Nov
06

An update on the search for a pitching coach

By

Chicago White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, right, talks to manager Ozzie Guillen. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Yankees have been without a pitching coach for close to two weeks now, which would be a much bigger problem if we were in the middle of the season. But since we’re on the doorstep of the offseason, the Yankees are taking their sweet time replacing Dave Eiland simply because they can afford to. We know that Leo Mazzone is interested in the job and that both Gil Patterson and Mike Harkey are receiving consideration, but beyond that it’s been a relatively quite search.

Not too long ago I put together a speculative list of candidates for the Yanks’ pitching coach position, but like I said, it was just speculation on my part. Let’s get you up to date on what’s going on with some of those candidates and more…

Rick Kranitz

I mentioned Kranitz as a possible candidate last week because of his relationship with Joe Girardi (he was his pitching coach with the Marlins) and strong resume (Baseball America’s Major League Coach of the Year that season), but we scratch his name off the list. He joined the Astros as their minor league pitching coordinator earlier this week. As young players become a bigger part of the game, these roving minor league coordinators are become increasingly more important. Thankfully the Yanks have a great one in Nardi Contreras.

Curt Young

I don’t know too much about pitching coaches at all, but I know that Young was generally considered to be one of the best and brightest in the game. He held the position with the Athletics from 2004-2009, helping them turn a bevy of young prospects into bonafide big league starters. Young turned down the A’s contract offer a week or two ago with the idea of landing more money elsewhere, and presumably he has; Young was named Boston’s new pitching coach this week. He and Terry Francona knew each other from the latter’s time in Oakland back in 2003, which I’m sure was a factor in Young’s decision.

Don Cooper

The current White Sox pitching coach has a great reputation, earning praise for getting Gavin Floyd on track and helping John Danks go from very good to elite, among other accomplishments. The Yankees asked the ChiSox for permission to speak to Cooper about their open pitching coach position, but Jon Heyman says they were told no. So much for that idea, but hey, at least the Yanks are thinking big.

Categories : Coaching Staff

39 Comments»

  1. Rob says:

    Why not Dave Righetti? His job in SF is nearly done with each of those pitchers developed except Bungarder. The Yanks could give him money and much more say. Let’s put some pressure on Girardi for his job. Each gets a three-year deal to bring home a title or three with great pitching.

    Now, why would Righetti want to come to NY? It’s a new challenge and a chance to complete his path in the game. Let’s be honest, if Girardi’s not the man for the job long-term, Rags could just be the guy.

    • Dax J. says:

      He just won a World Series with San Francisco. That guy is going nowhere. Awesome idea, I just don’t think he’s moving.

      • Rob says:

        Dollars and sense. Exactly because he just won a Series his job is stagnant for a few years. If can make significantly more money with a bigger impact, why doesn’t he take the job?

      • OldYanksFan says:

        The Gints have great pitching, but their WS win was still a fluke. SF has a LOT to do to try and repeat.

        Plus, wasn’t Rags a Yankee? Yes?
        That’s got to carry some weight.

        • seimiya says:

          He somewhat pouted and stomped off out of pinstripes. There’s an article about Righetti a few articles back right here at RAB, actually.

        • steve (different one) says:

          Rags was also a Giant. Your move.

          And I don’t mean this personally, but is there a bigger example of how Yankee fans think than the idea that Righetti should jump at the idea of being the Yankee pitching coach?

          Let’s see…Righetti is from San Jose. I assume he loves what he is doing. I assume he has a bond with the players he’s coaching. I assume he is compensated well. I assume that the organization recognizes his importance and treats him with the respect he has earned. I assume he has earned quite a bit of money as a player and a coach and his family is set up for life. We know that he just reached the summit of his profession and is enjoying everything that comes with a World Series title. We know he plays in a beautiful stadium with an energized fanbase and no New York media looking to tear you down every minute.

          And so far for why he would be interested in the Yankees we have: WE’RE THE YANKEES, DUH. The Yankees can pay him a little more (there has to be a limit to how much you will pay a coach, right?). 20 years ago, he played in front of an indifferent fanbase for mostly underachieving teams for an (RIP) overcontrolling boss who probably cost him a lot of money during his career. And b/c he won it all, he should be bored now in San Fran.

          I would love it if Righetti were the next pitching coach for the Yankees, I’m just not seeing it from his POV.

  2. JFH says:

    as a resident of the atl, my preference is none of these, but rather they get mazzone.

  3. Rob says:

    Also, who’s to say Nardi Contreras is “great”. His kids put up minor league numbers, but then they’re decidedly average in the majors. And if he’s at all behind the Joba Rules, and now Joba’s role, then it’s that a huge strike against him?

