More Ammo Than is Required

Look, you’re not going to find a guy more happy to read a love letter to Greg Maddux than me — hell, I’ve written a number of them – but it does seem a little cruel for Tim Kurkjian to spend nearly 1500 words slamming Nats’ pitcher Daniel Cabrera for not being Greg Maddux:

For the first time since 1985, a major league season will be played without Greg Maddux. It will be strange not getting to watch the sixth or seventh best pitcher ever, the best control pitcher of his era and perhaps the smartest pitcher of any era. It doesn’t seem right that as a new season approaches, Maddux isn’t in a starting rotation but Daniel Cabrera is . . .

. . . We have created a generation of robotic pitchers who throw 95 mph but understand little else about the fine art of pitching.

Cabrera is one of those pitchers. Last year, statistically, he was the worst fielding pitcher in the American League, even though he only made one error. In 180 innings, he had 11 assists. In 194 innings, Maddux had 57 assists. When Cabrera was a young pitcher with the Orioles, during a drill, he attempted to catch a rolling ball with his glove down, not up and open, as if he was squashing the ball. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” said one Oriole. “He’s very raw, we know. But it’s like he had never caught a grounder before.”

Last year, Cabrera led the AL with 15 wild pitches. In 841 1/3 career innings, he has 60 wild pitches, only 10 fewer than Maddux had in over six times as many innings. Cabrera was second in the AL with 90 walks last season; in 1995-97, Maddux had 71 walks total. Cabrera also allowed the second-most steals (27 out of 31 attempts) in the AL last year.

Maddux was never good at holding runners, either, but that wasn’t important to him.

And it just kind of goes on like that. Which is strange, because you would think that one wouldn’t need to resort to Daniel Cabrera comparisons in order to praise Greg Maddux, nor would one need resort to Greg Maddux comparisons in order to find fault with Daniel Cabrera. It comes off almost sadistic, which is not something you tend to see from a guy as sunny and enthusiastic as Kurkjian usually is.

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  1. Charles Kitchen said...

    “Maddux was never good at holding runners, either, but that wasn’t important to him.”

    I do not think it is important to Cabrera, either.

  2. Charles Kitchen said...

    “Twenty years ago, pitchers were great athletes that hit third and played shortstop in high school on days they didn’t pitch. From that, they developed skills that well-rounded pitchers must have, including the ability to hit, to catch a ground ball and to run the bases.”

    I thought a lot of high school pitchers hit well.  Don’t many pitchers DH in college?

  3. Jeff V. said...

    What kills me is that you get the sense that he thinks Cabrera doesn’t work hard.  He does, he works very hard. 

    However, despite the fact that he can throw a ball very hard, and looks like he is carved out of granite, Cabrera is just not a good athlete.  He started playing baseball at an advanced age and has below average coordination and agility.

    I think his point would have been better served comparing Maddux to someone that doesn’t try or care, rather then someone that is just lacking the basic tools to be a big league player.

    Oh and the high percentage of fastballs is because the O’s wanted to him to throw his sinker more last year.

  4. Detroit Michael said...

    The Bill James Gold Mine 2009 book as a note regarding Daniel Cabrera in a similar vein, minus the Greg Maddux comparison.  In 2008, Cabrera hit 18 batters, threw 15 wild pitchers, committed 2 balks and made 1 error.  Total them up, divide by innings pitched and compare to other pitchers with 100 or more innings pitched during 2008.  Cabrera has the highest rate of self destructive acts in the majors last year among starters.

  5. Carl said...

    Well, I think Cabrera is about as anti-Maddux as there is now.

    What’s ironic is that when Maddux started, there was a pitcher who was more anti-Maddux than Daniel Cabrera… Bobby Witt, who once walked 140 people in 143 innings, threw as many as 22 wp in a season, and as many as 5 errors in a season. 

    This Kurkijan essay is one of those essays sportswriters write when great players retire, where they look back at their youth in fondness and decide that the great player was emblematic of an era.  They aren’t, of course – that’s why they are great.

  6. Thomas J. Comer said...

    Some of the great pitchers throughout history had great pick-off moves.  Most didn’t. The great pitchers tend to say the hell with guys on base and worry about the guy with a bat in his hands.

    All too often I see a pitcher worrying about the guy stealing second so much….throwing over and stepping off…until he no longer has to worry about it because the batter cracked a double and the runner is on third or back in the dugout.

    I’m not advocating never worrying about the runner, but too often the guy on first seems to be the priority.


  7. Don Z said...

    Of course, if umpires gave Cabrera a strike call on a pitch two inches off the outside edge, his numbers might be better too.

  8. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Don—maybe, but first he’d have to demonstate over 4-5 years—like Maddux did—that he is capable of actually hitting that part of the zone when he wants to.

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