Not only did Dave Duncan talk the Cardinals into giving him a two-year contract when the rest of Tony La Russa’s coaching staff was offered only one-year deals, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that he’ll be the highest paid pitching coach in baseball.
According to Strauss he’ll get a base salary of around $750,000 per season, which still seems like a bargain given that most managers earn several times that much and teams regularly pay twice that for mediocre veteran bench players.
Putting a coach’s impact into wins and losses if often tough, but Duncan has been La Russa’s pitching coach for 28 seasons and has done an amazing job taking veterans off the scrap heap and turning them into viable contributors in St. Louis.
And of course he’s overseen the development of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright into elite starters. When one of the most successful pitching coaches of all time makes less than guys like Adam Everett, Alex Cora, and Juan Castro that either says MLB teams don’t actually think pitching coaches are that valuable or the Cardinals are getting a helluva deal with Duncan. Or maybe both, I suppose.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.