MLB

CY YOUNG SCOPE: Greg Maddux

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No one symbolizes the Atlanta Braves' pitching dominance over the past decade more than Greg Maddux. Sure, he didn't come up through the Braves' system a la Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, but Maddux -- who signed with the Braves as a free agent after the 1992 season -- personifies the Braves¿ hurlers under pitching genius Leo Mazzone. Maddux was never among the game's hardest throwers, but his combination of smarts, athleticism, focus and perfect mechanics is unparalleled. That equation allowed Maddux to win an unprecedented four straight Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 and has him barreling down on 300 wins. Maddux would be a sure-fire Hall of Fame inductee if he retired tomorrow -- indeed, he might approach or even surpass the record 98.84 percent of the vote Tom Seaver received in 1992 -- but there's plenty of work to be done before he goes on Cooperstown's waiting list. And rest assured Maddux's legendary concentration will be fixed solely on 2002, which is shaping up as a potential last call for this Braves dynasty. Maddux and Glavine, who turn 36 within three weeks of each other this spring, are free agents after the season, and it remains to be seen if the bean counters at AOL are nostalgic enough to ensure the two remain with the Braves for the remainder of their careers. And there's no assurances either player would accept a hometown discount -- Maddux is represented by Scott "Don't leave a dime on the table" Boras, while Glavine is one of the most vocal leaders of the Players' Association. For now, the Braves will rely on the duo to carry Atlanta into the playoffs for the 11th straight time. And Maddux will almost assuredly continue to rack up numbers like few before him. Maddux won 17 games last season, the fifth straight time he's won at least 17 in a season and the 14th straight time he's won at least 15 games in a season. Only one other pitcher in baseball history -- a guy named Cy Young -- has strung together more consecutive 15-win seasons. Just as amazingly, Maddux reached the 200-inning mark for the 14th straight season in 2001, a streak that includes the two strike-shortened seasons in 1994 and ¿95. He also allowed just 27 walks, the fourth time in his career he's walked fewer than 30 batters in a season, and he set an all-time record by going 72.1 innings without allowing a walk. For good measure, Maddux won his 12th consecutive Gold Glove. Maddux is so economical -- he averaged just 86.7 pitches per start but also averaged 6.85 innings per outing -- it sometimes looks as if he can pitch forever. Never was that more evident than last April 11, when he one-hit the Mets over seven innings and needed just 74 pitches -- 57 strikes -- to do it. And he was hobbled that night by a sore toe. Makes you wonder what he can do when he's feeling pretty good. Maddux was actually feeling pretty miserable by the end of last season, when he went 10 consecutive starts without a victory -- including the postseason -- and suffered a hyperextended right elbow during a September start against the Mets. But he's healthy and raring to go this year, and with the stakes raised for the Braves this season by the acquisition of Gary Sheffield and the uncertain futures of Maddux and Glavine, none of us should be surprised at all if Maddux makes a run at his record fifth NL Cy Young Award. Jerry Beach is a senior writer for E-SportsNation.com and can be reached at jbeach@e-sportsnation.com. You can get exclusive news and information from Jerry and in-depth coverage on baseball by subscribing to E-SN Premium. Click here for more details.
Tagged: Braves

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