The position of pitching coach for the Texas Rangers has been a revolving door throughout team history. Coaches have come and gone, leaving Rangers fans skeptical that anyone could come in and fix the annual mound issues.
Count me as one of them. I'm just as guilty as everyone; in fact, I'm probably more guilty than anyone else. When the Rangers hired Mike Maddux, my first reaction was "so what?" Honestly, I believed at the time it was a lost cause; a career-killing job that only those looking to make a big splash would take a chance on.
That attitude changed today.
As I usually do, I opened my day reading reports from Surprise, AZ. As all Rangers fans are, I was curious about Andruw Jones and Frank Catalanotto, which the Rangers absolutely got right. Jones made the final roster spot, and Catalanotto was released.
Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News had an interesting column about the new Rangers pitching coach, and while the entire article is a good read, one quote from Maddux stuck out to me and for the first time gave me real hope the Rangers may have finally found the guy to change things.
"The perfect inning is three pitches," Maddux said. "Not nine. Three strikeouts are not as good."
For those who don't know the significance of that small statement, let me give you a little history lesson. In the past, the Rangers have had two types of pitchers in Arlington: those who pitched to contact and those who were scared to death of any contact.
Any guesses on which type was the most successful? Kenny Rogers was never a high-strikeout guy, same for Rick Helling and Aaron Sele. Helling and Sele anchored division championship teams in the late '90s, while Rogers almost single-handedly pitched the Rangers into the postseason in 2004.
I still wonder what would have happened that season if the Oakland "incident" hadn't happened.
Those who pitch for the strikeout every time nibble around the plate and throw 50 pitches before getting to the opposition's cleanup hitter. They also only last a few innings and burn out the bullpen before ballots for the All-Star Game are counted. This has been the Rangers' formula in every losing season this decade.
Maddux has some talent to work with and knows if he can get his pitchers to pitch to contact, it will result in fewer pitches being thrown, a rested bullpen in August, and fewer problems from the fielders, who won't be allowed to let their minds wander.
He does not doubt their stuff and he won't let them doubt it either. Pitch to contact and let the defense do the rest.
Who knew pitching in Arlington was really as simple as that?