Eiland a big part of pitching success

Our son returns to the Bronx
World Series Preview: Phillies Infield

When good players fail, fans tend to blame the coaches. Since the team can’t fire the players, the coaching staff is the next logical target. When the Yankees struggled earlier this season, fans laid the blame on two coaches in particular. First was the obvious one, manager Joe Girardi. The manager always takes the blame when a team, good or bad, fails. It’s to be expected.

The other target was pitching coach Dave Eiland. Brian Cashman had spent $243 million over the off-season to improve the pitching staff, and they were not performing anywhere near expectations. After the Red Sox completed a two-game sweep of the Yanks in early May, the staff had a 5.86 ERA in 233.1 innings, striking out 189 to 113 walks. They’d also surrendered 32 homers, many of which came at the new Stadium. Eiland was also an easy target in this situation.

Eiland, whom the Yankees hired after he retired from playing in 2002, didn’t help himself out with the media. His staff had improved since the Red Sox series, lowering its ERA more than a full run by June 8. But then the Yankees ran into the Red Sox again and faced yet another three-game sweep. The middle game, a 6-5 loss, featured another poor performance from Chien-Ming Wang. “I can’t go stand behind the mound with him during the game,” said Eiland, seemingly throwing his pitcher under the bus.

That’s not what Eiland meant — or at least not what I think he meant upon further consideration. At the time, it sounded like he was trying to deflect the blame he had been receiving all season. But after watching Wang struggled through another month before succumbing to a shoulder injury, it’s clear what Eiland meant. You can work with a guy every day to help him get back in form, but if he’s not executing when it counts, there’s little else you can do. Eiland understood this and he tried to explain it to everyone, but his words didn’t work at the time.

The Yankees staff performed well for the rest of the season, and the criticism of Eiland dwindled. Even with two pitchers, A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain, struggling in August, fans didn’t point to Eiland. Instead they put the blame where it belonged: with the pitchers themselves. Eiland can help them prepare for games, but if they can’t find the strike zone, or if their best pitches don’t have any bite, there’s not much he can do from the bench, other than walk to the mound once an inning. But something tells me he won’t explain it that way to the media.

How do we know that Eiland is the right man for the job? His colleagues speak highly of him, as Marc Topkin writes in the St. Petersburg Times (hat tip Pinto). This ranges from GM Brian Cashman to farm director Mark Newman, from manager Joe Girardi to the pitchers he coaches. Perhaps the most endearing remarks from from his players. When describing Eiland’s skills as a listener, Andy Pettitte, with whom Eiland pitched at AAA Columbus in 1994, describes him as, “Almost like a wife.”

One of this year’s notably struggling pitchers, Joba Chamberlain, is equally impressed with Eiland. “He’s not afraid to kick you in the behind. And he means it when he comes at you.” The two will try to figure out what went wrong with 2009 and correct it for 2010. It seems that at the very least, Chamberlain is receptive to Eiland, which could help the pitcher in the future. I’m sure both have noticed this (Eiland is reputedly big on video), and hopefully they can get Chamberlain back on track during Spring Training.

Why is Eiland a good pitching coach? Ask the people around him and you’ll get a few different answers, ranging from his having to “fight for everything he got” (Girardi) to simple that, “He had it” (Newman). Ask Eiland, though, and he’ll tell you that it’s because he wasn’t that good a pitcher himself.

“In reality, I gave it all I could,” Eiland said. “I threw 87-89 miles an hour, but I thought I had a pretty good feel for pitching and for my delivery. I had to be almost perfect when I pitched to be successful. I didn’t have that God-given talent, the 90-plus mph fastball, things like that. But I felt like I had everything else.”

It’s easy for fans to blame coaching staffs when results don’t meet expectations. This goes especially when good players struggle. Fans criticized Eiland when the pitching staff wasn’t doing well, but those times are behind us. The staff picked it up as the season rolled along, and has shined in the playoffs. Eiland deserves part of the credit for that.

