BP to stay

Dave · October 27, 2004 at 6:19 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Hargrove has retained Bryan Price as pitching coach for the 2005 season, choosing the organization’s recommendation over his friend, Mark Wiley. However, Price is entering the final year of his contract, and I’d imagine that this is probably his last season as Mariner pitching coach. If the team’s pitching struggles, Hargrove will likely look to replace him with his own man. If the team turns it around, Price will have suitors elsewhere, and the cost of keeping him could be prohibitive.


34 Responses to “BP to stay”

  1. Adam B. on October 27th, 2004 8:05 am

    I’ve often wondered just how much effect an “elite” pitching coach has over the average schmoe?

    Certainly their are proven examples of pitching coaches who could be considered elite, but is this just a circumstantial congregation of the right talent, in the right place, at the right time, or is there more to coaching pitchers then minding your IP’s and K’s and not being a complete wanghead?

    I guess what I’m saying is, would losing BP even be a big deal?

    Oh, and I’m not entirely sure that this is BP’s last year as a Mariner no matter what his performance–This is (was?) a team that has GENEROUSLY overpaid Dan Wilson for the last four years.

  2. Paul Molitor Cocktail on October 27th, 2004 8:49 am

    Rene Lachemann is now the Oakland bench coach.

  3. Metz on October 27th, 2004 8:49 am

    What sort of salary does a pitching coach get? How can it be prohibitive to keep him when the team is talking about almost $20 million a year for certain players? Certainly paying BP shouldn’t be an issue. I do agree with Adam questioning the impact a pitching coach has on a team. While it’s true that even the best PC can’t turn a sows ear into a silk purse, I don’t think there is any way to measure what the difference is between a good PC and a bad one.
    Certainly you can rely on a huge body of empirical evidence like Leo Mazzone’s work in Atlanta and call him a great PC, but what can you measure when the time frame is 5 years? it would be a good BP study to take a look at pitching performance before arriving in Seattle and during to see if pitchers have improved. You have to factor out park effects and team defense though.

  4. Troy on October 27th, 2004 9:05 am

    The real question is, do we even want to keep him? Personally, I wouldn’t have been heartbroken to see him go.

  5. Evan on October 27th, 2004 9:31 am

    Three years ago I would have been heartbroken to see him go. Now, not so much.

    But he’s free.

  6. Xerxes on October 27th, 2004 9:37 am

    Prohibitive?? What does that mean?

  7. Jon Wells on October 27th, 2004 10:27 am

    I find it hard to believe that Price’s salary demands will make his return in 2006 unlikely. Most major league coaches make around $100,000, or about a third of the major league minimum salary for players (that’s right, some of the M’s coaches last year, like Dave Myers, made a third of what Willie Bloomquist got!). Yes, there are exceptions but that still wouldn’t make the cost prohibitive. The information I have is that there still hasn’t been a coach that gets paid even $1 million a year, not even Atlanta’s wunderkind pitching coach Leo Mazzone. If I had to guess, I’d say Price’s salary under his current deal, is somewhere in the $350,000 to $550,000 range (remember, Bo Mel was only going to get $550,000 for managing in 2005…)

  8. Ryan L. on October 27th, 2004 10:52 am

    Are you suggesting that Dave Myers actually DESERVED to make more than Bloomquist?

  9. tyler on October 27th, 2004 10:58 am


    once again, pound foolish and penny-wise. Why would a professional team overpay mediocre talent like Willie, Sand-Frog, et. all and then underpay coaching.

    a smart team would consider offering a definitive upper-tier pitching coach/hitting coach etc. excessive money to LURE them away from the competition and to your team.

    Not doing so is just asanine, unless you believe all coaches at the professional level are equal, therefor it makes no difference. And if you believe that, why would you ever hire or fire any coach?

    Coaches are woefully underpaid unless they have a huge name attached to them and are at the “top” level… (Parcells, Pinella, Riley, etc.)

    I don’t see how you can invest so much money into the roster and then just grab 3-5 buys off the street to direct them to be successful. The best coaches help maximize the ability of players, and they are paid a pittance in comparison? the logic is flawed.

    How many of us have even given very much thought to the importance of top-tier coaches for next year’s team? We were all excited/filled with trepidation about who the next manager would be… and spent a great deal of time talking about the possibilities.

    The same for free agents.

