The Pittsburgh Pirates essentially have a new coaching staff. With spring training getting underway, it is time to see what these new coaches are truly about.
One of the consistent messages that have come out of the Pittsburgh Pirates spring training so far is that the players seem happy with the new coaching staff. Now obviously no player is going to walk in on the first day of camp and criticize the new path an organization is going toward. However, it is also encouraging to see players reenergized and approving of going into a more modern way of thinking about the game.
If anything, that has been the most consistent thing to take from the players positivity about the new coaches. They seem excited to get to work with the new staff as well as taking a new approach to improve themselves. It really makes it seem like the previous coaching regime really did fall behind the rapidly evolving game and had a more old school approach.
Coaches like Clint Hurdle and Ray Searage seemed like they wanted to do things the way they always had instead of adapting to the changes in the game. They more or less tried the “one size fits all” approach or the “square peg in a round hole” (see Gerrit Cole post Pittsburgh).
With a new regime comes a new philosophy. New manager Derek Shelton has been considered one of the premier hitting coaches in baseball. He had a lot of success in his six seasons with Joe Maddon in Tampa, helping develop young hitters for the small-market team. Then last year he was with the Minnesota Twins as a bench coach and helped a lot of their younger hitters develop as well. In fact, the Twins led the league in home runs last year and actually set a record for homers in a season.
Then there is new pitching coach Oscar Marin, the former bullpen coach for the Texas Rangers. He is just 37 years of age and is considered to be one of the better up and coming pitching minds in baseball. He gets a lot of credit for helping veterans like Lance Lynn and Mike Minor have midcareer resurgences last season, both having ERAs in the mid 3.00’s. Lynn hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00 since 2017, but he posted a 3.67 in 2019. Meanwhile, Minor had a career ERA of 3.97 before last season but brought it down with a solid 3.59 ERA last year.
Are the Pittsburgh Pirates a great team? No, they are not, they have a glaring hole at the top of their rotation and need more production from their lineup. However, to say that the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to be bad in 2019 because they did nothing to improve the team is not necessarily true.
The team replaced two of the most important coaching positions on the roster and a lot of the Front Office. Give the new coaches a chance to implement their philosophies and strategies to the team, let the Front Office actually use analytics the way other teams use them. It is very clear that the previous regime was stubborn and even more evident that they were not able to develop young talent.
Pittsburgh Pirates fans need to give Shelton a chance to work and continue to develop these large number of young hitters the Bucs have on their team. The same can be said for the pitchers. Maybe Marin can help Mitch Keller reach his potential, obviously, Ray Searage could not (see Gerrit Cole and Tyler Glasnow). Or maybe he can help Chris Archer get back to being at least a respectable pitcher the way he did with Lance Lynn and Mike Minor.
The important thing here is to remember that the Pittsburgh Pirates have a younger, more analytically driven coaching staff that could lead this team to be better than most expect. Yes, they did not change much of the roster, so it is hard to envision this team truly making a playoff push. Still, that does not mean this team, or at least certain players, cannot take a step forward in 2020. Just give the new regime a chance to continue to progress these players.