PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks lost 110 games in the 2021 season, the pitching staff posted a 5.11 team ERA and had a league-worst 52 wins as a unit.
In the ensuing offseason, the D-backs hired pitching coach Brent Strom who started the revival in Arizona after the lackluster year.
Strom took over a pitching staff that consisted of Madison Bumgarner, Zac Gallen, Merril Kelly, Luke Weaver and one new offseason addition in Zach Davies.
Weaver has since been moved to the bullpen in place of Humberto Castellanos.
In just 31 games (17-14) since Strom has taken over the pitching coach duties, the D-backs have cemented themselves as one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.
Before Tuesday’s matchup against the Miami Marlins, the top three in the rotation of Gallen (0.95), Kelly (1.22) and Bumgarner (1.50) had three of the top-10 ERAs in the National League. No other NL club had two.
Pick your poison. pic.twitter.com/DfJKH283Fk
— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) May 10, 2022
So what changed?
Strom said to start, the team is throwing a lot more off-speed pitches and really trying to stay ahead of hitters.
“Isn’t that the trend in baseball these days? It’s a confidence factor,” Strom said. “Although you see Gallen throwing more fastballs, he just has confidence in his off-speed pitches. The fastball can be utilized as an off-speed pitch.
“When you get a hitter thinking about off-speed, then the fastball is a change of pace. We always think the change of pace to be lower, but it can be higher too.”
Strom has some experience coaching some of the best in the game, working with Dallas Keuchel in 2015 and Justin Verlander in 2019 during their Cy Young-winning seasons with the Houston Astros.
He also was a major factor in the growth of current New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole when the ace was acquired by Houston from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cole finished second in Cy Young voting in 2019 to his teammate Verlander.
Strom thinks that Gallen reminds him so much of the $324 million man in Cole that the similarities are uncanny in the way they both dominate on and off the mound.
“(Gallen) locates his fastball to the glove side as well as anyone I have ever had,” Strom said. “Like I have said in the past, I have had pitchers with better fastballs, I have had pitchers with better individual curveballs, better individual sliders and better individual changeups. But I’ve never had anybody with all four like what he brings to the table.”