Dissecting The Maddux Era

Why Mike Maddux has played no small part in the Rangers' early success

The fact that the Texas Rangers had the second-best ERA in the American League last month likely caused a lot of befuddled head-scratching around town, and with good reason.
The Ballpark has become known, unofficially of course, as the place where pitchers come to die. In 2008, the team’s ERA was the worst in the league, the starters were shoddy at best which, in turn, left the bullpen exhausted.
These are all indicative of a poor pitching staff and, ipso facto, a poor ball-club.
The fact that Texas finished in second (albeit a distant second) in the West last year, all things considered, is borderline miraculous.
Ah, but it is a new day; Texas is sitting in first place to begin the month of June, the division seems open for the taking, and Texas’ pitching and defense (two former Achilles’ heels) are thriving.
A great deal of this early success can be traced back to the controlled aggression that marks the Mike Maddux era in Arlington.
Maddux, along with Nolan Ryan, worked tirelessly to change the staff’s mindset as a whole. Going after hitters, extending the work shouldered by starters, and lessening the burden on relievers have all been results of this change.
But possibly most responsible for the turnaround is Maddux’s pitching philosophy, a sort of “contact first” dictum that has permeated throughout the staff.
"The perfect inning is three pitches," Maddux said during spring training. "Not nine. Three strikeouts are not as good."
Pitching to contact gets lost in the beauty of the game, probably because it is not at all beautiful; it’s just efficient.
In a band box like Arlington, pitching for strikeouts can (very easily) get you into trouble; these are sliders that get too much of the plate, hanging curves, and inside fastballs that never get inside -- and I would be remiss to not mention the ever-dreadful walk.
Rangers’ pitchers have pitched to contact all year; that is, contact on their own terms.
This has resulted in nothing but low strikeout totals and, probably, the team’s 4.5 game lead in the West.

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