In terms of longevity, production, and putting up numbers, the two greatest pitchers of our generation are Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux. But the skill sets these two pitchers wielded were completely different. While Clemens was a power pitcher who came right at hitters with hard heat and gunned for the strikout, Maddux was a crafty finesse artist with pinpoint control who would go for contact and try to induce weak rollers and popups while compiling 75-pitch complete games.
But imagine someone like Clemens turning into someone like Maddux. That is what Pedro Martinez is attempting to do these days as he tries to pitch with a torn rotator cuff, a chronically sore hip, and a toe-injury so severe that a special shoe had to be custom made by Nike and still hasn’t eliminated the pain.
I’m watching a sweet matchup tonight between two aces – Pedro vs. Dontrelle Willis of the Marlins. But it’s amazing to see what a different type of pitcher Pedro is these days. Whereas even earlier this season Pedro was still running it up there at 91, 92 mph, tonight the guy who once routinly hit 98 mph with his fast ball is sitting on 87, and only on maximum effort pitches, like the one he just threw to strike out Miguel Olivo to end a scoring threat, is he able to touch 89.
Meanwhile his curveball, which amazingly enough used to reach the low 80s, has never surpassed 71 mph tonight, and the once matchless change-up, which used to knock 18 mph off the fastball at 79 or 80 mph, is now still 79 or 80, only 8 or 9 mph slower than the fastball.
They say the flame that shines twice as brightly burns half as long. Pedro is only 34 years old, but physically he is a pale shadow of his former self. So far he has been able to keep his stats respectable, but he needs to continue transitioning into more of a Maddux type than a Clemens type if he wants to keep his career going much longer.
It is clear that he still has a hunger for the strikeout. Several times already this game he has gotten ahead early with two strikes and then deliberately thrown several pitches off the plate trying to get a K. But this is causing him to run up a huge pitch count. At this point in his career, Pedro needs to be more like Maddux and try to use his wiles to induce weak contact as early in the count as possible so he can keep his pitch counts down and go deeper into games.