Is Larry Rothschild a good pitching coach for the 2011 New York Yankees? He certainly is the most quiet pitching coach the Yankees have had in years, and certainly the most uncontroversial. Let’s take a look at some previous pitching coaches in modern times before analyzing Larry Rothschild’s Yankees run.
Dave Eiland was supposed to be a new age “hire from within” pitching coach who was supposed to have been the mentor of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy, but wound up with a mysterious leave of absence that led to his dismissal. Eiland marched to the company line and was tight with Joe Girardi, but there was something weird about him that rubbed some reporters and fans the wrong way. It could have been his blind faith in A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain or when the Yankees pitching staff imploded in September and October of 2010.
Ron Guidry was panned by stat heads on the message boards, scouts, and the so-called Tampa Mafia that ran Joe Torre out of town and wanted Dave Eiland to replace Louisiana Lightning. According to the 2011 book Bullpen Diaries, the so-called experts looked down upon Guidry and basically called him dumb and unqualified. Even Peter Gammons blamed Guidry for ruining Chien Ming Wang’s career and held him accountable for Kei Igawa’s mess.
Mel Stottlemyre, in my mind, was an underrated pitcher and a New York icon. His legacy was sabotaged by stat heads online who think they somehow proved that Mel Stottlemyre ruined Doc Gooden’s career by changing his mechanics and how he and Mets manager Davey Johnson overworked Doc early on. Stottlemyre was always targeted by George Steinbrenner and the Tampa Mafia. For some reason, The Boss and the Tampa Mafia always preferred Billy Connors‘ opinion as a pitching guru. Stottlemyre is my all-time favorite pitching coach because I was a Mets and Yankees growing up. I found him to be patient, intelligent, caring, and a hard working teacher who really wanted to see his students succeed. I’ve read numerous books about how players related to him. He was fatherly to Doc Gooden, and would never do anything to hurt Doc’s career.
Fast forward to the post-Joe Torre era and welcome to Brian Cashman‘s masturbation-fest where coaches are very hard-working and capable, but nondescript (except the charismatic Tony Pena) and boring. I mean seriously, I used to be able to name every coach, but nowadays I get Rob Thomson and Mick Kelleher confused, and they hardly ever get interviewed even though they are great Yankees coaches and stand-up guys. Hitting coach Kevin Long, considered by many to be the best hitting coach in the game, looks like Dave Eiland and never has any controversies, and his job is never on the line even when the Yankees’ hitters fail in the clutch all the time. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey reminds me of the warehouse manager from the TV show The Office- someone that does his job…for the paycheck.
It’s all about Cashman not fostering a workplace where the manager and his coaches consolidate power, like Torre’s reign. Torre had some super-powered coaches, like Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Don Zimmer, Stottlemyre, Roy White, Lee Mazzilli, Larry Bowa, Luis Sojo, et al.
How to judge Larry Rothschild’s performance as coach? Well, let’ see which pitchers have improved or regressed compared to last year, what else can I go by?
CC Sabathia- He’s an ace and doesn’t need any coaching. His performance is the same.
A.J. Burnett- This was Rothschild’s reclamation project in the offseason. It looks like he got AJ to become an average pitcher as opposed to the worst everyday pitcher in baseball in 2010. I give him credit for that. AJ has noticeably improved, but he still is not a #2 starter and he still has games when he sucks real bad. AJ is a league average pitcher, even at his best. AJ’s only great season was in 2002 with the Marlins, and he was 12-9, 3.30, and 8.9K/9 IP. AJ may be the most overrated pitcher in modern times due to his alledged “stuff” and never realizing his “potential”. A shame how scouts have so much influence on a guy’s salary, when it should be results based.
Freddy Garcia- Freddy is Freddy. He’s been healthy. He was not scrap heap last year. Not sure why it’s so shocking to people that he’s been effective. I guess because he relies on junk. There are no news reports that show Rothschild has changed his mechanics to keep him healthy or anything like that.
