New Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux calls them his "convictions." These are the core things that he believes in as a pitching coach.
Those convictions haven’t changed since he started his first season as a pitching coach with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2003. They’re certainly not about to change now as Maddux begins his second stint with the Rangers.
“Command the fastball and change speeds, man,” Maddux said Wednesday. “That’s the big thing about it. You’ve got to be able to pitch with your fastball and you have to be able to have more than one pitch you can throw for a strike. You have to lay your heart and soul out there and believe you can do it.”
The Rangers had successful staffs under Maddux during his time with the team from 2009-15. Most notably, the Rangers’ runs to the 2010 and 2011 World Series, and his work with young pitchers like starters C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, along with reliever Neftali Feliz. He also commanded respect from veterans like Cliff Lee and Colby Lewis.
But while his convictions haven’t changed, the data points have. Maddux said it’s harder to be a filter for the pitchers he’s working with because there is more information. He will spend the next few weeks watching a lot of tape of the Rangers’ current starters, and looking at their metrics and he begins to chart a path forward for 2023.
The research, he said, has to start now. He could be working with more than 30 pitchers in Surprise, Arizona come February.
He’s learned that the convictions aren’t worth much to today’s players without the information (read: analytics) and the ability to speak it.
“This information is the language that they speak,” Maddux said. “That’s been one of my challenges in this game is to learn that language so that I can translate them into my convictions and just try to pass on wisdom. There's a lot of information out there, but we have to give wisdom and wisdom backed by the information tends to get their attention. So I really haven't changed a whole lot other than some techniques of how to get the message across.”
He’s already spoken to Martín Pérez, last season’s ace. He’s also spoken to younger pitchers like Spencer Howard and Taylor Hearn. He’ll also be keeping an eye on what the Rangers do at the Winter Meetings next week in San Diego, as the Rangers hope to acquire at least one veteran starting pitcher to add to their stable of Perez, Jon Gray and Jake Odorizzi.
It’s possible that Maddux will be working with an entirely veteran starting staff when he hits the practice fields in Surprise. Last year’s rotation featured Perez and Gray, along with a group of young starters, the most successful of which was probably Glenn Otto, who won seven games in his first full season in the Majors.
Whether it’s a veteran staff or a mix, Maddux isn’t going to waver from his convictions. He’s just going to find the best way to communicate them.
“If you're out there and you're wondering if you can do, it ain't gonna work,” Maddux said. “You’ve got to know you can do it. And you know that's where you use the information to say, ‘You can do this you know?’ It's all how you how you get the player to buy into themselves.”
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard