It's kind of funny to see Jay Mariotti jumping on the Greg Maddux bandwagon after two starts. The secret to Maddux's quick start is not fitness. In reality, he's the exact same Professor he has been for the last three years.
Maddux's H/9 rate fluctuates from season to season. I don't think he has a lot of control over this. Sure, in his 1992-98 insane peak he certainly allowed fewer hits for a reason. But he gave up tons of hits in '99 and it looks like a fluke. He seems to have established a new general range since 2003. That range is to allow a little more than a hit per inning, which is fine if you're walking 30 guys a year. The H/9 was 9.56 last year, his highest since '99. If regression to the mean brings that down just a little bit and he continues allowing HRs at a league average pace, he's a sub-4 ERA innings eater. Nothing has changed.
You can just look at the ERAs and see 3.96, 4.02, 4.24 and think well surely he's due for a 4.40 or 4.50 this year. It's not that simple, as Maddux could easily post a 3.80 despite being the exact same pitcher he was in '03.
He's going to throw a good 220-230 innings, mixing in the occasional rough start here and there. Maddux will have a disastrous start about 10% of the time and a dominant one about half the time (according to Ron Shandler's PQS pitching logs). Otherwise he keeps you in ballgames, and is easily worth his $9MM salary.
Once he's a free agent this offseason, he'll probably shop around for a one-year, $7MM type deal. This would be an excellent signing for any team looking for reliability and depth over upside. Really, it makes sense for the Cubs to retain him. Too much sense, almost. Watch him go to the Padres or somewhere after no one shows interest.
If they don't plan on re-signing him, or even if they do, the Cubs could look to trade Maddux in July. But even if Wood and Prior are going full steam at that point it's a needless gamble. Unless a major injury creates a need, Maddux should stay put.
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