Daily Notes: How Well Did Pitching Coaches Pitch as Players?

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. The Pitching Stats for the Pitching Coaches
2. Video: Dave Righetti’s No-Hitter, 1983

The Pitching Stats for the Pitching Coaches
In yesterday’s edition of the Notes, for reasons that remain somewhat unclear, we considered how well the league’s hitting coaches performed as major leaguers themselves. In today’s edition, we turn our attention to the pitching coaches — and to their corresponding major-league pitching careers.

As noted yesterday, there’s nothing to suggest — or, at least, not so far as the author is aware — that a player’s own personal pitching ability is a determinative factor in his ability to coach others well in that same art. Stated differently: this is a mostly trivial exercise the author is conducting.

In any case, there’s no doubting that what follows are the career stats for the 23 current pitching coaches with major-league experience, sorted by park-adjusted ERA relative to league average (ERA-), where 100 is average and a lower figure is better:


Name Team IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP FIP- ERA- WAR RA9-Wins
Roger McDowell Braves 1050.0 4.49 3.51 0.43 .284 98 87 5.3 10.1
Dave Righetti Giants 1403.2 7.13 3.79 0.61 .286 86 88 24.3 24.8
Ray Searage Pirates 287.2 6.04 4.29 0.69 .276 97 89 1.6 3.9
Doug Brocail Astros 880.0 6.57 3.17 0.87 .294 95 93 8.3 9.1
Chris Bosio Cubs 1710.0 5.57 2.53 0.85 .288 91 94 29.7 26.7
Rick Honeycutt Dodgers 2160.0 4.32 2.74 0.77 .277 100 96 24.4 26.6
Mike Butcher Angels 137.0 6.31 5.39 0.92 .278 106 96 0.2 0.9
Pete Walker Blue Jays 339.1 5.07 3.53 1.27 .287 110 97 1.8 4.1
Charles Nagy D-backs 1954.2 5.72 2.70 1.00 .310 93 99 34.4 29.6
Mike Maddux Rangers 861.2 5.89 2.97 0.70 .294 91 99 9.3 7.1
Carl Willis Mariners 390.0 5.12 2.65 0.65 .304 86 100 5.2 1.7
Steve McCatty Nationals 1188.1 4.10 3.94 0.94 .265 119 104 4.0 13.9
Derek Lilliquist Cardinals 483.2 4.86 2.49 1.10 .293 105 104 3.9 5.7
Jeff Jones Tigers 205.0 5.62 4.92 1.14 .273 129 105 -2.3 -0.9
Juan Nieves Red Sox 491.0 6.45 4.16 0.99 .298 99 110 6.7 3.5
Curt Young Athletics 1107.0 4.36 2.98 1.20 .270 120 111 4.1 9.0
Dan Warthen Mets 307.0 6.57 5.80 0.76 .255 114 116 1.7 2.0
Rick Anderson Twins 96.2 3.91 2.70 0.84 .301 106 118 0.5 0.3
Bo McLaughlin Rockies 313.0 5.41 3.54 0.63 .303 104 124 1.6 -2.2
Don Cooper White Sox 85.1 4.96 4.85 1.48 .291 134 132 -0.9 -0.8
Dave Eiland Royals 373.0 3.69 2.85 1.11 .309 113 133 2.9 -2.2
Mickey Callaway Indians 130.2 5.92 3.99 1.17 .338 107 135 1.1 -1.0
Larry Rothschild Yankees 8.1 1.08 8.64 1.08 .226 177 136 -0.3 -0.1
Averages 694.0 5.18 3.83 0.92 .287 108 107 7.3 7.5

Notes
• Absent from this list are the seven coaches who never played in the majors. They are as follows, presented in no discernible order: Rick Adair (Orioles), Jim Hickey (Rays), Bryan Price (Reds), Chuck Hernandez (Marlins), Rick Kranitz (Brewers), Rich Dubee (Phillies), and Darren Balsley (Padres).

• As noted, players are sorted by career ERA-. RA9-Wins is essentially Wins Above Replacement, except with ERA (and not FIP) as the input. All averages are simple averages — that is, not weighted by innings pitched.

