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Rothschild At Blame For Prior & Wood?

By bullpenbrian at 11.23.2010 15 comments.

Dusty Baker is blamed for the downfall of both Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.
But what about former Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild?

Baker, of course, controlled the reins on how many pitches each threw and when they came out of the game. But does Larry get a free pass for not fixing the mechanical issues of Prior and Wood?

Then again, maybe Baker nor Rothschild is to blame. Perhaps, Jim Hendry’s inability to land more relief pitching during the 2003 season was the cause.

If during that season Baker had better bullpen options than Antonio Alfonseca (5.83 ERA), Juan Cruz (6.05 ERA) and Dave Veres (4.68 ERA), maybe he pulls Prior and Wood sooner than 120 pitches (I’m convinced he would have done so). Maybe that saves their careers, maybe not.

But despite the well publicized fall from grace of Prior and Wood, Rothschild is still considered one of the better pitching coaches in the game–and he should be. His nine-year run with Chicago produced sparkling numbers.

The Cubs’ team ERA has ranked in the top-five of the N.L. in each of the last three seasons. They led the majors in strikeouts in each of his first seven seasons, including striking out a Major League record 1,404 batters in 2003.

Rothschild’s 2007 staff recorded a 4.04 ERA, second in the N.L., and allowed just 1,329 hits–the lowest mark in baseball–the following campaign.

Those numbers give us reason to believe Rothschild isn’t to blame for Prior’s and Wood’s inexplicable decline, or his frustrating battles with Carlos Zambrano.

Rothschild fan or not, replacing his effectiveness won’t come easily. Just look how long it took Rudy Jaramillo to settle into his position as hitting coach.

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15 Comments

  1. Douglas Heeren says:

    Rothschild is just too stupid to understand what good pitching mechanics look like. I encourage all to vist chrisoleary.com and look at the reasons Prior and Wood got injured. Not many pitching coaches would pick up on this without looking at film.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      No lost love for Larry!
      I guess Dusty and Rothschild will always carry the fault of Prior and Wood with them!
      However, I wouldn’t label Larry as stupid.
      He is, after all, the pitching coach of the New York Yankees.
      That should stand for something.
      Chris O’Leary for Cubs pitching coach!

  2. Douglas Heeren says:

    Rothschild’s area of knowledge might not include pitching mechanics. Most pitching coaches can talk pitch counts and how to pitch hitters and look at film of hitters, it’s the good pitching coaches that have a philosphy of conditioning both physical and mental, that get their pitchers to be successful. Some of the guys I work with in amatuer league won’t listen and I’m assuming that is the case in the majors. But when you won’t listen in the majors and don’t win someone has to pay the price and it’s usually the manager and coaches and not the overpriced athletes.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Well said, Doug. Listening is definitely a skill.
      I think lots of guys, players & managers, stick in the majors on reputation alone.
      Just look at how many managers are recycled.
      You can’t sell me that there are no other Mike Quades in waiting.

  3. mb21 says:

    Some facts seem important here since they’re being avoided.

    Kerry Wood threw 140 pitches in high school and then pitched the end of game 2. He was injured in 1999, which 3 years before Rothschild took over. The best predictor of injuries is past injuries and he had a long history of them.

    Mark Prior’s mechanics are terrible. Sure, it would be awesome if pitching coaches changed mechanics, but they don’t. They tweak them a bit, they don’t change them.

    In just over 35,000 batters faced, the pitchers Rothschild has coached in his career that have faced at least 550 batters prior to coming to the Cubs, those pitchers have increased their strikeout rate by 2.2% and decreased their walk rate by 1.3%. Home run rate has remained the same. Fewer balls in play, fewer baserunners.

    Looking at the projections of all pitchers Rothschild has coached shows that they beat their strikeout rate projection and decrease their walk rate projection.

    That is all. Go back to ignoring facts.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Hey, man. Thanks for checking out the post.
      I read your article, too. Lots of solid research–love it!
      Seems we’re on the same page about Rothschild.
      He’s a good pitching coach based on the statistical numbers his staff put up.
      And as I said before…replacing Larry won’t some easily.
      There are plenty of qualified candidates for the opening, but Hendry must find the right fit.
      Chicago is relying heavily on developing many talented young arms in the coming years.
      We all know you win with pitching–S.F. Giants–and you won’t win without it.

  4. mb21 says:

    Odds are you don’t replace Rothschild with someone of the same caliber. He’s really good at his job. I’m not sure it really matters who they hire right now because as you said, they’re going to be developing pitchers for a few years. They won’t contend during that time. I’d look to see if you can lure Mike Maddux away from Texas. I think he’s the best in the game and I’d rather have him than his brother (and Maddux is my favorite player of all time).

