keep getting the same call.

it's a remarkable skill, kind of a "pitch framing" - but by the pitcher, not the catcher.

yet take human error out of the equation.....
Maybe some of this would be balanced by them learning to throw the kind of edge strikes that are called balls by humans, but would be called strikes by robots.
   36. SoSH U at work Posted: April 22, 2020 at 01:28 PM (#5943055)
that almost sounds like "pitch framing by a catcher."



But it's not getting caught outside the zone and getting "framed in" by the catcher, which is what you said. It's reduced movement before the pitch is caught.
   37. McCoy Posted: April 22, 2020 at 02:06 PM (#5943075)
and after
   38. bigglou115 is not an Illuminati agent Posted: April 22, 2020 at 06:54 PM (#5943252)
I've never understood the argument they wouldn't have been stars of the umpires didn't give them strikes.

If you are giving them credit for such good control they could consistently hit that narrow band were umps gave them the benefit of the doubt then they could hit the narrow band on the edges of the zone. How much do we think the difference between a pitch half an inch off the zone and half an inch in the zone is? How much would it have to be to take 2 HOFers from deserving to not stars?

Also, let's not undersell Maddux's stuff. 3k strikeouts, even with the caveats of throwing a lot of innings, is still impressive.
   39. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: April 22, 2020 at 10:09 PM (#5943298)
If you are giving them credit for such good control they could consistently hit that narrow band were umps gave them the benefit of the doubt then they could hit the narrow band on the edges of the zone.

I think that's right. Maddux seems like exactly the kind of guy who, if guaranteed a "rulebook" strike zone, would spend every winter practicing hitting all eight outside "corners" with varying speeds and movement - and spend the summers feasting on batters unable to do much with pitches that are actually on (or near) a "corner."
   40. Howie Menckel Posted: April 22, 2020 at 10:57 PM (#5943306)
that makes sense to me as well.

is there anyone else who thinks that catchers don't move a "ball" into the strike zone and get a cheap strike?

I mean, if you don't, you don't. we're all here to learn.
   41. Barnaby Jones Posted: April 22, 2020 at 11:16 PM (#5943308)
I'm not sure what you guys are saying about pitch framing just being "stillness" is completely right. Tyler Flowers is like the poster child for the phenomenon, and he has a ton of glove movement. He typically puts his glove pointed down almost on the ground and then moves it up in a kind of sweeping motion that stops in the zone.

Example Video
   42. Barnaby Jones Posted: April 22, 2020 at 11:22 PM (#5943309)
Here's a good video of Sal Fasano and Flowers talking about technique.
   43. Greg Pope Posted: April 23, 2020 at 08:44 AM (#5943351)
is there anyone else who thinks that catchers don't move a "ball" into the strike zone and get a cheap strike?

I mean, if you don't, you don't. we're all here to learn.


I don't think that catchers steal strikes by moving balls into the strike zone. That would require the umpire actually taking the time to look down at where the catcher's glove is before calling the pitch. You just don't see that kind of delay.

Also, (and I've never umped so this is an actual question) can the umpire even see the catcher's glove from where he stands?

I think that catchers have been taught forever to pull a ball into the strike zone but there's no actual proof that it does anything.
   44. McCoy Posted: April 23, 2020 at 01:19 PM (#5943482)
If he's a bad catcher then yeah, the ump won't see his glove. Good ones setup to give umpires a good view.
   45. McCoy Posted: April 23, 2020 at 01:22 PM (#5943484)
Barnaby, your video is showing the stillness. Flowers isn't doing don't ole hand gesture while trying to catch the ball. He puts his glove at a spot and then holds it there. He isn't lunging and the give is still at the moment of contact.
   46. McCoy Posted: April 23, 2020 at 01:30 PM (#5943488)
   47. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: April 23, 2020 at 01:48 PM (#5943504)
If he's a bad catcher then yeah, the ump won't see his glove. Good ones setup to give umpires a good view.

This is making me realize the job of a catcher might be very different after people adjust to RoboUmps, even beyond "framing is no longer a skill". Maybe the catcher can adopt a completely different posture if he doesn't need to accommodate to the umpire's need for personal space or a sightline. Then maybe there are downstream effects from that to make it much easier for the catcher to wipe out base stealers and bunters.
   48. McCoy Posted: April 23, 2020 at 02:56 PM (#5943544)
For starters he could stand like catchers of old.
   49. dlf Posted: April 23, 2020 at 03:16 PM (#5943555)
If he's a bad catcher then yeah, the ump won't see his glove. Good ones setup to give umpires a good view.


That is exactly the opposite of what the study quoted by RonJ in #31 found.
   50. McCoy Posted: April 23, 2020 at 03:51 PM (#5943583)
I believe there are more GIFs on BPro
   51. Barnaby Jones Posted: April 23, 2020 at 05:04 PM (#5943643)
Barnaby, your video is showing the stillness. Flowers isn't doing don't ole hand gesture while trying to catch the ball. He puts his glove at a spot and then holds it there. He isn't lunging and the give is still at the moment of contact.


I mean, we can both see the video, so I guess we will just have to agree to disagree to some degree. "He puts his glove at a spot and then holds it there" is right, but the point is that spot is not where he catches the ball. He catches the ball before he puts the glove in its final position, typically during a sweep up from the ground. He is absolutely not just setting still target just off the plate and not moving when the pitcher hits it, as I understood people to be suggesting above.

It is possible that we are just talking past each other. I agree he makes it look quiet (and he's not lunging around which would be obviously bad pitch framing), but that's just begging the question. He's actually moving his glove quite a bit from where he catches it, and whatever he's doing the sum total seems to be working.
   52. Nasty Nate Posted: April 23, 2020 at 05:25 PM (#5943648)
There's plenty of glove movement in that Flowers video.

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