Positional outlook: Pitching coach

It's now time to finish off our series with a brief looking at the coaching staff. Let's start with pitching coach Mike Maddux.

Today's position: Pitching coach

Turns out that one of the Rangers' biggest offseason moves prior to the 2009 season was hiring Maddux as pitching coach. Maddux, who was with Milwaukee as pitching coach for six seasons prior to arriving in Arlington, oversaw a staff that dropped its ERA by nearly a full run in 2009 to 4.38, the lowest since 1993. He followed that up with the 2010 team posting the club's lowest ERA since 1990 at 3.93.

Under Maddux's tutelage, the staff had an opponent batting average of .246, third in the AL, and 1,181 strikeouts, a club record.

Yes, the pitchers have to go out and pitch. But don't underestimate the importance of the coaching staff and Maddux in particular when it comes to the pitchers. (BTW, shout out to Andy Hawkins too, who is the bullpen coach and deserves a lot of credit for helping this staff become consistent, too).

Maddux does it by understanding not only the pitching mechanics, but the personalities. Maddux can recognize a flaw in a pitcher's delivery and help him correct it, but pointing out a problem is only part of the job. What Maddux does well is push the right button for that particular player so that he understands how best to correct any issues and be successful.

Maddux has a habit of cracking jokes during tense situations on the mound during his visits in an attempt to calm guys down. He won't hestiate to put his arms on a pitcher's shoulders and make sure that pitcher is listening carefully to his advice. And most of the time it works.

The other important ingredient in a good pitching coach is that he can work well with his manager. Maddux and Washington have grown together the past two seasons. Washington yields much of the overseeing of the pitching staff to Maddux and Hawkins and the staff collaborates on decisions. Washington still makes the ultimate call on whether to pull a pitcher, but it's done in conjunction with Maddux.

One thing Washington told me that has helped him the most is that Maddux always thinks two or three innings ahead. He'll let Washington know in the third or fourth inning what he thinks may happen in the sixth when a decision might need to be made on whether a starter should be pulled (based on pitch count, the batters possibly coming up, etc.).

BTW, if you want to read more about Maddux and his penchant for nicknames (and his style), check out my story on him from last year at spring training.