    Doug, just so you know, there are many in the business and many analysts who couldn’t care less what Chris O’Leary has to say. There’s a good thread about that on The Book Blog. I think his writing is interesting, but it’s by no means superior to what others have written before. That being said, I agree with you about coaches being unable to get pitchers to change mechanics. That’s partly why they don’t even bother unless the player isn’t successful. Prior got drafted in the first round with bad mechanics and he wasn’t going to change them at that point. You don’t have that kind of success and change your mechanics. A good pitching coach wouldn’t ask the player to do so because it might screw them up more than it would help.

    As for injuries under Rothschild, there really haven’t been that many. Everybody remembers Wood and Prior, but both had issues long before they were even a Cub (Wood with injuries and Prior with bad mechanics). They also lost Lieber in 2002, but other than those 3, the Cubs haven’t lost a significant contributor to the rotation for a long period of time. That’s not because of Rothschild any more than blaming him for injuries is the right thing to do though. Pitchers just get injured. It’s what they do. The Cubs have had relatively good success keeping pitchers healthy for the most part.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      MLB21–some good points.
      I think Mike Maddux, however, is at home in Texas where he played his college ball at UT at El Paso.
      In addition, the Rangers have a good staff and a better chance to reach the postseason than our Cubs.
      Other than an absurd amount of dough, Maddux is better off in the Lone Star state than the North Side.

      I agree the Cubs have been fortunate to avoid a plethora of pitching injuries during Rothschild’s tenure.
      The organization, mainly the minor leagues, and Rothschild deserve that acknowledgment.

      I believe a pitching arm only has so many bullets in it.
      Some pitchers last longer than others, mechanically sound or not.
      But just keep throwing a baseball overhand and you’re asking for pain and possible injury.

      During my career as a baseball broadcaster I witnessed numerous young pitching talents get sidetracked by injury.
      There never appeared to be a definitive answer as to why some guys held-up physically and others didn’t.
      Of course, you speculate about a hurler’s mechanics, but ultimately, it seems where some guys are built for it others are not.
      Basically, as a pitching coach, there’s only so much that can be done to limit injury.
      Some guys, it seems, just run out of bullets.

  5. Douglas Heeren says:

    @mb21 I think what bothers most about Chris O’Leary is that he has researched something that many never thought of before(including you). Dr. Mike Marshall has stated that most pitching coaches are not qualified and just got their jobs because they knew someone. Now with the cost of running a major league team today, that’s probably not the case anymore. You can have all your little numbers but are your numbers any better than Chris O’Leary’s work because you can do math? Name the so-called people in the business that “could care less” what he has to say. Their are also those that could care less what Tom House, Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver have had to say about pitching also.. How many books do you own or have you even read on pitching? I have never stated that O’Leary’s work is “superior” to what others have written before. What I have said is that his work with “film sequence” and his comparisons to other pitchers whose careers have been injury free has never been done as far as I know and I’ve been following pitching and pitchers for about 35 years. And it’s not a matter of pitchers wanting to change their mechanics or refusing to do so. Many of the problems pitchers face are timing issues that are compounded due to differences in stride length being incorrect for arm length thus increasing the load being placed on the shoulder or elbow joint. Larry Rothschild teaches pitchers to drive off the pitching rubber are stride as far as they can and stay balanced. He teaches the pause and fall style. The problem with this is that all pitchers DO NOT have the same leg and arm lengths. If their arms are too short in ratio to the stride length they are using, they should be drop and drive types pitchers, something Rothschild is against. One of the reasons Mike Maddux is a good pitching coach is that he understands that not all pitchers can throw with the same style. He helps pitchers find the style that fits their body types. So what I am saying here is, don’t treat me like a dumb dummy because my I am more than glad to see Lou’s buddy Rothschild go down the road. Sure, Wood and Prior might have had problems before he got there but he didn’t do anything to help them fix the issues at hand. You make it sound like some sort of crime that something has an opinion differing from yours because you can do a little math and obviously are Rothschild’s biggest fan on the face of the earth. Next time you are a pitching coach and can teach college and high school kids how to find their correct arm slot and what pitches compliment their arm angle, I might care what you think. Otherwise..keep your Larry Rothschild worship to yourself. P.S.-I’m 48 yrs old and I still play hardball, I just don’t sit behind a computer and wish I WERE a ballplayer.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Doug: it never hurts to know someone when you’re looking for employment!
      And you might as well be talking about the broadcast business when you’re suggesting some pitching coaches reach the majors by connections–not credentials!

      Just for discussions…what are the pro’s and con’s of a guy like Mike Maddux joining the Cubs?
      How long would it take the pitching staff to adjust to new techniques…or does it depend solely on the individual?
      Does a new pitching coach have a chance to save Samardizija’s career or is his battle beyond mechanics and pitching styles?

  6. mb21 says:

    Oh, the high school coaching thing. Gotta love the old ones. They never get old.

