Though not officially announced until this morning, Keegan might have spotted the first inkling that something was up, last night.
It’s a bit of a surprise, though Mike Butcher has long been a designated scapegoat for Arizona fans. The 2016 season, his first as the D-backs’ pitching coach, was particularly harsh, as the team’s ERA increased by more than a run from the previous year, highlighted by the failure of Shelby Miller. While there were mitigating factors, his survival under new GM Mike Hazen came as something of a shock. There was a strong rebound by the pitching staff in 2017, their fWAR more than doubling from 10.1 to 22.9. But that has proved to be a one-year wonder, with the last two seasons dropping back to 12.9 and 13.9 respectively.
This year, performance was very middle of the road, though the loss of Patrick Corbin and half a season of Zack Greinke were obvious factors. Even among those who stayed, there appear to have been some struggles. Yoshihisa Hirano perhaps had the most obvious decline in performance from last year, but T.J. McFarland and Andrew Chafin also saw their FIP increase. And then there was the whole Zack Godley disaster, where he proved to be no more fixable by Butcher than Miller had been before him. It’s hard to know what triggered the decision, and we’ll have to wait and see who is chosen as a replacement. There’s a press-conference this afternoon at Chase, so I’m sure that will be a topic of inquiry.
No surprises to see the rest of the staff returning. First-base coach Dave McKay was probably the most essential component, having overseen one of the best base-running teams in the majors this year.