    And none for coaches, aside from Bryan Price (who we still, despite his relative fame in the area, have no definitive stance on)…

    Seems like typical FO perspectives may be a tad old fashioned in regard to creating the proper staff, just as they are in evaluating players…

  10. Matt S. on October 27th, 2004 11:52 am

    Rick Peterson, Dave Duncan, Mazzone, and possibly some other guys I’m leaving out truly are “elite,” IMO, and would be well-worth entering into a bidding war for. Mazzone’s record speaks for itself, as does Duncan’s, each in terms of using retreads to get strong performances from. There’s been a chicken-and-egg problem in evaluating Peterson based on his Oakland stint, but his reputation is stellar and he is always on the forefront of new methods and technologies.

    As for the rest of the guys … I’m sure I’m leaving out some quality coaches, but collectively, I doubt they are very important beyond monitoring innings, trying to help with mechanics and training, watching for guys tipping their pitches, etc.

  11. IgnatiusReilly on October 27th, 2004 12:08 pm

    Oh yes, thanks for reminding me…Myers is GONE! Huzzah! Next year it will be nice to see the M’s promote a coach from their minor league system if we expect to see any of Blackley / Nageotte / Felix / etc.

  12. Brent Overman on October 27th, 2004 12:21 pm

    You can through Don Gullett in there too. He’s made something out of nothing for years in Cincinnati.

    It’s hard to evaluate pitching coaches. There’s guys with a track record for success and they’ve been mentioned, but after the turnover we had with Piniella until Bryan Price came around, it allows us to see what he’s capable of over a longer term. Meaning, are his guys getting hurt? Can he salvage a reclamation project? Can he be strong enough to emphasize his say with the manager to keep him from overworking a young arm?

    After last year, BP’s jury is out, and we’ll know if he’s average or the real deal after this next year, if he’s that good of a pitching coach.

  13. Grant on October 27th, 2004 12:51 pm

    I’m happy with the off-season so far, of all the candidates seriously considered I liked Hargrove the best- we got him, but I thought he needed a good pitching coach. Of the two candidates for pitching coach Wiley and Price, I feel like price is much better- he was retained. I feel like the time is on the right track even though we won’t really know until we see what free agents we get, but the two moves made thus far have me feeling optimistic.

  14. Grant on October 27th, 2004 12:52 pm

    I feel like the off-season is going well
    I feel like the time is right on track

  15. Evan on October 27th, 2004 1:27 pm

    I forgot Snelling-killer Myers was fired. That ROCKS!

  16. rockymariner on October 27th, 2004 2:23 pm

    Nice to see Myers gone!
    I seem to recall a steady stream of failed pitching coaches under Piniella until BP came along. Last year seemed like an aberration but it is hard to tell with not a lot of years to look at.. Still I would give him the benefit of the doubt so far………….

  17. TroutMaskReplica on October 27th, 2004 2:41 pm

    I wish Hargrove had gone with Mark Wiley as pitching coach. I would’ve liked to have seen the M’s “wipe the slate clean” with their coaching staff. Recently, M’s pitching has been erratic at best, and maybe a new perspective would do our young pitchers good…

  18. tyler on October 27th, 2004 2:54 pm

    something to remember.. .not all change is good.. some would smell downright fishy. Wiley didn’t exactly distinguish himself in past posts…

  19. Deanna on October 27th, 2004 3:16 pm

    #15 Yeah. Snelling-killer and the kind of guy who tells Olerud to run at 3rd on a close play… damn glad Myers is gone. We should get Joey Cora to replace him!

    (Yeah, yeah, I know. Just kidding.)

  20. Ryan on October 27th, 2004 3:30 pm

    Just seconding the opinion that there’s no way Price could become “cost-prohibitive” in ’06. If he leaves after this season it won’t be because he’s too costly. If that’s the case, the Mariners will have regressed to 1983 and you might as well write off the next 15 years and look to fans of Kansas City for tips on how to follow a small market team.

  21. DMZ on October 27th, 2004 3:46 pm

    Ummm.. or we could just remember baseball here in the 1980s. Ahhhhh… fake nose-and-glasses night.

  22. Jon Wells on October 27th, 2004 4:48 pm

    #8 Jon — Are you suggesting that Dave Myers actually DESERVED to make more than Bloomquist? Comment by Ryan L. — 10/27/2004 @ 10:52 am

    Defintely not. If you were at a game at Safeco last year and saw a guy in the first row by third base yelling at Dave Myers “WORST THIRD BASE COACH. EVER. —- that was me. Of course I did the same thing to Melvin whenever I had seats near the M’s dugout…

  23. IgnatiusReilly on October 27th, 2004 5:21 pm

    A group of friends and I went to opening day this year, and when Myers was announced, we all booed as loudly as possible. You should have seen the looks of astonishment at all the people around us. I guess he has a bobblehead, so we were supposed to like him.