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Our son returns to the Bronx
World Series Preview: Phillies Infield
  • Mike HC

    As long as the players like him and respect his advice, then he is all good with me. These pitching coaches can’t work miracles and they can’t turn good pitchers bad.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    When describing Eiland’s skills as a listener, Andy Pettitte, with whom Eiland pitched at AAA Columbus in 1994, describes him as, “Almost like a wife.”

    Wives listen?

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD
    • larryf

      When you make millions they do…

  • TheZack

    At the same time, if the blame falls on the pitchers for failing, shouldn’t the credit go to them for success?

    I have nothing against Eiland, but its not like he’s working with a bunch of scrubs here. Its not even like he has struck gold with some retread either. CC, AJ, and Andy all performed as they should. Joba has regressed (youth, inexperience, mechanical, who knows). Wang flopped.

    I think he’s done a good enough job, but I wouldn’t exactly say he’s blown me away.

    • http://www.sportsfrog.com/2009/10/23/the-2009-mlb-delawards/ Mister Delaware

      Hmmm … had a response but it apparently got eaten somewhere …

      Eiland has only been around 2 years and not had many opportunities for reclamation projects. Rasner and then partial seasons Ponson and Mitre? Aside from Mitre in a huge park, do any of them have sub-4.00 ERA potential for even a single season? Sort of a forced negative here given a lack of opportunities.

      (And really, how many pitching coaches aside from Duncan can tout more than one or two gold strikes? And Duncan cheats.)

      (Nice use of “Wang flopped”.)

  • HoganHogan

    Eiland changed Joba’s mechanics and should be held responsible for his lost velocity and subsequent command.

    • Mike Pop

      Fact?

    • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

      So it had nothing to do with the shoulder injury?

    • A.D.

      Wasn’t Contreras the one that first changed them when he was initially drafted and was fine, I was unaware of a change from ’08 (or ’07) to ’09

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      You’ll never respond — commenters who post stuff like this rarely do — but what if Eiland’s supposed tinkering with Joba’s mechanics (and I say supposed because you’ve brought no evidence, and I’ve never heard this) kept him healthy this year?

    • jsbrendog

      and the ability to stay healthy.

      velocity is all well and good but if he can’t say healthy…..command will come

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        I’d rather have a good pitcher who only throws 91 but who makes 33 starts a year than a great pitcher who throws 96 but breaks down every season.

        I’d rather have Andy Pettitte than Rich Harden.

        • pat

          Dick Harden…hehehe

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          +1

        • TheZack

          Well, that depends really. The two on the own don’t tell you anything. 33 good starts? 33 league average starts? Breaks down for how long? A pitcher can go on the DL every year but if he gives you 25 quality, well above average starts vs. 33 not great starts, well which would you take?

          You’re all talking about hypotheticals with nothing to back them up.

          I’m not saying I agree with the first poster, I don’t, but there’s also no evidence to suggest that Eiland had anything to do with Joba staying healthy either. that’s pure speculation, and there is really no way to say that Joba making 33 starts a year vs. Joba making 23 starts a year would be more valuable per se.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            I elucidated all the specific questions behind that hypothetical with the Pettitte v. Harden example.

            Harden’s career ERA+ is 130. Andy’s is only 116. Rich Harden is heads and shoulders a better pitcher than Andy is, but Andy is the more valuable pitcher because he’s durable.

            A solidly above average durable starter is better and more valuable than a lights out starter that can’t stay healthy.

    • Tank Foster

      From what I understand, the management of Mr. Chamberlain is handled by a whole gaggle of people. Tinkering with his mechanics, if that happened (which I’m sure it has) is not something Eiland would have done on his own.

      I had been wondering for years why there were all of these young pitchers on other teams who threw 95+, while the Yankee farm system never could produce an MLB-caliber pitcher with this kind of velocity (post Mo). I was so happy when Joba began throwing 100 in ’07, but now that’s all over, I think.

