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The other night, on Comcast’s Mohegan Sun Sports Tonight, Gary Tanguay and Mike Felger brought up the role of a pitching coach in major league baseball.
Tanguay asked Felger something to the extent of “who can tell if a pitching coach is good or bad?”
Felger failed to make much comment on the subject, except asserting that the Red Sox should hire a Japanese-speaking pitching coach to “get through Daisuke’s thick skull.”
The conversation started when they brought up the Red Sox’s recent pitching coach hire, former Oakland Athletics’ pitching coach Curt Young. Felger and Tanguay kind of brushed it off like it was no big deal, although Terry Francona couldn’t disagree more.
“This an important hire,” Francona said after the team announced the agreement. “This a big deal and we’re really excited.”
But, as Tanguay so wisely put it, who can tell if he’s good or bad?
Look at the Oakland Athletics’ pitching staff this year, and it’s pretty obvious. At the beginning of the season, a glance at a starting rotation featuring Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson would make you say “who?”
By the end of the season, Cahill was commonly referenced as a consistent Cy Young award candidate and Dallas Braden exploded onto the scene with a perfect game and everything Red Sox fans like to see – a feud with Alex Rodriguez.
More importantly, by the end of the season, a glance at the Oakland Athletics’ pitching staff would show a team that led the majors in quality starts, ranked fourth in ERA and fifth in batting average against.
Sorry Tanguay, but Curt Young has got to get some love.
At the beginning of the season, Trevor Cahill wasn’t even a starter. He was looked at as a young prospect who would battle Gio Gonzalez for a starting spot. The 22-year-old finished the season at 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA, 118 strikeouts and 1.11 WHIP. Heading into the playoffs, he was listed among CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, Clay Buchholz and David Price as a potential AL Cy Young award winner.
Braden and Gonzalez also showed some promise. Braden’s eventful season (the kid threw a perfect game) ended with a 3.50 ERA, whereas Gonzalez closed out at 3.23, leading the team with 171 strikeouts. By the way, Braden is 27, and Gonzalez is 25. With injuries limiting 22-year-old Brett Anderson’s season, in which he posted a 2.80 ERA in 19 starts this year, this young Athletics team is going to miss Curt Young’s developmental talents for its pitching staff.
In fact, during Young’s tenure in Oakland, which ran from 2004 until the Red Sox hired him this week, the Athletics produced top pitching talent on a regular basis. In Justin Duchscherer’s third season in the majors, which happened to be Young’s first season in Oakland, he pitched in 53 games and carried an impressive 3.27 ERA. In comparison, he pitched a total of nine games in his first two professional seasons, with a rookie ERA of 12.27.
When Dan Haren first started working with Curt Young in Oakland, he threw 131 more strikeouts, even though he only pitched in 20 more games. That amounts to twice as many strikeouts per game upon the introduction of Curt Young.
Coming off the “Year of the Pitcher,” in which the Red Sox decided to stray from the pack, a solid pitching coach who can help turn young prospects into Cy Young award candidates is a must-have in Boston.
The Red Sox needed someone to replace the legendary John Farrell, who can be considered responsible for John Lester, Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz, Daniel Bard and Michael Bowden. After some consideration, it doesn’t seem they could have done better than hiring Curt Young, whether or not he gets the recognition he deserves.