  24. Ryan L. on October 27th, 2004 6:47 pm

    Its too bad sarcasm doesn’t translate well to a written medium. I could have added that “Snelling-Crippler” wasn’t even worth a 1/3 of Bloomquist. On a side note, as a result of the Safeco “Bobblehead Myers” commercial, I decided to never use Safeco for anything (well, Safeco field is okay…).

  25. Jim Thomsen on October 27th, 2004 8:57 pm

    Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, by the way … “World Champions.” Geez. How weird does it feel to say that?

    I think we should all celebrate by taking Theo Epstein’s advice to fans over ESPN radio just after the game: “Go get drunk.”

    Way ahead of you, partner.

    One small leap for statheads … one giant leap for mankind. And one giant leap backward for the Yankees.

    All is right in the world tonight.

  26. tede on October 27th, 2004 9:10 pm

    2004 Cardinals = 1997 Mariners – Randy Johnson + Defense

    Another sweep (or almost sweep) of the genius of the ’80s, Tony LaRussa (’88, ’90, ’04).

  27. Saluboy on October 27th, 2004 11:53 pm

    As anyone who knows me personally can attest, I have a grudge with Dave Meyers that almost borders on personal. To see him out of our orginization is worth the entire 2004 campaign. The only reason I’d be happy to see him still in baseball is that he may fark up another team, and it’s still an iffy proposition in my book. Huzzah for Meyers being gone! How I’ve awaited this day! Everybody, kick him in the butt on the way out.

  28. Bela Txadux on October 28th, 2004 1:40 am

    On Bryan Price: I’m very, very glad he was retained, and that only increases my estimation of Hargrove’s smarts and people management given his prior history to another well-regarded guy. The idea that Price’s salary cost could or would _ever_ be ‘prohibitive’ given what most coaches earn strikes me as untenable; the real issue will be whethr Price and Hargrove work together smoothly. If not, Price will move on. He’ll have multiple offers, and he’s a self-effacing guy and very professional who won’t stay where the situation is out of sync.

    Pitching coaches matter; in my view they matter immensely, more than _managers_ in most cases. Anybody remember Nardi Contreras? He’s produced disasters for several teams, not just the Mariners. _How_ many no-name guys, career minor leaguers have both Mazzone and Duncan taken, cleaned up on mechanics, smartened up on approach, and made into reliable out machines?? Many, many guys, both of them. Take a look at St. Louis’ pitching staff this year: how many of these guys do you even _know_? They couldn’t handle Boston, sure, but few pitching staffs could have. The _overall_ results out of that group through the year speak volumes regarding just how extremely good Dave Duncan is. I’ve never cared for Tony LaRussa at all, but Dave Duncan has been with him at each stop and always patched together an effective staff that was more than the sum of the parts—if his FO was in sync with him on this, that is. You can only work with what you’ve got.

    I will certainly agree that no one can _reliably_ judge which pitching coaches are ‘elite’—because no one has yet figured out what kind of pitching preparation regime works best to avoid injuries and promote good stuff. What is known pretty well is what does and does not constitute good pitching mechanics in general. Bryan Price has one of the best eyes in the business at evaluating a pitcher’s motion, both on general characteristics and in relation to an individual pitcher’s mechanics. Multiple Mariners pitchers have RAVED about BPs ability to spot flaws in their motion and help fix them, both in-game and over the course of a season. This, to my mind, is a primary region why Hargrove likely retained Price: Bryan knows all of the existing staff, and the pitchers rely on him profoundly, and I’m sure would have given a big ‘keep him’ to any quiet canvass on the issue by Hargrove. Think back over the last few years: how many times have you seen BP go out to the mound when a pitcher was struggling, especially early in a game, have a few words, and then the pitcher throws an ‘out’ at the batter, everyone back to the dugout. I have seen this many, many times.

