Murti: What We Know About The Yanks' New Pitching Coach

News And Notes On The Pinstripes

Sweeny Murti
November 08, 2019 - 1:49 pm
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Matt Blake is the new Yankees Pitching Coach.

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Who is he? Part of the new breed. Prior to joining the Cleveland Indians three years ago in Player Development and as a Pitching Coordinator, Blake spent seven years as Pitching Coordinator at Cressey Sports Performance, a factory similar to Driveline. And Driveline, coincidentally, is where the Yankees found Sam Briend who they named Director of Pitching earlier this year.

Someone who has worked with Blake told me he is “extremely smart on the analytic side but doesn’t have much actual coaching experience. That might be the challenge, but it might not. He’s easy going, but very smart.”

We will learn much more about the organizational shift in choosing their new pitching coach. But it’s clear that the analytic movement in the organization is growing more roots.

Some other thoughts as we close out the first full week of the baseball offseason:

*We talk so much about when the Yankees miss on starting pitching, we forget sometimes how big their hits are. They covered the last 19 years with Mike Mussina and CC Sabathia. When they do reach for the top of the market, they get what they came for. Being able to stay healthy in your mid to late 30’s—that’s a big key when you talk about getting free agent pitchers. It wasn’t as easy to do for Sabathia.

Could Gerrit Cole be the next big fish the Yankees try to land in free agency? It’s probably not a question that will be answered early in the offseason.

*Didi Gregorius did not get a qualifying offer attached to his free agency, so it will be interesting to see if he gets multi-year opportunities elsewhere. I wrote earlier this summer how he could very easily be in line for a 5 year, $100 million deal, but after a subpar half-season coming back from Tommy John surgery, that doesn’t seem likely. 

New York Yankees' Didi Gregorius reacts after scoring on a double by second baseman DJ LeMahieu (26) during the seventh inning of Game 1 of an American League Division Series baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in New York
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

While shortstop doesn’t seem to be a big need for many teams, I found it interesting to see Didi tweet his congratulations to Joe Girardi (Phillies) and Carlos Beltran (Mets) for their new managerial gigs. Last summer the Mets discussed moving Amed Rosario to centerfield. Would they be willing to do so again?  The Phillies have Jean Segura, but need a third baseman, which might not be a bad position for Didi.  He has the arm for it and played there for the Dutch WBC team in 2017 when his buddy Andrelton Simmons played shortstop. 

That’s not to say the door is closed on Gregorius returning to the Yankees. While he doesn’t measure as highly on defensive metrics as the Yankees would like, Didi is a sure-handed leader in the infield. And if the Yankees still value leadership and culture he can be a big part of it.

*Aaron Judge won the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year for right field. It’s a pretty significant award to show how good a defensive player Judge has become. He didn’t play enough games this year to qualify for a Gold Glove, and he probably wasn’t going to beat out Mookie Betts in an award that still has some popularity and incumbency built into it. No slight at Betts, he’s a phenomenal player and well-deserving. 

But I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with Brett Gardner about Judge two years ago. We both marveled a bit at how willing Judge was to throw his body around the field. And it wasn’t in a reckless way. Gardner told me that Judge will start pulling down Gold Glove Awards as soon as he starts timing those balls at the fence and pulling back home run balls on a semi regular basis. Those are the kinds of highlight reel plays that stick in the minds of managers and coaches who still get a vote in the GG process.

*Thinking some more about Larry Rothschild’s nine-year run as Yankees pitching coach. I don’t think he gets enough credit for three things.

One, helping Masahiro Tanaka through his partially torn UCL and continuing to pitch at a high level.

Two, helping CC Sabathia transition with less velocity and mounting physical problems.

Three, helping turn Dellin Betances into an All-Star and one of the best relievers in baseball.

I’ll add a fourth, though I know many fans who don’t buy this, it doesn’t mean it’s not true. Aroldis Chapman’s slider turned into a legit weapon under Rothschild’s watch. Just because he hung one to Jose Altuve doesn’t change that. 

Rothschild and the man he replaced, Dave Eiland have four World Series rings between them. They were doing something right along the way. But times are changing and the Yankees are among many teams moving into the new age of coaching.

You can follow Sweeny on Twitter (@YankeesWFAN)

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