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June 15, 2011

A little more on the Orioles' pitching coach carousel

My colleague, Jeff Zrebiec, put together this list of Orioles’ pitching coaches since 1994, and I thought it was worth sharing the day after Mark Connor resigned for personal reasons.

1994 -- Dick Bosman
1995 -- Mike Flanagan
1996 -- Pat Dobson
1997-- Ray Miller
1998 -- Mike Flanagan
1999 -- Bruce Kison
2000 -- Sammy Ellis
2001-04 -- Mark Wiley
2004-05 -- Ray Miller
2006-07 -- Leo Mazzone
2008-2010 -- Rick Kranitz
2011 -- Mark Connor, Rick Adair

That’s 13 pitching coaches in 17 years -- or 11 different guys (since Miller and Flanagan did it twice). Pretty stunning considering much of that time the Orioles had one hitting coach, Terry Crowley.

There are two ways to look at the Orioles’ pitching coach carousel.

1. How can you expect a staff to be consistent when there is so much turnover with its direct supervisor?
2. These pitchers are professionals. They can use a little direction, some words of encouragement at times, but if they have made it this far, it is their talent and mindset more than any pro-level coaching.

I asked Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie about dealing with the pitching coach turnover and whether it can negatively affect a staff.

“Anything can affect a team for the better or worse, so there’s no telling which way it will go,” Guthrie said. “For us, we’re just losing someone we care for and we hope the best for him and the things he needs to handle.”

Counting Adair, Guthrie has had four pitching coaches in five seasons in Baltimore. For him, he said it’s more about adjusting to the personality of the coach than any designed philosophy. He joked that all pitching coaches have the same mantra: get outs and win.

“For me, some guys you work well with, other guys you don’t work as well with. That’s the most important thing,” Guthrie said. “The transition itself isn’t too difficult. It’s, ‘How does the working relationship go?’ And that’s something we’ll go through now with Rick as the pitching coach.”

Posted by Dan Connolly at 12:00 PM | | Comments (10)


Why not give Jim Palmer a chance? I'd miss him on the broadcasts and would probably have to put up with more Mike Flanagan... Oh, I don't think I could take that. On second thought, bring on Brad Arnsberg (Arnsburg?)!

Is there anything more behind Connor's decision than purely personal issues? Was there any conflict or disappointment with the players? I don't want to read anything into it if it's not there, but I am curious whether anything else will emerge about this.

Besides, I might retire after I saw Matusz's pitching performance on Sunday too.

I am sure there is plenty he wasn't happy with, but I think ultimately it was the demands of the job and the toll it takes on coaches that were the primary factors.

13 pitching coaches, yet the pitching was usually bad. It's bad this season as well - some bright spots, but overall ranking in the bottom tier of the AL in ERA and total runs allowed (latter combination of bad defense and pitchers rarely picking up teammates after errors.)

One hitting coach, and the offense was consistently bad, usually ranking 10th or below in the AL in runs and OBP. In only two seasons did the O's offense rank above seventh in a 14 team league. This season, the trend continues with a new hitting coach - low rank in runs and OBP.

Pitching coaches can occasionally help young pitchers improve a pitch or add a pitch to their repertoire. But that's only if the young pitcher isn't so arrogant that he thinks he knows everything. Lots of pitchers have to get their brains beat out at the major league level before they start to think maybe they should be receptive to coaching after all. Remember most of these guys were standout all-stars from Little League through high school or college. They think they already know it all.

Yet the O's young pitchers simply haven't developed command of their pitches. And they don't trust their stuff, so they continue to try to paint the corners of the plate while still not having the kind of command to do that.

What the Orioles really need is a retired HOF caliber pitcher like Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine to teach the kids. They might listen to someone of such stature. And both knew they didn't have to throw 100 mph to get hitters out.

The O's need to send a message that if you can't or are afraid to throw strikes you won't be pitching at the major league level until you do. Simply don't tolerate it. Then things will start to change. No wonder Mark Connor couldn't take it anymore. The young pitchers won't listen and the organization is tolerating their lousy pitching and not backing their pitching coach.

