Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
In-Sain in the Head Game
2006-07-06 06:10
by Alex Belth

From time to time here at Bronx Banter, we talk about what kind of impact coaches have on a team, particularly the pitching and hitting coaches. I got to thinking about what a pitching coach brings to a team after running across a nice, long quote from the legendary pitching coach Johnny Sain in a 1973 Sports Illustrated article by Pat Jordan ("A Jouster with Windmills"):

"To become a pitching coach you have to start all over again. You have to get outside of yourself. You might have done things a certain way when you pitched but that doesn't mean it will be natural to someone else. For example, I threw a lot of sliders and off-speed pitches because I wasn't very fast. But that's me. I could also pitch with only two days' rest (he once pitched nine complete games in 29 days) whereas most pitchers need three and four, although I think they shouldn't. And I never believed much in running pitchers to keep them in shape. I've always felt a lot of pitching coaches made a living out of running pitchers so they wouldn't have to spend that same time teaching them how to pitch, something they were unsure of. It would be better to have those pitchers throw on the sidelines every day, than run. Things like this I learned on my own. I picked up everything by observation, which is the best teacher. Nothing came easy to me. I had to think things over and over more than guys with natural ability did. Maybe this has made it easier for me to get my ideas across to pitchers. It isn't that I'm so smart, because I know I'm not very smart at all. I don't know any answers. I don't give pitchers answers. I try to stimulate their thinking, to present alternatives and let them choose. I remind them every day of things they already know but tend to forget. I repeat things a lot, partly for them but also for my own thinking, to make sure what I'm saying makes senes...I don't make anyone like Johnny Sain. I want them to do what's natural for them. I adjust to their style, both as pitchers and people. I find some common ground outside of baseball that'll make it easier for us to communicate in general. I used to talk flying with Denny McClain all the time. Once you can communicate with a pitcher it's easier to make him listen to you about pitching. You know him better, too. You know when to lay off him, when to minimize his tensions, and also when to inspire him. That's why you've got to know him. Pitching coaches don't change pitchers, we just stimulate their thinking. We teach their subconscious mind so that when they get on the mound and a situation arises it triggers an automatic physcial reaction that they might even be aware of."

"Pitching coaches don't change pitchers, we just stimuate their thinking." I'd be curious to know how Ron Guidry feels about his first year as the Yankees' pitching coach, and how his pitchers feel about him.

2006-07-06 10:29:49
1.   JohnnyC
I love Ron Guidry and he's one of my favorite Yankees of all time but I would have been happier if Cashman's original choice for pitching coach, Joe Kerrigan, hadn't been vetoed by Mr. Torre. Kerrigan, while reportedly a real a-hole, has a philosophy of pitching backed up by actual experience coaching major league pitchers. Granted, his greatest strength is reclamation jobs on journeymen and veterans but he's also helped in developing a young Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. What good is he cooped up in the bullpen?
2006-07-06 10:47:52
2.   bp1
1 Hopefully he still had some influence. Wasn't that the mantra pre-season? Guidry is the on-the-bench and walk-to-the-mound guy, but Kerrigan is techno-wiz and will bring Guidry into the 21st Century as far as how to coach in today's major leauges?

Gator and Joe have definitely bonded this year. I've seen many instances where the cameras will spot Gator all red faced laughing on the bench next to Joe. Gotta wonder what that is all about.

I have no idea how Gator is performing this year. Is there anything he could have or should be doing to help Chacon and Aaron Small, or was their performance last year completely an aberration? Is there some Gator should be doing to help the Big Unit? Does he get any credit for Wang's emergence as one of the more dependable starters in the league?

It's really hard to gauge a coach's performance, for sure. I like Guidry - always have - and anyone who can lighten the mood in what can sometimes be a sullen dugout is ok in my book.

Dunno. I guess we'll find out years from now if he was/is any good as a pitching coach.

2006-07-06 11:46:00
3.   Coltre Hughes
"Gator and Joe have definitely bonded this year. I've seen many instances where the cameras will spot Gator all red faced laughing on the bench next to Joe. Gotta wonder what that is all about."

Laughing? Red-faced? hhhmmmm? What could that be about? MAYBE SOMEONE SAID SOMETHING FUNNY???? Jeez, ya don't need to analyze everything.

2006-07-06 11:47:04
4.   RZG
1 I never read (one way or the other)that Torre nixed Kerrigan as his pitching coach. That must have been an interesting story.
2006-07-06 11:54:17
5.   bp1
3 Well, duh. :-) It's just not something we typically saw in the dugout with Joe's other coaches. I'm glad to see it, but I'm not trying to "analyze" it. Gator seems like a good guy - a fun guy to have around. That tells me squat about his abilities as a pitching coach, but if he can lighten the mood on occasion in what can be a pretty serious-faced team, good for him.

But whatever.

2006-07-06 12:19:53
6.   Nick from Washington Heights
I got bp1's point. I didn't get Coltre Hughes' aggression. Whatever indeed.

I'm actually interested if anyone out there has noticed a signifant change in Yanks' pitchers' approach from last year. I don't know much about pitching but are the Yanks relying more on changing speeds, instead of location this year? I know that was one of the big knocks on Mel during his tenure.

2006-07-06 13:22:04
7.   Count Zero
3 Where did that come from?

6 I'm with you Nick -- don't really understand much about it. All I can see is the end result...which so far is:

Wang looks great -- which is the same as last year till he got hurt.

Mussina has had a resurgence. Not sure he listens to much coaching, though.

RJ is even worse than he was last year.

Chacon has fallen completely apart.

Joe is still abusing his bullpen to no end.

So...on no other intelligent basis, my grade would have to be C- for Gator so far.

2006-07-06 13:58:10
8.   Schteeve
Count Zero, so you give Gator no credit for Moose's resurgence because he probably doesn't listen to coaching, but you don't mitigate the fact that RJ has been worse this year with the same caveat?
2006-07-06 14:27:00
9.   markp
I'm as big a Torre sucks with RPs guy as anybody, but the past week (aside from a Proctor inning with a big lead) I think he's used guys pretty well. I doubt it continues, but maybe Gator's having an influence.
2006-07-07 05:42:56
10.   Count Zero
8 I do mitigate it -- that's why I gave him a C-. C would be no change...but Chacon's disaster is a negative. :-)

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