• Jul

    Hindsight on Showalter’s Coaching Changes

    After Showalter was hired last August, the O’s went 34-23. After the 2010 All-Star break, the O’s were 37-37. Despite that finish, there were wholesale changes to Coaching staff. Like many others, I was ambivalent at the time of this turnover. My logic at the time was that Showalter deserved to be surrounded by a staff he assembled vs. a staff he inherited. I still think that is true, but Showalter is now responsible (for good and bad) for the Coaches he brought in.

    It would be hard to accurately rate the individual results of each Coach. There are not advanced metrics to be shown, for each bit of advice, guidance, and instruction they provide. The best you can do evaluation wise, is to review some anecdotal evidence and the comments of the players themselves.

    While John Russell appeared to be struggling as the 3rd base coach, a lot has been made between the bond he has developed with Matt Wieters. Wieters has gone out of his way several times this year to mention Russell with helping him behind the plate.

    After surviving several regimes, I thought it was probably time for the O’s to make a change from Hitting Coach Terry Crowley. The O’s made the decision to bring in Jim Presley. The Orioles enter action tonight just 18th in the league in runs, but they are 13th in on-base %, and 9th overall in slugging %. Again, how much praise or blame do you give Presley for the results? Have we seen a more disciplined approach from the O’s hitters? I think it was interesting that Markakis did not seem to get out of his prolonged slump, until after working with Crowley in the cage. Did the previous Coach notice a mechanical flaw that the current Coach did not? To Presley’s credit, after seeing JJ Hardy this Spring; Presley told the O’s SS that he wanted to see Hardy go back to the approach he had in Milwaukee vs. the player he had become with the Twins. Hardy agreed with this, and currently has a slugging % approaching .500.

    It has not made a difference with Adam Jones’ advanced defensive metrics, but I do think he has been positioned better in 2011. Perhaps Wayne Kirby deserves credit there?

    Obviously Willie Randolph has a wealth of experience, and like Russell, has been a former Manager. There are an awful lot of O’s fans convinced that should Showalter replace Andy MacPhail as the President of Baseball Operations; that Randolph would replace Showalter as the next O’s Manager. I have not heard many O’s players speak to their interactions with Randolph though.

    The primary reason the O’s were 11 games over .500 with Showalter last year, was the 3.16 ERA they posted in those 57 games. Going into 2011, you were not going to find anyone that thought the O’s could replicate that level of pitching over a 162 game season. There were plenty of people (myself included) that thought it would be realistic for the O’s to be around the 4.13 ERA they had after the ’10 All-Star Game. As the 2011 schedule prepares to turn to August, the O’s are 30th in ERA (4.80), and 30th in Quality Starts.

    Rick Kranitz was replaced by Mark Connor as the Pitching Coach. Alan Dunn was replaced by Rick Adair as the Bullpen Coach, with Dunn remaining in the organization as the Minor League Pitching Coordinator. Dunn would leave the O’s organization to become the new Pitching Coach at Louisiana State University on June 10th.

    Connor had not been a Pitching Coach since ’08, having spent the previous two years as a Special Assistant in Player Development for Texas. He lasted with the O's all the way until June 14th (the O's were 30-33 going into play that day). Connor was replaced by Adair, who was the Pitching Coach in Seattle the last two years, and had previously held that title with the Detroit Tigers, and Cleveland Indians.

    I’d don’t know how much blame you can put on Connor’s shoulders. I do know that a number of O’s pitchers (including Brian Matusz today in the Baltimore Sun http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/sports/orioles/blog/2011/07/matusz_admits_that_he_wasnt_me.html ) have indicated their mechanics were tinkered with. With the success the O’s pitchers had to end last year, it is puzzling to me why any changes would need to have been made this Spring. Past that, when Connor resigned, he indicated to Showalter that he could no longer handle the physical requirements of the position. For a guy that had previously experienced this position, you have to think nothing about the position came to him as a surprise. Did he ever really want to be here? Did Showalter pressure him to leave his Player Development position with the Rangers? If there were any signs from Connor before the hire, that he might not be up to the challenge, than Showalter deserves some blame here. To be fair to Connor, when he departed, Jeremy Guthrie was quoted (http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-06-14/sports/bal-orioles-pitching-coach-mark-connor-rick-adair-resigns_1_bullpen-coach-coach-change-jeremy-guthrie) as saying the following: “It was a surprise to all of us, I believe. He'll be missed. We enjoyed our time, as little as it was, to work with him. We were starting to get a glimpse of all the things that Buck had said about him and his reputation as being a tremendous pitching coach as well as just a great person to work with. It's too bad his time was so short with each one of us. We were learning a lot from him."

    I can’t bring myself to crush Adair. He is not exactly working with a lot here right now. My only question with him, is why did Matusz have to go back to the Minors (and work with Minor League  Pitching Coach Mike Griffin) for it to be determined there was a mechanical change from the Matusz that ended 2010 (pitching as well as he ever had in an O’s uniform) vs. the Matusz we were seeing getting knocked around in June?

    Ultimately though, any discussion of the 2011 O’s has to begin with the lack of results from the rotation. Zach Britton and Chris Tillman are joining the O’s rotation this weekend. We will see what happens with Matusz. Brad Bergesen had his first solid start since May his last time out. Jake Arrieta has improved in some areas (his K/9, LD %, GB %, Swinging Strike, and First Strike numbers), but continues to deal with control issues and allow too many homers. The decision to determine if Adair returns for ’12, should be shown in the results (and the comments) of these starters down the stretch. If a change is made, Griffin should be the first choice.

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Michael Williams

Lifelong. Down by the river.