Monday, July 04, 2011

Ousted Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp was more of an experiment than most people realize

Sometimes a pitching coach can make a difference, but what I find curious about the Tigers decision to fire Rick Knapp abruptly Sunday is that his replacement, Jeff Jones, was already on staff as the bullpen coach.
I think Jones is a terrific pitching coach, and one of his specialties is teaching the cut fastball, which has become baseball's "in" pitch. But essentially Knapp's firing can only be viewed as addition by subtraction.
Billed as the guy who developed the Twins pitching staff in the minor leagues, he was an iffy hire to begin with because he had no experience pitching in the major leagues, nor had been a major league pitching coach before.
The only time it seems to work for a pitching coach, who didn't pitch in the major leagues, is when he teaches youngsters in an organization on their way up and gets the major league job with that team. Then, if he moves to another organization, he has established his credibility.
I've been told on a number of occasions it's a primary respect factor for getting the ear of major league pitchers.
It could also open the door for the Tigers to bring Steve McCatty back to their organization. He has had a lot of success in Washington, but there was a managerial change recently - and there could be another one after this season. Davey Johnson is essentially an interim manager whose long-term contract is that of a team consultant.
A replay of my video podcast Monday with sports editor Jeff Kuehn. Discussed Knapp firing, Red Wings off season so far - and other sports topics:

Video streaming by Ustream



Blogger Larry Baker said...

The only journalist to put this into a context other than "Leyland's Next". Ladies and gentlemen, this is why he's known among old-timers as "The Book"!

8:25 AM 
Blogger Joe Murray said...

I was surprised by the move. But I think it is a good indication that Dave Dombrowski is going for it all this year, so it was a positive sign for Tiger fans. He, no doubt, will be as ruthless in pursuing a player or two near the trade deadline.

I do wonder why Jeff Jones would be delivering a new message. Wasn't he already available to the pitchers? Couldn't he have taught a cut fastball if he wanted to, or was he prohibited from giving pitching advice? I think if they wanted to get a new voice, they would have elevated Jon Matlack. As a former All-Star, he certainly has more street cred than the bullpen coach.

9:54 AM 
Blogger Fred Brill said...

Amen Larry.

Knapp came to Detroit with the Minnesota label on the front - and this town respects the Twinkies more than their own Tigers - hard not to I guess given recent history.

That being said, I would be remiss not to confess that I have no idea what a pitching coach in the Major Leagues really does. I only assume they watch mechanics and try to bring things back in line.

Maybe we need a hypnotist instead - waving a watch and repeating "Be like Justin - throw like Justin - you ARE Justin" ...

But what do I know.

11:44 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Larry Baker,
The change wasn't made for perception. There have been concerns about Knapp within organization for awhile.

11:04 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Joe Murray,
I know Jon Matlock. Great coach. Terrific guy. But not sure if his demeanor would fit well in a 2000s major league clubhouse.

11:05 AM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Fred Brill,
Yeah. It was kind of at the time when the Tigers wanted to be the Twins in the worst possible way. But the Twins are a big-market team with a payroll even larger than the Tigers - and suffering many of the same issues- these days.

11:07 AM 

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