    Personally, I think and have thought from the beginning that Bryan Price _IS_ among that elite group of pitching coaches. Yes, we can blame Gil Meche’s faulty approach in early ’04 on Price to a degree; that is the first significant negative I can think of in Price’s time here. How much of Franklin’s success is a function of Price, though? Take a look at the progression of Jamie Moyer under Price; Moyer was radically better AFTER Price arrived than he had EVER, ever been before. We can discuss the fine points about why this might be, but there is a clear temporal coincidence which is not chance in my view, and Moyer has been public multiple times in his high estimation of Price. Freddy Garcia: Freddy’s big problem is that his curve breaks out of the strike zone, and when the league figured this out and started laying off the pitch, Freddy’s K rate plunged. He kept getting behind in the count and having to come in with his two-seamer which ALSO has so much motion that he was as liable to lay in a fat pitch or miss the strike zone as to put the pellet in the glove. Freddy was slow to adapt mentally to the fact that hitters weren’t getting _themselves_ out against him anymore. Price tried everything, and even admitted to a sense of ‘ineptitude’ in being unable to get Freddy a feel for pitching to make his remaining stuff work. Then Price fixed the whole package in late ’03 in a very, very simple way: he taught Freddy to throw a slider. With a lateral break rather than a vertical break like Garcia’s other pitches, and a _small_ enough break that Freddy could locate the pitch on the corners unlike most of his other pitches, Garcia finally had the pitch to tie up hitters again. From the point that Garcia got the hang of the pitch he started pounding the strike zone effectively again. THIS is what a good pitching coach is good for. And Price did it under pressure in the midst of a full-blown melt-down by Garcia.

    I think BP is one of the very best. I hope he and Hargrove are a good fit, and Price remains with the Mariners far into the future.

  29. Paul Covert on October 28th, 2004 3:07 am

    Bela– thanks for a good presentation of the case for Price. (I don’t think I’d heard the bit about Freddy’s slider before, but the explanation seems to fit.)

    Are you confident, though, that the run of shoulder injuries shouldn’t be laid at his doorstep? (I’m not saying it is, mind you– I presently have no firm opinion on the matter– just that he’s at least associated with a disturbing trend there, and to this point I’ve seen no clear defense of him on that issue.)

  30. Bela Txadux on October 28th, 2004 5:15 am

    Regarding the injuries, Paul, I don’t have a firm opinion. And understand, I’m no expert on the mechanical issues personally; I just keep track of recorded statements, and put together a trajectory of effect. (I have some training in history, and do serious historical analysis; this is how I think.)

    The only ‘unattributed arm injury’ at the major league level that I can think of is Mateo’s; I’ve never heard anything specific about his injury, although remember the slider is his out pitch and it’s his elbow that went bad. Pinero’s forearm (and Garcia’s too by the time he got to Chicago) seem most directly to the high inning count down the stretch in ’03—which is really _Melvin’s_ decision, remember. It can be difficult to separate who is responsible for what, but in the end it is the manager who decides how many innings a man gets. And again, Price has historically been a strict pitch-count guy. His own history is to keep people on a count that reflects their personal circumstances, and to rely on the bullpen to be deep enough and ‘team’ enough to soak up any extra outs needed. You’ll want to keep that in mind in evaluating Price.

    Soriano was reputed to have shown up in camp for ’04 with an existing arm condition, but the details on that haven’t floated to the surface. I _do_ think that sending Soriano around the country to pitch a game here, get a game there, was idiotic and jeopardized his health. But again, that kind of decision is going to be made above Price’s head, between Melvin and the FO. I’m not saying that to ‘take Price off the hook,’ but just that the plan is not going to be something he could set in motion himself. Gurdado was pitching on a bad knee, and after his shoulder was injured he as much as said it was because of altering his motion due to the knee. On the other hand, the FO and Melvin absolutely wanted Eddie ready to go at the earliest possible time, and Eddie himself is not the kind of guy to say he wants some extra down time. I’m not happy at _all_ about this injury; it was totally preventable. Could Price have stopped Eddie from pitching short or resigning given the context even if he believed that to be necessary when the pitcher himself obviously did not? Probably not. I have a strong suspicion that Blackely had a bad arm even before he was promoted, but that said he was throwing like his arm was not right almost from his first inning in the bigs: how much time could Price have had to do anything with him, for better or worse?? Aaron Taylor is another guy whose arm appeared to do down after he was promoted, but only very shortly afterwards; he had a handful of innings in ’03 getting hit hard and trying to throw the ball 100 mph by the big leaguers when he had to be shut down. How much time could or did Price have to do anything with him? Meche had had a bad arm _in high school_, and pitched with arm issues all his time in the organization until the first time his labrum went out. Ryan Anderson; I have no idea what contact he had with BP in the minors if any. That said, he was a man with obvious mechanical challenges due to his size, and he failed to rehab properly after the first injury on top of that. Thornton and Baek simply blew their elbows in the minors, and Heaverlo his labrum too, and it is extremely unlikely that Price had anything to do with this, he wasn’t working with any of those guys at the time.

