Dave Righetti, who mentored a Cy Young winner and World Series MVP, while shepherding three different staffs to championships, is out as the Giants’ pitching coach. For the first time in 18 seasons, it will be someone else walking out to the mound to explain to pitchers just how they’re screwing up.
I knew changes were coming. I didn’t think this would be one of them.
Righetti will be a special assistant to the general manager. Also reassigned were Mark Gardner, who moves from bullpen coach to a special assignment role specializing in pitching evaluation, and Steve Decker, who moves from assistant hitting coach to a special assistant for baseball operations.
Righetti joined the team in 2000, helping a young pitching staff that thrived in the second half and pushed the Giants to the best record in baseball. He presided over the pennant-winning staff in 2002, the 100-win team in 2004, whatever in the hell happened that, and the three championship teams in 2010, 2012, and 2014. It seemed as if he was the rare pitching coach who was an institution and wouldn’t leave until it was time to retire. But like Leo Mazzone with the Braves, there’s apparently a sense that too much familiarity is a bad thing.
As for the new pitching coach, GM Bobby Evans said he has a template in mind.
For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach.
The Giants finished with a 4.50 ERA, which translated to a 94 ERA+, well below-average, but a lot of that had to do with the injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto (as well as the wretched outfield defense), so it didn’t seem likely that Righetti would take a lot of blame for that.
It’s the new voice they’re after, then. With millions invested in Cueto, Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Moore, the Giants are looking for a fresh set of eyes. At Pitch Talks in October, someone brought the possibility of a coaching change, and my response is that it would be very tricky from the outside to see when the game has changed directions and the pitching (or hitting) coach didn’t swerve the same way, but that it would be much easier to see internally. The Giants realize that they’re in a strange, dinger-saturated era, and they’re looking for someone else to explain how these dingers can be stopped.
Which makes sense. It’s more than a little stunning, though.
There will be more changes coming. Phil Nevin is apparently still a candidate to manage the Phillies, and the futures of both Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus are uncertain. Andrew Baggarly suggested that Meulens could move to the bench coach spot and be groomed for a post-Bochy future, which would be pretty rough for Wotus, but it also appears that the Giants are willing to keep creating new special assistant roles for the people who want to stay with the organization.
There will be a new pitching coach in 2018, however, and it’s probably someone you’ve heard of. If the Giants are looking for someone analytically oriented, Brian Bannister is the assistant pitching coach for the Red Sox and also a vice-president of pitching development, which seems to be a desirable combo, but that’s just me pulling a name out of my backside. The Giants might want more experience than that, but I’m sure they know what they’re doing.
If anything, this is a sign that nobody is particularly safe, on or off the field. If Righetti can be reassigned, Hunter Pence doesn’t have to be a starting right fielder, for example. And there’s almost certainly going to be a new hitting coach, it would appear. The Buster Posey Era is limping to its inevitable conclusion, and the Giants are looking for someone who can kickstart something brand new.