    • MikeD says:

      Well, to counter that, perhaps that’s a sign there’s a problem on the MLB level after he turns them over.

      The Joba Rules were designed to prevent Joe Torre from burning out Joba. Contreras did nothing to contribute to the loss of velocity or command after he reached the majors. Young arms are delicate, and Joba is just another example. If anything, if there is a blame, it could be on how the major league club took the young Joba from the starting rotation in the minors, then planted him in the bullpen in the majors, taking him off of his development cycle.

      I’m not saying Nardi is great, although he certainly has the reputation. I can’t, however, blame him for what happens once they’ve left his guidance.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Why would the minor league pitching coordinator be behind Joba’s role with the major league team?
      Joba hasn’t thrown out his arm yet and neither has Hughes, so we might thank Nardi for the Joba Rules. The downside of another approach is that they might have gone the way of Kerry Woods and Mark Prior. There is absolutely no evidence that limiting his innings and pitches hurt Joba in any way.

      “His kids put up minor league numbers, but then they’re decidedly average in the majors.”

      Yeah, Phil Hughes was terrible this season and that’s all Nardi Contreras’ fault!!!! Fire him now!!!!

    • Uuuummm…His title is Minor League Pitching Coordinator. He’s evaluated on how good the minor league pitching is. Does that seem unfair?

    • The Big City of Dreams says:

      How much of a role did Dave Eiland play in Joba ending up in the BP? I seem to remember he was very stern when it was announced that Hughes “won” the battle for the 5th spot and would end up in the pen.

  4. Vinny says:

    what about Rick Peterson?

    • Tom Zig says:

      I remember hearing a report that Rick Peterson’s philosophy is the same as the Yankees but on steroids*

      *not actual steroids, just meaning to the extreme.

      And also I heard he is a bit of a control freak.

  5. JerseyDutch says:

    I’ve heard a lot of anti-Harkey comments in other threads based on how poorly the pitching was in the late season, but does anyone here have any insight into how much a bullpen coach really contributes day-to-day to managing pitchers? I’d be interested to hear.

    • Tom Zig says:

      The bullpen was fine, wasn’t it?

      /A boversimplification gets a boversimplification in return.

      I don’t know if Harkey would be a good or a bad pitching coach. People are just looking for someone to blame. Just because the pitching staff fell apart doesn’t mean Harkey sucked.

      • JerseyDutch says:

        I kind of figured that was the case but I honestly wasn’t sure what a bullpen coach’s full role was. The other thing people were pointing to was the month Eiland was gone. AJ sucked that month so obviously Harkey was to blame. (And let’s just forget all the other months that AJ sucked.)

  6. vinny-b says:

    dang, I wanted Don Cooper

  7. MikeD says:

    It really depends what the Yankees are looking for here. As an organization, they having been pushing further into greater statistical analysis, and they want all their coaches to buy into this concept. (Rumor has it that Torre and Cashman used to be at odds on this front, which is why they went with Girardi.) That’s how they were able to land Nick Swisher coming off a down year.

    I mention this because they might be more open to someone like Gil Patterson, who has spent quite a bit of time in the Oakland organization, which has always embraced advanced statistics, and trained under Curt Young. He’s supposed to pretty sharp. He also knows the Yankee organization, and they know him, so that might make for a good fit. If they’re into the “devil you know,” then this would seem to work to Harkey’s advantage.

    Certainly can’t help but be intrigued by Mazzone. Along with Dave Duncan, he’s probably had the best reputation of any pitching coach in the game the past couple of decades. That reputation took a hit when he moved to Baltimore, but in fairness, it’s not as if he had anything to work with. He had the big three, so it’s easy to say he was lucky with the talent he had to work with, but he can’t be knocked for what he did with that talent. Smoltz and Glavine were young pichers under Mazzone, so he certainly deserves credit for hilping them reach and mazimize their potentials, and that’s exactly what a pitching coash should do. (I’m not sure how much credit I can give him for Greg Maddux, since had already established himself as a top pitcher the year prior to his arrival in Atlanta, yet he did have his best seasons with Mazzone as his pitching coach, so he sure as hell didn’t do anything to make him a lesser pitcher, and he might very well have made him better. Maddux thinks he did.)