      Having said that, and to the original poster’s point, I don’t think a 4-5 MPH drop in velocity is as important as the fact that, for some reason, Joba doesn’t get swing and misses like he used to on his breaking pitches. Maybe that’s because of the lost velocity, but CC and DRob have no problem getting swings and misses with fastballs under 95 (although I know CC goes over that some times).

      Anyway, I kind of agree with HoganHogan that we should at least be skeptical of Yankee pitching coaching and the “development” of Joba. He had electric stuff in ’07, and he has been very ordinary much of the time this season.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

        You agree with the guy who just threw out an opinion with no evidence, that’s actually pretty wrongheaded?

        That’s like agreeing with a random WFAN caller.

        • DreDog

          What he said.
          This guy has to realize that college & high school pitchers don’t pitch every 5 days and face that much stress mentally & physically. Nobody has a sure fire way to figure out the special sauce.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

            Exactly.

            Young pitchers struggle as they mature and adjust. It’s life.

            There’s only one way to evaluate the pitching and hitting coaches: Do the players like them? Do they players think their position coaches are helping or hurting them?

            You can’t look at a single player, or even a group of players, and say “That guy’s not improving. That means the hitting/pitching coach sucks”.

            It doesn’t work that way.

            • TheZack

              That’s also not really true. The statement that “There’s only one way to evaluate the pitching and hitting coaches: Do the players like them? Do they players think their position coaches are helping or hurting them?” is really just something you are claiming that has no real basis. Other than agreeing with the original post by RAB. If you mean that a coach should be fired if he has lost the ears of the players, then yes, you’re correct, in that whats the point of a coach that nobody listens too? But there have been lots of coaches that players loved who still failed to do their job properly.

              Many people applauded the hiring of Eiland because he was so different from Gator, himself different from Mel. Mel preached inside/outside pitching, Gator shyed away from mechanics. Eiland came in touting mechanics and video work.

              But according to you, the only thing that matter is whether the players liked them?

              • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

                Sorry, that was unclear. Let me state it better.

                There’s only one way for us fans, as outside observers not privy to all the relevant information to evaluate the pitching and hitting coaches: Do the players like them? Do they players think their position coaches are helping or hurting them?

                The reason that’s the only way is because all the other ways fall victim to the causation/correlation fallacy. The fact that Pitcher X improved or didn’t improve is not necessarily due to something the pitching coach did or did not do. There’s not a straight line between that coach and that player’s performance, there’s too many other factors in play that muddy the analytical waters.

                Now, if the pitcher himself says “Coach Eiland really helped me fix that, I like him” or “Coach Eiland hasn’t really been able to fix that, I don’t like him”, that’s better, more tangible (although not foolproof) evidence of direct causation. Which is why it’s the only real way for us to evaluate whether or not Dave Eiland is helping Joba Chamberlain, since we’re not Dave Eiland nor Joba Chamberlain.

      • Chris

        He had electric stuff in ‘07, and he has been very ordinary much of the time this season.

        The time that he was ordinary (or bad) this year was in August and September. Prior to this year, Joba had ZERO career starts later than August 4. There could be some mysterious cause to his struggles, or maybe it’s simply that he wore down at the end of a season that was longer than he had ever played before.

        Personally, I am much more worried about Joba’s health next year than I am about his performance.

  • pete

    I’m sure eiland is a great pitching coach, but I also feel like there are about 300 great pitching coaches under major or minor league employ. Not saying he doesn’t deserve credit or that a pitching coach doesn’t have an effect, just that I think most pitching coaches, given a requisite amount of time with their pitchers, will be able to get the most out of their pitchers.

  • CountryClub

    He also changed CC’s grip on the FB during the All Star break and CC was able to control it much better for the rest of the year. A lot of credit should go to CC for being open to change the grip too. Former Cy Young winners arent always willing to tinker.

  • Ivan

    Well he did improve CC pitching by telling CC to go to a different grips with his fastball which has paid huge dividense this season. Not to mention he he really help Mike Mussina alot last season when Moose had trouble dealing with his diminish stuff.

