After a disappointing season, change was inevitable
In a rather oddly-timed press release – the email being sent out at 5:43 am this morning – the Arizona Diamondbacks report the following in regard to their coaching staff.
The Arizona Diamondbacks announced the following members of Torey Lovullo’s coaching staff will return for the 2022 season:
Mike Fetters – Bullpen Coach
Dave McKay – First Base Coach
Tony Perezchica – Third Base Coach
Luis Urueta – Will assume a new role on the Major League coaching staff
Chris Cron/Coach, Robby Hammock/Quality Control & Catching Coach and Matt Herges/Pitching Coach will not return to the Major League coaching staff. Drew Hedman/co-Hitting Coach and Rick Short/co-Hitting Coach will not return as the Major League head hitting coach.
None of the above was a surprise, as first Zack Buchanan, then Nick Piecoro, had broken the news of the impending changes last week. But given the team’s plummet, both from the previous year’s record and from expectations, it was almost inevitable that some changes would be coming. It was more a question of who would be going. The team had fired original hitting coach Darnell Coles and his assistant Eric Hinske in June, promoting Short and Hedman. They had respectively been Triple-A Reno’s hitting coach and something called a “Run Production Coordinator”. The general feeling at the time was that these promotions were only temporary, and that was indeed the case.
The struggles of the pitching staff were even more extreme, and it was a bit of a surprise that Herges survived the full season. The team finished with an ERA of 5.11, the worst in the NL. They had been tenth, at 4.84, in the shortened 2020 campaign, and seventh (4.25) in the 2019 season, before Herges arrived, so the trend under him had not been encouraging. [Pitchar age this year on the team was 28.5, almost identical to the 28.6 figure from 2019, so we can’t obviously say he was working with less experienced hurlers] On the basis of pure performance, it is perhaps surprising Mike Fetters is returning – the bullpen lost what would have been an MLB record 41 games, except for the Nats’ relief corps losing 42 this year.
However, with all the coaches, what we see as fans is just a tiny fraction of what goes on. It’s the same as for the manager: the in-game decisions we are privy to, are almost irrelevant, beside the work behind the scenes, to form the roster into a cohesive whole. For coaches, it’s even more the case. All we really saw Fetters do was wave his cap towards the dugout, to signify a reliever was ready. While the bullpen performance this year definitely left a vast amount to be desired, so did the mix of waiver-wire dumps and low-level prospects given to Fetters. But we don’t know 99% of the information which went into these decisions, and it’s therefore hard to criticize or praise them.
About the one decision on which everyone appears to be agreed is, it’s a good thing that Dave McKay is returning. It certainly felt like his presence was sorely missed by the team, both in the outfield and on the base-paths. In last year’s shortened season, the team made just two outfield errors; this year, the Diamondbacks committed sixteen, and UZR/150 there collapsed from 6.4 to 0.4. The team stole 43 bases, less than half the number (88) they did over the 2019 campaign. The loss of McKay for much of the year, due to a fall in the dugout, seems to have been a significant factor. Though he turns 82 before next Opening Day, and you do have to wonder how many more seasons he will be around.
The process of searching for replacements is no doubt already under way. On the one hand, candidates will be joining a last-place team, who finished 55 games back in their division. Hardly an appealing prospect. But on the other, the only way to go is up. It wouldn’t surprise me if the team ended up going for a relatively young and/or inexperienced crew – people who will be hungry for the opportunity, and perhaps willing to roll the die on new and innovative ideas. But we’ll see what happens.