Rozner: Maddux sees himself in Cubs' Hendricks

On the surface, it seems ridiculous to mention Kyle Hendricks in the same sentence as Greg Maddux.

Seriously, you're talking about one of the greatest of all time, a pitcher who won 355 games and received 97 percent of the vote when on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.

The numbers, well, they are extraordinary. Suffice it to say that Maddux is 25th all-time in WAR and eighth all-time in WAR for pitchers.

There aren't many humans who belong in the same sentence as Greg Maddux.

Nevertheless, there are legitimate reasons for thinking of Maddux when watching Hendricks pitch.

If you think that crazy, Maddux himself says he sees it.

“I like watching him pitch,” Maddux said of Hendricks. “I like guys that rely on movement and location. I can relate to him. That's what I had to do.

“I'd rather watch him pitch than some lefty throwing 95 mph.”

Hendricks said last week that he's aware of the constant comparisons as he closes in on the major league ERA crown.

“It's humbling and it's nice, but I don't think a lot about it,” Hendricks said. “He's one of the greatest of all time and I have a long way to go.”

Maddux would have none of that.

“I think it's great,” Maddux said. “I look at the way he pitches off his fastball kind of like I did, and you look for guys who pitch the way you did.

“For me, it was (Orel) Hershiser and even Mike Morgan. Our fastballs kind of do the same thing. Hendricks has a little movement and it sinks. It's not a four-seamer that's straight and it doesn't cut much.

“Like (John) Smoltz's fastball was straight and it cut a little. Mine would run or sink, depending on how I threw it, and when I picture Hendricks, I see it running and sinking.

“Off-speed is off-speed. Whatever you can throw — slider, curve, change — you throw your fastball where you want and throw your slow pitches in the right counts and situations.”

Sounds simple — if you've won 355 games.

“You know, it's pretty simple if you understand a hitter's approach and what he's trying to do, so you know where you're more likely to have success,” Maddux said. “It's just a matter of recognizing counts and hitter tendencies and you pitch accordingly.

“Someone with an inside-out swing likes the ball middle-in instead of middle-out. The opposite is true. You understand when a guy is diving or pulling off. You recognize that and it gives you pitch selection.

“That's the whole game. That's what you're always trying to figure out. Then, it's pretty much down to execution.”

While general managers and chicks dig the radar gun, Maddux — not surprisingly — has never been much of a fan.

“The radar gun and spin rates and all that stuff is real big in scouting,” Maddux said. “It will allow you the chance to get drafted higher and play minor league baseball, and then you can just go ahead and … ”

Um, toss it out, said Maddux in so many words.

“It's nice to have velocity because you can get away with a few more mistakes,” Maddux said, “but if it was a speed contest you wouldn't even have to play the games.

“In all 15 games today, whichever pitcher executes the most pitches and keeps the ball in front of the outfield will win.”

Maddux imparts his wisdom these days as a volunteer pitching coach at UNLV — where son Chase is pitching — while dabbling as a president's assistant for the Dodgers.

That's when he's not adding a new driver or putting stroke to his golf game.

But he still enjoys the major league game.

“I'm watching mostly Dodgers games, but I usually fall asleep in the fifth or sixth inning and watch the rest when I get up,” Maddux laughed, noting his early tee time Saturday morning. “It's been fun to watch all these kids play well for the Dodgers. It's good to feel a part of something and have a team to root for.”

Maddux, however, is not without conflict this postseason. He works for the Dodgers, his brother is the pitching coach in Washington, he played half his career in Chicago and worked the last four years in Texas.

“It's going to be a great postseason,” Maddux said. “You pitch and you have a great chance. Pitch well and run into a home run every now and then. Not that complicated.”

For Maddux, it never is.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him on @BarryRozner on Twitter.

Cubs pitching great Greg Maddux says he sees himself in some of current pitcher Kyle Hendricks. "I look at the way he pitches off his fastball kind of like I did, and you look for guys who pitch the way you did," he said. Daily Herald File Photo
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