    Ask yourself this, if Chris O’Leary’s work is any good, why is he so often ignored? Why do intelligent organizations like the Red Sox ignore him? Who is the guy? He’s not a trainer, scout or coach. No big deal though. He’s probably a physicist. Nope. Maybe he’s some kind of scientist though. Sorry. Ok, he’s got to be a doctor or a physiologist. Nope. He’s therefore an expert in biomechanics. After all, nobody would talk about the kind of stuff he does if they didn’t have some kind of knowledge and that’s all that’s left. But he’s not an expert in biomechanics either. So he’s actually not the least bit qualified when you start to think about it a little bit.

    No Rothschild worship here. Just facts. That’s all I care about and that’s all I will ever care about. Everybody has an opinion. Those are of no use to me when it comes to talking about baseball objectively. I gave up talking about the sport in a subjective manner years ago.

    Mike Marshall seriously? The man who makes retrospective statements to make him sound more intelligent and when he’s not doing that he’s coming up with goofy ideas that actual experts (doctors, scouts, coaches, physicists, etc.–all the things he is not) laugh at. Jeez. I thought we were past the Mike Marshall love. Didn’t that end a decade ago?

    I’m not making you sound like a dummy because I can do a little math. I’m questioning your ability to think critically when you ignore important facts that are necessary in forming the opinions we as humans have. If some doctor tells you he has an opinion of what might be wrong, you go see another doctor. If your accountant tells you that he’s been thinking and has an opinion as to how to maximize your account, you hire another accountant. If your lawyer tells you that he’s been thinking and that an opinion formed you hire another attorney. If some internet person tells you about his opinion on pitching mechanics and isn’t qualified to even offer them, you find an expert who is.

    And with all due respect to your coaching abilities, I literally could not care less what you think. I want facts. If you don’t have those, there’s no reason for people to take you seriously. I’m sorry if that offends you, but far too many terrible decisions are made because people have an opinion and often times those same people ignore facts that would have led to better decisions. So this has nothing to do with you having an opinion different than mine. Are you even aware that I did not even give my opinion? You don’t know what my opinion is. I didn’t even bother supporting an opinion with facts. I provided the facts. That was it. Your opinion doesn’t disagree with mine. The truth disagrees with your opinion.

  7. Douglas Heeren says:

    Your facts are arbitrary at best best. Just what I figured, you’re another stat geek that doesn’t play the game. And no, I’m not a high school coach. I have people that come to me for advice after watching me pitch. If you want real facts then why didn’t you interview each pitcher Rothschild coached and asked them how much his coaching helped them improve their game. You just had to get in a shot about me still playing. Just what I thought…..you never were much of a player and that hurts don’t it. I’ll leave it at that…that’s your pain.

  8. old side armer says:

    Just found the web site. Like what I see…gotta love the Cubs now. Harry would be proud of ya! Whoa…heated arguement. I took a look at mb21′s numbers and thought “so what” that’s what I would expect sinker ballers to do. When I pitched in the minors many, many years ago, I finally picked up the sinker and stop trying to strike guys out and I quit walking guys. The last year I pitched before a little thing called Viet Nam took me away, I walked seven batters in 141 innings of relief. I only struck out 107. The year before I walked 86 batters in 167 innings of relief and spot starting while striking out 202. But my ERA was much higher because I missed over the plate more often with fastballs and was always pitching with guys on base . In my opinion, one of the best pitching coaches in baseball is Dave Duncan. His guys just seem to keep winning. One of the reasons the Cardinals weren’t as good this year is that they let Joel Pineiro leave. In 2009, the Cardinals didn’t allow as many baserunners as this year. Sinker ballers will give up more groundball singles than power pitchers but also get more double plays. I would take more singles than extra base knocks. I don’t agree with the statement above of”pitchers get injured, it’s what they do”, that’s a bit ignorant. It’s also ignorant to take cheap shots back and forth on who plays and who doesn’t. Some guys just aren’t athletes. When I finally got back from SE Asia after a few tours in the jungle, my game was gone. I started playing town-team ball at the age of 40 and played until I was 54. My reflexes were shot and I didn’t want a liner taking off the old noggin’. I hope the Cubs can find some guy that knows more about pitching then this old retired hurler and the Cubs finally win a World Series before I lose all of my site. Adieu.

    • bullpenbrian says:

      Old Side Armer, thanks for checking in!
      I imagine surviving Vietnam puts the baseball career in perspective:)
      Dave Duncan is unquestionably one of the best teachers in pro ball.
      It’s unreal what the man accomplishes with re-treaded hurlers.
      I have no doubt Tony LaRussa’s success goes hand-in-hand with Duncan’s talents to train pitchers.
      I also respect the fact that Duncan stays true to his talents, declining any offers to become a big league skipper.
      Choose something to do and do it well!

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