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Posts Tagged ‘Larry Rothschild’

The One that Got Away

For those of you haven’t heard, Cliff Lee surprised just about everyone by deciding to sign with the Phillies. The move is an unqualified disaster for the Yankees and Brian Cashman, who had bet the farm (and the team’s immediate future) on signing the ace lefty. Combined with Boston’s wheeling and dealing, and Andy Pettitte’s possible (and likely) retirement, the Yanks may not be in serious contention for a playoff spot: Boston hasn’t only improved themselves, but so have the Tigers, Twins and White Sox. The Yankees look like they’re headed into the season with a two man rotation. (CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes),  a depleted bench and shaky bullpen. Ouch.

So, what to do now?

1. Trade for for a starter: use some of the Yankees minor-league depth to acquire a proven, front-end starter. Unfortunately, two best rumored to be available, Zack Greinke and Carlos Zambrano, are both head cases. Greinke is a former Cy Young winner. He’s rumored to want out of Kansas City. He’s young. He’s also had problems handling stress – and suddenly being cast as the “savior” of the 2011 season for the New York Yankees has a good chance of stopping his 2011 season before it starts. Not too mention that KC would want half of the Yankees farm sytem in return. Zambrano has top of the rotation stuff and the “Big Z” certainly has delivered both wins and quality starts in the past. But he’s also the poster child for petulance – and does anyone really think Larry Rothschild wants to be reunited with the Cubs ace?
2. Promote Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi: the last time the team slotted two rookies into the rotation was in 2008. Enough said on that idea. Although it may be the only option left.
3. Sign Carl Pavano: stopped laughing yet? Remember, this is the same front office that sent a popular outfielder and LH relief prospect to bring in a past failure who would eat innings, coming off a good season. That didn’t work out so well, but Cashman may well be considering the idea. After all, none of us thought he’d bring back Javier Vazquez, either.
4. Put Joba Chamberlain back in the rotation: no matter how much they say otherwise, this team loves jerking the kid around. He’s been everything from Mo’s heir to doghouse sitter so far. As much as they’ve been saying that Joba is in the pen for 2011, no doubt the brass has to be seriously reconsidering that idea at the moment.
5. Ride it out and wait for 2012: there are some big time prospects headed this way in 2012. Players like Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, Austin Romine and Brandon Laird. It smacks of the late 80s Yankees, who kept buying stop-gap major leaguers while waiting for the farm to deliver. (Anyone remember how Roberto Kelly was going to save the franchise?)

6. Stockpile relievers, realizing that half of the team’s innings need to come from the ‘pen: great idea, except free-agent relievers rarely work out as intended. The only high-upside reliever left on the market is Rafael Soriano and it’s hard to see the Yankees singing another closer.

Then, there’s my personal favorite…

7. Bring in a player personnel guy. Cashman has proven astute on the business side of baseball and made the Steinbrenner family a ton of money, so its no wonder they love the guy. But his personnel moves leave a lot to be desired. Its simply insane that the team with the highest payroll has holes, and this one now needs a 4th and 5th starter, a set-up reliever, a 4th outfielder and utility infielder. When you look at the players he’s brought in versus who he’s let go, well… that’s a whole other post.

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Bryan Hoch reports that the Yankees have signed Larry Rothschild as their new pitching coach, replacing the summarily dumped Dave Eiland. ESPN’s Wallace Matthews reports Rothschild has a three year deal, worth $2 million.

I’m  not certain this represents a significant upgrade. The move admittedly has me scratching my head, especially in light of some better options (like Scott Aldred and Leo Mazzone) still available.

Quick recap of Rothschild’s career: he pitched a very ugly 7 games over parts of two season with the Tigers in the early 1908’s (career WHIP: 1.9; career K/9: 1.1), after being a rule 5 draft pick . He surfaced in 1990 as the Red’s bullpen coach, being promoted to pitching coach for Cincinnati for 1992 and 93. He then worked as a minor league instructor for the Braves before resurfacing as the Marlins pitching coach from 1995 -97. He served from 1998 – 2001 as the first manager in Tampa Bay’s history and has been the Cubs pitching coach since 2002.

My concern is that the Yankees signed a guy with a big name in baseball circles, but not necessarily one that fits the Yankee pitching staff well. Rothschild is known for stressing strikeouts from his pitchers – not necessarily a great idea when your staff has AJ Burnett, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and David Robertson, all pitchers known for getting in trouble while nibbling for K’s when a ground ball would do just fine. And despite all of those strikeouts his teams have captured over the years, they really haven’t shone when the pressure was on or been great at keeping runners off base. Consider the 2003 Cubs: despite setting a NL record with over 1400 strikeouts, the staff WHIP was 1.3; relatively pedestrian. The Cubs had a staff ERA of 5.71 during that postseason. Let’s also not forget that Rothschild is a pitching coach noted for blowing out pitchers arms: Jose Rijo, Rob DibbleMark Prior and Kerry Wood all suffered career-altering arm troubles on Rothschild’s watch.

For now, I’ll withhold final judgement until I see how this pans out. If he can get AJ and Joba straightened out without ruining the rest of the staff, then Rothschild was the right hire. But right now I think this move is dicey.

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