    • larryf

      I’d like to see better changeups across the organization. Doesn’t seem like our young guys-Joba/Hughes/Robertson have very good ones. Seems like the best changeups come from guys who already had them (CC, Aceves). I could be nitpicking here but no Bucholtz -type changeups seen. Ian Kennedy about the only one I have noticed from within the organization but I stand ready to learn more from the RAB experts….

  • DreDog

    Like him or not, he is a 110% upgrade over Gator. Sorry Gator, but it’s true.

    Wasn’t Guidry’s role to tell stories with Torre?

  • Dooley Womack

    Oh yeah – Eiland’s terrific. Great work developing those young starters. Joba, Hughes and Kennedy are now top notch starting pitchers with limitless upside.

    • CountryClub

      Actually, they all still have great upsides.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        Ridiculous, even.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      This is exactly what I’m talking about. This guy doesn’t know what Eiland does, yet still puts all the blame on him.

      • Tom Zig

        Wow 2 hit and runners in 1 day? Is that a record for a non-game day?

        • jsbrendog

          i blame bo

    • larryf

      As long as he doesn’t produce any Dooley Womacks!! That guy was awful…

      • steve s

        The Yanks were awful then but Dooley Womack wasn’t; he had a lifetime ERA of 2.95 with a WHIP a little over 1 during his 3 Yankee years (real name was Horace; what are the chances that Yanks will ever have two guys named Horace on the same roster again!)

        • larryf

          Horace Clarke-you’re no Robbie Cano!!! I think my memory may have been off but I seem to be recalling a game I was at where Dooley gave up a grand slam to Dick McCauliffe-a bad memory and I shouldn’t have let it clog up the stats and data. He was not, however , as good as Lindy McDaniel!!

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    That’s not what Eiland meant — or at least not what I think he meant upon further consideration. At the time, it sounded like he was trying to deflect the blame he had been receiving all season. But after watching Wang struggled through another month before succumbing to a shoulder injury, it’s clear what Eiland meant. You can work with a guy every day to help him get back in form, but if he’s not executing when it counts, there’s little else you can do. Eiland understood this and he tried to explain it to everyone, but his words didn’t work at the time.

    And the reason his words didn’t work at the time is not because they were chosen poorly or were unclear, but because we (and I use that term VERY, VERY loosely) were too fucking stupid to understand what he meant, because we chose not to listen and comprehend with dispassionate reason but rather because we had a preconceived agenda to hate and blame Eiland because we’re ignorant grabastic maggots futilely trying to understand why we have angered the gods, forcing them to cause the moon to eat the sun.

    • jsbrendog

      now we must sacrifice a virgin so that they do not eat us next.

  • jsbrendog

    so is this the unofficial dave eiland appreciation thread?

    atta boy dave. butt-pat

  • mryankee

    Eiland this offseason should be moving in with Joba for at least a month. There has to be a reason he did not have the big fastball we all know he can throw. Hopefully Eiland with enough time to work specifially with Joba can straighten him out, You would hate for Joba to end up being Jaret Wright as opposed to Josh Beckett.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      WHY THE FUCK IS MY BURRITO TAKING THIS LONG TO COOK IN THIS MICROWAVE??!?!??!?!?!?!??!

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      How much throwing do you think Joba will be doing this offseason?

      • mryankee

        I am sure he will do some and perhaps working with Eiland on a one on one basis going over tape and such will help him find his fastball. I would think Eiland can see Joba needs more work and cannot seetle on a medicore 91-92 mph fastball. Would you not agree?

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          Considering how much over his Verducci goal he was this year, once the World Series is over, I highly doubt Joba touches a baseball again until February.

          • Andy in Sunny Daytona

            Agreed.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

        I was assuming he’d be going to join the Dominican Winter League.

        They can call him “Hoba Chamberlan”.

        • TheLastClown

          This is what I thought his name was before I actually heard a human pronounce it.

