Did it seem odd that Torey Lovullo got an extension, while most of the coaching staff lost their positions?
James: Yes and no. With the way this season played out, coaching changes were inevitable. I was a bit surprised, but pleasantly so, that Lovullo was extended. He did what they paid him to do and he did it without complaints (at least ones that made it to the public). Lovullo is known for being able to develop talent, so hopefully that holds true as he now is starting to get the first tests to that on his roster. However, coaching changes still needed to happen, so it doesn’t surprise me that everyone else got shuffled about. I was actually a little surprised that there were not more clean breaks involved and that most of this was about shuffling deck chairs.
Jack: Mike Hazen says Torey is “one of us”. There is a dividing line, Torey is on the one side along with the GM and the rest of the front office. The coaching staff is on the other side of that line.
Steven: It’s obvious Torey has the respect of the front office, and while Torey is ultimately responsible for the overall performance, I think you can assume most of the specialty coaches are spending most of the time with these players in individual and team based training. Torey’s relationship ultimately and unfortunately trumps those coaches as they are now scapegoats for the 110 loss season.
Makakilo: I am not surprised that Torey Lovullo was extended. It was wise to extend him.
- “... Mike Hazen said he was, ‘...very proactive with a lot of our younger players.’ That was especially remarkable because he was proactive in this season’s environment which required many actions that were primarily reactive and intended to make the best of a bad situation.” — Makakilo, 27 September Round Table
- Torey Lovullo is a top-10 manager, and my opinion was not changed by the last two seasons.
- In August 2021, Seth Trechtman, perhaps a more of an outsider ranking, ranked Torey Lovullo #17.
Any surprises among those who are departing?
James: Robby Hammock. If there was one coach not named Dave McKay I was expecting to be retained and looking forward to seeing back in 2022, it was Robby Hammock. I’m sure the reasons for Hammock not returning make plenty of sense to those actually involved. I just hope he quickly lands on his feet elsewhere. The man has a bright future ahead of him.
Jack: I was surprised by Hammock, and a little surprised by Pipe as well. But Torey explained that, saying that he and Pipe think a little too much alike. Torey needs a Gardenhire or Narron in his ear.
Steven: None really. The team was bad in every aspect of the game.
What about those who kept their jobs?
James: Matt Herges is still around, albeit, in what will be a new position. Talk about the front office doing a mea culpa. The fact that he did not get canned despite AZ’s historically bad pitching speaks volumes about just how bad of a staff he was handed to work with.
Jack: There was a lot of surprise about Mike Fetters keeping his role as bullpen coach, but I think most of that has to do with lack of clarity into what a bullpen coach actually does and is responsible for. I should probably write an article about that.
Steven: I’m shocked Dave McKay is still working after the fall and proceeding surgery. The team needs his instruction, but I’d have thought it would be less in-game and more every day before game.
Makakilo: [Jack, I look forward to reading what you write about the bullpen coach’s responsibilities. The following was written before I saw your comment.]
One surprise was Mike Fetters. My guess is Mike Fetters was kept because he made significant contributions beyond his bullpen responsibilities:
- In August 2021, when Tyler Gilbert pitched a no-hitter, he talked with Fetters between innings going over matchups.
- A 2013 article wrote that he instructs pitchers about holding runners on base/pickoff moves. He has scouted opposing teams. In 2021, he might be doing those duties.
- I was impressed because of his approach of having a plan B. When he scouted the Rockies, his car was broken into and his reports stolen. He had the foresight to ask another person to scout them at the same time, so his plan B avoided failure.
- And the following is a wild guess. Perhaps he strongly held a different vision for Diamondbacks pitching. When he told Torey Lovullo, Torey valued his courage to make his vision known.
What qualities should the new pitching coach have?
James: Adaptability is key. Pitching coaches across the league have their own “best pitching practices” that they rely on and that they preach. For the Diamondbacks organization, those practices were installed when Dave Duncan came aboard as a consultant a number of years ago, even before the TLR days. The Diamondbacks have had too many pitchers that simply do not fit the organization’s pitching mold. I want to see the new coach pretty much blow that up and become more of a tweaks instructor than a pitching instructor.
By the time pitchers reach the Majors, they know enough about pitching that they shouldn’t need the coach to teach them a new way to pitch. The coach should be looking at what the player is doing and where the success is coming from and then pointing out tweaks that could help when struggles start to creep in. Stop trying to “fix” the likes of Ray and Bumgarner and instead help them find success in spite of their weaknesses. Too much time is being spent making changes to eliminate the weaknesses, except every change is going to have ripple effects, like bloated walk rates.
Jack: Of course he needs to have a keen eye, be able to pick up subtle changes to a pitcher’s delivery, and be able to communicate well what he’s seeing. . He needs to have a great memory, and the ability to help deliver the “gameplans” to the pitchers, and remind them at the appropriate times how to get back on track. He needs to be organized and keep track of workloads. And he needs to be a great motivator and psychologist.
Steven: They need to be learning from other organizations, specifically the Rays and Giants. Their ability to get the most out of less talented players instead of trying to pigeonhole them into a mold of player they think has success.
Makakilo: Have a vision for the team, with types of pitchers that fit.
Be an advocate for anything that will help develop the types of pitchers that fit the vision. That could include tools, approaches, game plans that are executable, and/or a knowledge base.
Be an advocate for keeping each pitcher in roles that will contribute the most to the team.
Prepare plan B alternatives that prevent frequent moving of pitchers to multiple roles, which is detrimental to their performance and development.
Work seamlessly with pitcher development coaches (part of the new coaching structure proposed by Torey Lovullo) , who thoroughly know their pitchers, build high levels of trust, and continuously coach each pitcher as he moves through the system (minors and Majors).
If you were a coach, how would you approach it?
James: Hopeful, very much as I already described above. I want to help a pitcher double down on what is working, then we would look for ways to help the pitcher avoid those things that aren’t working. Sure, sometimes those things cannot be entirely avoided. That’s when the bigger tweaks and the sessions with the tech and the kinesiologists come into play.
Jack: I would focus on what’s most important and make sure THAT is locked down and then try to improve other areas.
Steven: I would constantly be seeking different opinions, new ways of teaching and always look to be one step ahead of the opponent. The minute you become complacent from the smallest moments of success are the times when you lose your edge.
Makakilo: Be optimistic, build trust, motivate, translate Giga-Bytes into simple, observe, and communicate. More specifically for the pitching coaches: Have a vision for the team, with types of pitchers that fit. The pitching vision will translate those types of pitchers into specific role models. For examples of role models, see this AZ Snake Pit article scheduled to post Tuesday. Specific things the role models did to achieve success will be documented and shared with developing pitchers as appropriate. Nevertheless, as each pitcher develops certain unique talents that are key for his success – those unique talents will be documented and preserved.
What is an upgrade that the human body needs?
James: My life circumstances have me saying the body needs a way to help quickly adapt to a programme of weight loss. However, the more rational part of me says the human body needs a way to keep the mind from going. Sure, enhanced mental abilities would be nice, but really, just keeping mental faculties from ever declining would be a nice perk.
Jack: A much better bullshit detector
Makakilo: In the 2003 movie, They Live, a wanderer finds a pair of glasses that reveals subliminal messages and reveals that socially elite people are aliens. Seeing truth is an upgrade the body needs!