• By this method, it appears as though 10 present pitching coaches were above-average (although very slightly, in some cases) major-league pitchers. One more (Carl Willis) was exactly league average. Twelve more were below average. Finally, as noted above, seven didn’t play at the major-league level.

• There doesn’t appear to be any, among the league’s present-day pitching coaches, who was definitively superior to his peers. Dave Righetti certainly deserves some recognition for his success on a per-inning basis. Charles Nagy posted the highest WAR and RA9-Win totals as major leaguer.

• A full list of all coaches is available at Baseball Reference. A FanGraphs leaderboard of all the pitching coaches’ career numbers is available here.

Video: Dave Righetti’s No-Hitter, 1983
Here’s video coverage, courtesy MLB.com, of Dave Righetti’s no-hitter against Boston from July 4th of 1983. The reader will likely derive some joy from the sliders at ca. 2:11 and 2:31 (with a replay of the latter at ca. 2:51).




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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

12 Responses to “Daily Notes: How Well Did Pitching Coaches Pitch as Players?”

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  1. Cus says:

    A thought that just popped into my head: It’s likely that star hitters/pitchers do not become hitting and pitching coaches because their success meant they were well compensated during their playing career, and don’t need/want to stick around the game for which is surely a moderate salary at best.

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    • Cidron says:

      Thinking along the same basic lines, but off in a different direction.. the marginal pitchers became better coaches due to the fact that they had to rely on study, research, film, work habits more than talent. The talented players/pitchers have been told that their talent will carry them thru most anything, and as a result may not have done the research etc that translates to the coaching career.

      Same premise holds for hitters turned hitting coaches.

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      • JayT says:

        I wonder if it’s really true that the stars study less though. I know Manny Ramirez was well known for his work ethic towards hitting, and Tony Gwynn was one of the first big-name proponents of video research.
        I don’t remember any anecdotes off hand for pitchers, but Maddux was always referred to as a student of the game, so I assume he was probably watching a lot of video.

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      • SDM says:

        It’s not that they work less, it’s that it’s probably harder to verbalize the things that they can pick up or do on due to their own innate talents.

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      • Cidron says:

        Not quite meaning to say that they dont to the little things like filmwork etc. At least that is not the message I was trying to convey. I was more trying to say that they have more ability to lean on the talent to get them thru. They may listen to the coaches etc but, the message may not sink in as much as one who HAS to rely on coaches.

        Think A-Rod vs Eckstein. One has a world of talent and largely found success based on it (along with all the other little things). One, is very dependent on the little things and that stuff sinks in more because he can’t rely on talent alone to carry him thru. But, they both did find success and both have had decent length careers.

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    • AK7007 says:

      Say that to hitting coaches mcgwire or chili davis. And then there is bonds, who wants to be a HC but is blacklisted by MLB. Money isn’t likely to be a huge motivator for the coaches, money is likely more of an ego thing than anything else. Realize that love of the game and teaching ability probably aren’t the best indicator of success, and are likely evenly distributed among the various talent levels. There are many, many more former players of low talent level than former superstars, and hence more coaches from the pool with more numbers.

      I’ll also add that you can find many more star players that end up as Managers than HC/PC, and again I think this probably has more to do with ego than their enhanced ability to lead men over players who didn’t make it big. From anecdotal stories you hear about contract disputes with coaches, the moderate salary itself isn’t the problem – instead it’s that their head has gotten too big and they want a high salary for status reasons.

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    • Krog says:

      Star players may also get more lucrative post-career opportunities. Becoming a broadcaster or television personality pays a lot better than coaching (presumably).

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    • Ian R. says:

      I know it’s not the only factor, but probably the biggest reason that more marginal players become coaches is that there are more marginal players, in general, than stars. Sheer weight of numbers.

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  2. big papi's pharmacist says:

    Interesting. Looks like 4 pitchers had what you would call successful careers as pitchers.
    Others are just good at helping pitchers, discerning flaws, making suggestions in arm angle, release point, trying different pitch, etc.

    Hope there is a plan to do the hitting coaches at a later date.

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  3. Westside guy says:

    I’d like to see Gaylord Perry get a gig as a pitching coach – that’d be interesting…

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  4. Johnny Hummusbeard says:

    Whoa!

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