Saturday, May 07, 2005

George is Right: Stottelmyre's Done Nothing

One huge mystery for me is why George hasn't fired Mel Stottelmyre yet. What has the guy done? As Mets pitching coach, he may have ruined Doc Gooden's career (see "The Bad Guys Won!" about the '86 team and how Mel tinkered with Gooden too much), and as Yankee pitching coach, hasn't done a whole lot.

It's usually difficult to judge pitching coaches. After all, if you have great pitchers, anyone can coach them. And conversely, the greatest pitching coach can only do so much with a crappy set of arms.

One test is usually to see a difference in a pitcher's performance under one pitching coach as opposed to someone else. With that in mind, I think Leo Mazzone and Dave Duncan are two of the best in the game today. Mazzone has brought out the best of perennial scrubs like John Burkett and Jaret Wright, while Duncan has turned retreads like Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan into pretty solid pitchers. And both teams have usually had well-stocked bullpens, often with no-names who do pretty well, like Atlanta's Chris Reitsma and the Cards' Julian Tavarez. And in Oakland, Duncan took a couple of mediocre pitchers and turned them into superstars - Dennis Eckersley and Dave Stewart (not to mention Bob Welch).

Other great coaches include Orel Hersheiser in Texas, who got the most out of guys like Ryan Drese in last year's improbable run. Ray Miller turned around the O's pitching staff when he took over in middle of last year, and may be able to get that team back into contention (Erik Bedard had 12 Ks the other night).

But can you name me one pitcher in recent vintage who has done better as a Yankee than when he was elsewhere? Mussina's tailed off quite a bit since leaving Baltimore, Clemens, Pettitte, and Lieber haven't skipped a beat since leaving NY, and even David Cone followed up his horrible '00 with a decent year in Boston.

Back in '96, everyone made a big deal about how Mel rejuvinated Doc Gooden's career. Big deal. He had a few decent starts, threw a no-hitter, but was so tired by the end of they year he wasn't even on the playoff roster.

Can you credit Stottelmyre with teaching Rivera the cut fastball? Nope. In an interview with the Sporting News, Mo said, "That pitch I call my "bless pitch" because it just happened. It just came out of nowhere. I was throwing the ball with Ramiro Mendoza, and the ball was moving. I never threw it in a game. 1 was a four-seam fastball pitcher; that's all I did in '95 and '96. In '97, the hall started doing a dance, moving and moving. One day, I thought I'd put it in practice; let's see what happens. And since that day, the ball was moving like crazy--going into the lefties and away from the righties. The rotation was like my fastball rotation, so they couldn't pick up the speed. They thought it was a fastball, but when they were swinging, the ball was in on their hands. Now, I just throw it anytime. Now I've mastered it."

One day, we'll look back at the best pitching coaches of this era and talk about Leo Mazzone, Dave Duncan, maybe even Ray Miller. But Mel Stottelmyre doesn't deserve even a footnote in that conversation.

1 comment:

David said...

Another one-sided post. I like Mazzone too but its funny how you fail to mention Jason Schmidt and Jason Marquis - both pitchers who did leaps and bounds better after leaving Leo. Things aren't as black and white as you seem to think they are.