    Beyond the Big Three, he did develop a reputation of squeezing talent out of borderline pitchers for a year of two. Unfortunately, one of those guys was Jaret Wright, causing the Yankees to overpay for him. I’d love to see what he could do with an AJ Burnett or Joba, or a young pitcher like Hughes. Unlike Baltimore, he’ll have the talent to work with again, and he’ll certainly have the respect of CC and Lee, if he signs with the Yankees.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Atlanta has also had a lot of success with pitchers since Leo left… You point to squeezing Jaret Wright so the Yanks overpay, but more recently they squeezed Javy so the Yanks overpay. You could say he left a lasting imprint, on the positive side. Or you could say there was an organizational culture that led to the pitching success and he was unfairly credited, on the negative side.

      • MikeD says:

        If there is an organizational culture that led to pitching success in Atlanta, then it’s probably fair to think Mazzone had a lot to do with that, as he guided Atlanta’s pitching philosophy for a quarter century.

        Even removing the Big Three from his pitching resume, two separate statistcal is studies were conducted on how pitchers preformed directly prior to working with Mazzone, and then directly after they leave, and both showed a substantial differnce in ERA and FIP, on the order of .50 to .75 runs. No other pitching coach shows a similar swing.

        I’m not saying Mazzone is god, but both statistical analysis and his reputation based on what pitchers say about him suggest he’s been one of the best pitching coaches ever. He’s worth a look.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I’m not saying he isn’t worth a look, just that if Atlanta has continued to have similar success (controlling for talent) since he left (I don’t know if they have, a few examples come to mind, though) then you can’t rule out the possibility he was irrelevant. Especially if you studied his Baltimore results and found that the Atlanta trend ended, while finding that the Braves continued to have the same success. Not saying that happened, just that correlation is not causation.

  8. jay destro says:

    in my optimal world they would have gotten duncan before he re-signed. something tells me he could have done wonders for this staff. Don Cooper was an obvious second in line for this, but obviously he and ozzie are a team that CHIW isn’t ready to break up.

    after reading what curt young had done in the a’s system he seemed like a perfect fit, especially with a guy like joba and david robertson. doesn’t seem like that’s a possibility now with boston hiring him.

    leo mazzone while a name, hasn’t been in the game in a few years and didn’t do a whole lot of anything with the baltimore pitching staffs he had.

    i think nardi likes his role, cant see him wanting to take on the rigors of day to day pitching coach. i honestly wouldnt be shocked if they stick with harkey for a year. don’t see kerrigan, he has a bad rap just based on being a “cashman spy”

    • I’m not as big a fan of Duncan as everyone always seems to be. He’s a pitch to contact guy and the Yankees don’t have pitch to contact pitchers (nor should they). I don’t think he would help as much as some may think.

  9. crawdaddy says:

    Rags is from California so I doubt he wants to move back to NY for nine months of the year. I think Patterson will get the job.

  10. nsalem says:

    Why would Righetti want to come back to New York? He is originally from the Bay Area. He still lives there with his wife and children and has a whole life in that region with other interests outside of baseball. The organization he works for has developed more successful
    starting pitchers in the last 5 years than the Yankees have in the last 30. On top of that Mr. Steinbrenner ruined his opportunity to become
    an HOF starting pitcher and cost him and his family millions of dollars.
    I don’t think a return to New York is in his future.

  11. JerseyDutch says:

    Has Aldred fallen out of consideration? I haven’t heard his named bandied about lately.

  12. Mark L says:

    Just need to bring in someone who can both protect the young arms and help them mature. I’m sick of one young hurler after another getting mishandled or getting stuck on bad habits.

  13. Mike HC says:

    The Yanks need to hire a guy who has experience with veteran pitchers. The Yanks rotation will most likely always have a steady flow of guys in their 30′s. The pitching coach needs to be someone who can demand their respect.

    They should also have a guy on staff who is familiar with their incoming top pitching prospects like the three B’s. He shouldn’t necessarily be the pitching coach though. That is how I would do it.

  14. Granderslam says:

    Anything new with Gil Patterson? I like the idea of him taking over the role.

  15. Brushback says:

    We need a coach that’s going to be able to A) Salvage AJ Burnett B) See what can be done with Joba C) Keep Hughes progressing in the right direction D) Be able to help mentor the young arms that will be coming up in the next couple of years, like Nova.

    And this has to be done while we’re in a pennant chase.

  16. cano is the bro says:

    curt young looked like one of the best candidates, damn the red sox for getting him

  17. LunaticFringe says:

    Living through the Jorge Posada Era, and now (hopefully) the Jesus Montero Era, it would be nice if the Yankees would work with their kid prospects at holding runners on. I mean, really…really…nice. The kids who come up through their farm system seem almost bewilderingly awful at holding runners.

  18. Big Stein says:

    Mitch Williams is the one.

    and if not him, then you can’t go wrong with Rob Dibble.

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