Actually, the turning point isn't 1994, but mid-1985; that's when Ray Miller ended his 1st term as pitching coach to manage Minnesota. At that point, there were only 3 pitching coaches in O's 31.5 year history. Between mid-85 and 1994 there was Ken Rowe, Mark Wiley's 1st tenure, Herm Starrette and Al Jackson before Dick Bosman started in 1992. So, it's really 17 pitching coaches in last 26 years! Ouch!


I think part of the turnover has been caused by the Orioles' constant over hyping of pitching prospects. Expectations are raised high and when the pitchers fail to perform, somebody has to take the blame. I have listed the failed Orioles pitching prospects before on here so I won't do it again, but the list is astonishing, going back to the mid and late 90's. The latest to fail may be Matusz and Tillman, both highly regarded prospects. In addition, the Orioles just will not spend the money to bring in top of the line FA starters to bolster the rotation.

Clearly, the culprit here is a poor effort at amateur and professsional scouting, particularly in latin America, and a tight budget by PA. Since nothing has changed for the better on the overall scouting front, or the FA front under Andy Macphail, the pitching coach turnstyle{and starting pitching roation} will continue to churn.

I question the validity of the statement that "if they got this far they know what they're doing". Are we talking about Orioles staffs??? Then why were three of our geniuses sent down for "seasoning". Then I guess its the minor league system that is failing because the only real adage I know about pitching is--work fast and throw strikes--especially when your team gets you some runs. Our guys don't do that...its two strikes and nibble, nibble, nibble, walk. where is the accountability then...individual pitcher, pitching coach, bullpen coach, or the system? Our guys don't always pitch like pitchers consistently so who fixes that??? Lets identify the flaw and maybe we can beat the Jays, Rays, Yanks, and Sox on some kind of basis or we will always be cellar dwellers.

Dan, etal -

Connor is 62. The grind takes its toll, yes, but the club was improved and outside looking in, you have to be pleased with how the staff has developed. And with that in mind, you would think Connor would be enjoying this type of success, and having some fun with it.

I keep missing something - health, family, something with the club....? Especially considering that there was no real plan in place - Crowley had to jump a plane for this series. It came about too abruptly. Connor could have easily told Buck "hey, 2 weeks from now, I'm gone. Use that time to come up with a smooth transitions" But he didn't.

So...what ARE we missing here?

These comments are among the funniest ever. I had no idea so many os pitcher read t he pPer. Right from the clubhouse t o us, rumors and hypotheses by the dozen. Everybodya an expert.

We will have to see how the change goes. But who could argue that the less you make changes, not that it will be good or even better, but that it will be easier to see where the problems lie.

What I fail to see tho is how some of you feel that there is no command, etc.. I am the first one cursing when the bullpen loses it etc...but how can you talk about Matusz with his second start and one bad performance whenn he is going to be a force to reckon with. I suppose that, even tho he got run support, that Arietta has had no command either. And Britton, who only moved up to number 10 in ALL THE MAJORS and is now competing with Hellington and Pineda. Maybe he faultered a few times. But no, big problems, big command problems, not by a long shot

Let's talk Gregg and Gonzalez, even Tillman and Bergensen who they knew they needed a change of scenery to work on things. Then I will know we have been seeing the same games

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About the bloggers
A Baltimore native, Dan Connolly has been covering sports for 14 years, and baseball and the Orioles for 10 seasons, including the past six with The Sun. His first year covering baseball on a daily basis was Cal Ripken Jr.'s final season as a player. It's believed that is just a coincidence.

Steve Gould is an assistant sports editor for The Sun, overseeing Orioles coverage. The Columbia native joined The Sun as a sports copy editor in 2006 after graduating from the University of Maryland.

Peter Schmuck has been covering baseball for a lot longer than Steve Gould has been on this earth. He is now a general sports columnist, but has been a beat writer covering three major league teams (the Dodgers, Angels and Orioles) and also spent a decade as the Sun's national baseball writer. If you want more of his insight on the Orioles and other sports issues, check out his personal blog -- The Schmuck Stops Here.

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