    • Chris

      It’s possible that a temporary loss in velocity (for 1-1.5 years) is not that abnormal for a young power pitcher coming up. Justin Verlander saw a very similar drop, and has since recovered his velocity. Until we have a much larger database of pitch f/x data, we won’t know how rare or common this is for young pitchers. The typical 1-2 times per year scouting reports that you used to see just aren’t enough data in this case.

      • mryankee

        True enough but during the offseason would it not be prudent for Eiland to visit Joba-Phil-possibly chapamn if signed and work with them. As opposed to the vets who have a set routine.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          These kids won’t be throwing that much over the winter.

          Phil may do some winter ball, but I doubt it. Joba won’t throw over the winter. Chapman, if he’s signed, won’t touch a baseball until February.

          You’re severely overestimating how much players do over the winter. It’s a time to rest your arm, not a time to work out kinks. That’s what February and March are for.

  • JSquared

    Thanks Dave.

  • Mike Pop

    I don’t know how much an effect a pitching coach can really have. But, I believe he’s done a good job. To [itch as well as they di last year with that pitching staff…

  • mustang

    Since we are talking about pitching I have one question about Aroldis Chapman.

    Does anyone have any idea what level would he be going into?
    A or lower, AA, AAA, or MLB? or just see as we go.

    Just asking because from what I have read today some teams seem to think that he is MLB ready.

    • pat

      Id imagine they would plop him down in Tampa for the first part of the season. That way he’ll be close to the braintrust and they can see how he handles himself playing pro ball in America. If everything goes well and he’s responding to instruction and whatnot then he’d be sent up to Trenton for a majority of the year.

      • Mike Pop

        then give up a 15th inning home run to Kevin Youkilis later in the season.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Just asking because from what I have read today some teams seem to think that he is MLB ready.

      Link? Because I highly doubt that. Chapman’s a great prospect, but he’s super-raw. I could see a pathetically desperate team (like the Nationals or Padres or something) sticking him right in the majors, but all the teams who would actually bid on him would start him in the minors, because they know better. He’s not ready.

      • mustang

        “Meanwhile, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times speculates that free agent Aroldis Chapman might be who the Angels use to replace Lackey.”

        On MLB trade rumors.

        BTW I just don’t make this shit up as I go that’s why I asked the question.

        • http://bronxbaseballdaily.com Matt ACTY/BBD

          It’s a good thing Bill Shaikin of the LA Times doesn’t run the Angels!

          (This isn’t a slight against you, mustang, but rather Shaikin)

          If that’s the Angels’ real plan–which I highly doubt–then they will be in big, big trouble come 2010.

          • mustang

            No problem.

            Didn’t think Chapman was at the MLB level just wanted to see if anyone knew different.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          BTW I just don’t make this shit up as I go that’s why I asked the question.

          I didn’t say you made it up, mustang. Ease back on the throttle, buddy. You’re my boy.

          I’m not sure if that Shaikin quote really means the Angels think Chapman is MLB ready as much as it says that they might spend money on the younger Chapman rather than spending it on the older Lackey. The Angels would still likely start Chapman in the minors. Following through on the MLBTR link to Shaikin’s sourced article gives you this:

          [Angels scouting director Eddie] Bane said he hopes Chapman can speak with Angels first baseman Kendry Morales — not so much for Morales to sell Chapman on the Angels, but for Morales to share his journey from Cuban defector to American professional baseball player.

          “Not too many people have that perspective in the world,” Bane said.

          When Morales signed with the Angels at age 21 he was one of Cuba’s most celebrated young position players. He did not make the major leagues for good until he was 25, and Bane suggested Chapman could stand to hear that part of the story too.

          “I’m pretty sure Kendry thought he was ready for the big leagues as soon as he signed the contract,” Bane said.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside
          • mustang

            Took it the wrong way my bag.
            Thanks for the info.

            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

              No problemo.

    • PhukTheHeck

      He’s still pretty raw. Here’s KLaw’s scouting report of him back on 7/17

      http://insider.espn.go.com/mlb.....id=4335599

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