Mike Maddux’ methods attractive to Cubs
By GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org November 8, 2011 10:51PM
Updated: December 10, 2011 9:57AM
Whether Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux is the next generation of Moneyball, he is at least ready to be part of the next breed of major-league managers, say those who have worked closely with him.
Perhaps of most immediate importance to the Cubs, Maddux is ready to interview for the team’s vacancy Wednesday, just two days after withdrawing his name from the Boston Red Sox’ process. That could put him in the driver’s seat for a job he already seemed to be an early favorite to land.
“He cares about what he’s doing, and he cares about the people that he’s doing it with,’’ said Rangers manager Ron Washington, who has worked with Maddux the last three seasons. “He does a great job of hands-on. He does a good job of directing people and helping them find their way. I think that type of quality is what has separated him from other guys that have done his job as pitching coach.’’
Maddux, 50, has built a reputation as one of the top pitching coaches in his nine-season big-league coaching career, with stops in Milwaukee and Texas.
“He’s a teacher, and he has the ability of winning people over,’’ said Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who coached on the same Rangers staff with Maddux in 2009. “When you can do that, you can be an excellent coach and an excellent manager.’’
More than communication skills and a reputation for outside-the-box thinking, Maddux also has gained notoriety for conditioning and maintenance programs that have helped keep his key pitchers healthy.
Cubs president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer and others in the game consider pitching injuries the next Moneyball frontier to conquer, the market inefficiency that will create a competitive advantage for any team that systematically reduces an injury rate that has gone largely unchanged for decades.
Maddux, the third candidate to interview with the Cubs, is the only pitching coach among the known candidates, the only one who seems to fit this new-generation mold. Former infielders Pete Mackanin and Dale Sveum have interviewed, and team sources confirmed Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., a former catcher, is scheduled later this week.
“Since I’ve been with him, he certainly has a program for all his pitchers, both starting pitchers and relievers,’’ Washington said of Maddux. “Every day he makes them accountable for making sure they’re prepared [to work] and for what may happen that day during the course of the ballgame.
“I haven’t seen many guys that decipher things and get prepared as much as Mike does, and the way the Texas Rangers have come along with the pitching staff is a testament to that.”
The Rangers’ ERA has dropped every season Maddux has been with the team, starting with nearly a full run improvement from the 5.37 ERA of the staff he inherited.
He oversaw the successful conversions from bullpen to rotation of C.J. Wilson in 2010 and Alexi Ogando this past season, and the Rangers’ staff got an incredible 157 starts from its primary five starters.
“It’s really more old-school,” Washington said. “He and [Rangers president] Nolan Ryan believe the more you throw the baseball, the stronger the arm becomes and the more you can control it.’’
That means throwing batting practice between spring-training starts and following a strict between-starts throwing program during the season.
Maddux, a journeyman reliever with 15 seasons in the big leagues, also is an expert with pitching mechanics, Jaramillo said, which “has a lot to do with saving pitchers’ arms.”