Positional outlook: Pitching coach

We conclude our positional outlook today with pitching coach Mike Maddux. Shameless plug: I'm working on a Mike Maddux story slated to run next week, so look for it. And because of that, I won't make this a long outlook.

You know what Maddux helped do for this team in 2009. The staff ERA, worst in the AL by a long shot, improved by nearly a full run. Think about that. The staff allowed one fewer run on average in 2009 than it did in 2008. That was good enough to jump into the middle of the pack in ERA in the league.

Maddux managed to take a group of different personalities and mold them into better conditioned pitchers with solid strategies for getting hitters out. He did it with a fun-loving personality and attention to detail.

The challenge now is to do it again. No, I don't mean lowering the ERA by a full run. But making the Rangers' starting rotation and bullpen a more consistent unit from top to bottom. Maddux must do what he can to monitor pitchers and keep them healthy (especially Rich Harden) and do what he can to help young pitchers such as Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Scott Feldman continue to improve and gain even more confidence. In Feldman's case, last season gave him that confidence. Now Maddux can help him prove he can pitch that way every season.

Maddux was one of the club's biggest offseason acquisitions before the 2009 season, and he said he arrived at spring training with a very different feeling in 2010. Instead of spending weeks or months feeling everyone out and getting to know everyone, he comes in knowing much of the staff already. That has allowed him to focus in on getting to know the details of the new faces he's seen in camp.

Don't underestimate Maddux's value to Ron Washington. He helps the manager think a few innings ahead, noting who might be up in the opposing lineup and the relievers that could best get them out. Washington makes the ultimate call, but he relies heavily on Maddux (as he should), who has a good pulse on his pitchers.

It will be interesting to see how Maddux and the staff does in 2010. One safe bet: He'll get the most out of them.