Craig Calcaterra wrote yesterday about how manager Mike Scioscia’s job is probably safe despite the Angels’ recent struggles, but the same isn’t necessarily true about pitching coach Mike Butcher.
For one thing coaches tend to get the ax first–hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was fired in May–especially when the manager involved has been with the team for such a long time. And for another thing the Angels’ pitching staff has mostly been a mess.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times asked Butcher about fan criticism and the perception his job could be in jeopardy, and Butcher replied:
I’m not going to defend my job, because I know how good I am. I know what I bring to the table every day. I know I get these guys prepared. They work every day. Nothing is going to change the way I go about preparing the guys.
I’m always looking to improve, but as far as worrying about myself? I’m not. These last few weeks have been rough. We’re not pitching to our capabilities. Obviously, it shows. It’s never been about me when things are going good. When things go bad, you take it personal.
Scioscia also stuck up for Butcher, who’s been his pitching coach since 2006.
Before the All-Star break the Angels had the second-best ERA in the American League at 3.61, but since the All-Star break their staff ERA is a league-worst 5.58.
After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.
According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.
Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.
Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.