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

/ by Tim Stebbins
Presented By Cubs Insiders

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].”

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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.

“If the hitter’s weakness is not one of your strengths, that’s where you have to make a decision,” he said. “Do I want to pitch to these scouting reports, or do I want to pitch the way I think I can have success? That’s kind of the battle right there."


Maddux added his goal, if he surrendered contact, was to keep it in front of his outfielders. He'd rather give up a base hit here and there if it meant avoiding the long ball (in an era where it was prevalent).

Nowadays, pitchers throw more breaking balls out of the zone and fastballs up to induce misses and strikeouts. Maddux said when he got a batter down 0-2, his philosophy was to throw a strike to induce weak contact. If he struck the batter out, all the better. 

But what if Maddux had high velocity?

“If I had that, I probably would have thrown a few more high fastballs,” he said.

Even without high velocity, Maddux, an eight-time All-Star and four-time Cy Young Award winner, did just fine.

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