Bartolo Colon- Colon was good after his stem cell surgery and Tony Pena re-discovered him in Winter League. Rothschild was not involved in Colon’s comeback season.
Phil Hughes- Well, this a total fail this year. Hughes has sucked since last year’s All-Star break. He lost his velocity for no reason, and still hasn’t improved his change-up and is a two-pitch pitcher. He is injury prone. Not sure how to turn him around, and I don’t think Rothschild knows either. Bottom line is that Rothschild gets an F for Phil, who seems clueless as to his “injury” or learning new pitches.
Ivan Nova- Nova improved his stamina this year (or, at least was given a chance to pitch past the 5th!) and was on pace for 16 wins before getting demoted to make room for Hughes. I would think that Rothschild made Nova a major priority to keep his head focused in the game. In truth, Nova was inconsistent this year, but was a good average pitcher and overqualified in the #5 slot. I personally did not see a huge improvement with Nova; I thought he would have broken out this year. If his curveball wasn’t crisp he would get rocked, but when it was on, he was unstoppable. Not enough improvement to give Rothschild credit, but if given a chance Nova could develop.
Mariano Rivera- Mo is Mo. Every year Mo has a series of rough outings in a row, usually due to fatigue or injury, but he has no use for a coach. He should be coaching.
Joba Chamberlain- After AJ Burnett, Rothschild promised to fix Joba Chamberlain. The irony is that Joba seemed much better this year, but got injured and required Tommy John surgery. Rothschild was on the same page with Joba to just tweak his mechanics. Do we hold Rothschild partly accountable for the injury or is that outside his realm of responsibility or sphere of influence?
David Robertson- Rothschild gets a A for Robertson. Remember how bad David was at the beginning of 2010? I wanted him in AAA. Robertson was good all year and has superhuman K-rates and clutch stats. Robertson is a guy who needs coaching, and I bet Rothschild helped him out.
Boone Logan- It’s a shame, Logan got his head together last year after he was demoted to AAA. When he came back up, he seemed to have realized his potential and was great for the 2010 Yankees. This year, he had nothing until recently where he has been back to his good self, although his numbers against lefties are still horrible. Kinda weird how it took so long for Logan and Rothschild to figure out what was going on.
Rafael Soriano- Rothschild was unable to help Soriano this year so far. Biggest bust of the year.
Hector Noesi- Pretty good this year as a young utility man. Rothschild probably works with him since he’s a rookie, and should get credit where credit is due.
There are no news reports about Rothschild’s influence on Corey Wade, Luis Ayala, or Sergio Mitre.
The bottom line is that I’m kinda going blind here on solid facts because Joe Girardi pretty much locks down freedom of information and all the coaches and players just speak in cliches.
Rothschild is known as a laid back coach and a nice guy. But he WAS the Cubs pitching coach and saw Kerry Wood and Mark Prior breakdown under his watch. Not to mention other pitchers with injury histories like Jon Leiber, Matt Clement, and others in recent Cubs seasons. Cubs fans have opinions about him that conflict his images as being a knowledgeable “baseball man”.
How much influence does a pitching coach have? Most coaches need to help with preparation and fixing mechanics and deliveries. They go over video and assist the pitcher with selection and psychology. You would think they would have techniques to limit injuries. Beat reporters in New York seem to leave the coaching staff alone. I have to wait for books to come out to learn about them, which is crazy.
Please don’t take my questions and views on Larry Rothschild’s influence on pitchers as being the be-all, end-all or overly critical. I don’t know about the man. Cubs fans, please enlighten me. I’m just curious about his influence, and I’m just totally speculating. Girardi runs a tight-lipped ship, and even a year later, we have no solid info on what happened with Dave Eiland’s leave of absence.
Is Larry Rothschild a good pitching coach for the 2011 Yankees? You be the judge…
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