On to the pitchers, and the unquestioned ace of the staff. He’s also perhaps the single most important player for the Braves’ hopes this season. They need him to (a) make most of his starts, and (b) to be Greg Maddux when doing so. Last year, he made 34 starts, which is actually a fairly typical total for him; he’s made 33 to 35 starts every season since the Strike. However, a couple of those starts were very short, and he threw only 199 1/3 innings. He also had no complete games for the first time in his career. Even as a rookie making only five starts in 1986 he had a complete game.
As for being Greg Maddux, he was second in the league in ERA and fifth in won-loss percentage, which is a pretty good indicator. There were some signs of slippage, particularly a plunge in his strikeout rate. His 118 Ks last season were his lowest total since 1987. On the other hand, he was hurt. One of the things about him being Greg Maddux is the assumption that if he starts having problems he’ll think of a way to fix them. He was better in the second half, as he got healthier.
The one-year contract he signed with the Braves is disappointing, because it indicates to me that (barring a change in the ownership situation) that he won’t be back in 2004. He’s at 273 career wins, and I’d hoped he’d get 300 in a Braves uniform. If he gets his usual 15+ wins this season, he’ll move to 23rd or better on the all-time list, second among active pitchers to Clemens; he’s one win away from tying Lew Burdette for fifth on the franchise list. Could also move into the top 15 for strikeouts with a typical season.