    I can’t look at all of this and say ‘Price is no factor in this.’ I don’t know that. But there’s no smoking guy here, and again the overriding issues of overuse at the wrong time do not seem obviously attributable to Price based on what has been published about all this, while Price’s known history suggests he’s not the guy to finger. —On top of which, pitchers just. Get. Hurt. It goes with the territory. Other than working Meche into catch-the-corner guy for which his repertoire was unsuited, I don’t see a clear problem to lay on Price with any one pitcher, and even this may be just an assessment by Bryan that didn’t pan out.

    It will take another 2-3 years for Price to have enough time on record as a major league pitching coach to really get a feel for the issue of arm injuries. If I saw another run of pitchers going down (and I hope not) like this one last year, I’d begin to form an uncomfortable suspicion that something wasn’t right. But given that the last year and a half Melvin had overused guys, and the FO clearly seemed to influence and expect guys to go out and pitch hurt to protect the team’s investment (or whatever)—Guardado and Soriano this year, Rhodes, Sasaki, and to a degree Nelson in ’03—I don’t see Price as the pivot in the problem.

    The comments about Freddy and the slider I read in the newspaper. Both in comments from Freddy and other comments from Price regarding how quickly Garcia picked up the pitch (which is totally to _Freddy’s_ credit, yes, Price can give him the idea but the man has to execute it himself, and he did). Really. Information does actually appear in print, it’s just that we’re so used to inanity pitched at 80 IQ level that it’s easy to pass over genuine information. : )

    There are two other points to note in Price’s favor which I didn’t mention in the first post. BP is a big guy for team unity and ‘staff unity.’ When he arrived in the Kingdome, which was a stone rotten place to pitch, he just about took on physically the big-ego hitters on the Ms for dissing the pitching staff, and by extention rebuked Lou indirectly for letting such a bad attitude develop (and in fact inciting it personally which was the case although Price was much too tactful to say so). He got the team to rally round the staff. Price is big on getting the pitchers to talk to each other and to model on each other’s success. Maybe too big, because different guys do have different skillsets. Meche and Taylor (and Thornton if he can cut it) are going to succeed in different ways than Pinero and Guardado can or do.

    I didn’t mention the positive effect that I think Price had on Shiggy in ’03. Hasegawa’s mechanics and pitches generally looked sharper in that year than the previous one with the Ms or at any time in California. This is just the kind of effect I have seemed to see Price have on other guys, with Moyer being the chief example there, but Franklin, too (and other guys if I cared to think back). I think Shiggy’s wipeout in the first four months of ’04 are due to a collapsed defense followed by a collapsed confidence and constant effort to make a perfect pitch, fundamentally non-Price factors. And Shiggy did pitch significantly better at times in the last two months.

    I also believe that J. J. Putz was a significantly different pitcher in the final two months of the year, and that Price must have had a hand in this with potentially interesting results next year. This is speculation, but worth revuing. In posts some weeks back, I was basically negative on Putz, but afterwards I rethought my evaluation during the final weeks of the season. Putz early in the year was a thrower, with 95 mph stuff, very average control, and bad mechanics on his slider, but a tough-minded approach to shake of adversity well-suited to relief pitching. If he came in fresh, he’d get his Ks, but occasionally hang his slider and give up a dinger. If he came in on back-to-back days, his location was way off (read his mechanics eroded), and he was shelled. Based upon that, his age, his ninor league numbers, and his package I wouldn’t expect him to have any sustained success at the major league level. Well, once Putz was made the closer, I don’t think he _ever_ pitched back-to-back for the rest of the year. Point one for Price: Putz was kept out of situations where he’d consistently done poorly. But also JJ was an entirely different guy: His K rate plunged in the latter part of the year—but his groundball rate soared. It seemed like two out of every three guys Putz faced hit an infield grounder for an out. Regardless, Putz gave up very few hits, and hardly any homeruns; the other teams weren’t getting into him AT ALL. What I think is that Price must have had Putz go much more to a two-seamer, a true hard sinker, than a four-seamer, or at the very least sharpened up Putz’s mechanics on an existing sinker to the point that it was an autotmatic and dominating pitch, thrown 80% of the time or more. Not only would heavy reliance on a sinker negate Putz’s big ngative, the homerun ball, it would also allow Putz to pound the strike zone despite so-so control overall, because the pitch is going to be hit on the ground even if the batter makes contact. I can’t prove this last speculation, and nothing has been published on it. But Putz looked like a very different and far more valuable pitcher at the end of the season, and the kind of changes do not seem the kind of things that a pitcher would work into his game entirely on his own initiative. I think Price made Putz a _much_ better pitcher in the few months that he had him to work with. This is _exactly_ the kind of thing which elite pitching coaches do that average guys cannot, change a guy’s approach in-season substantially for the better while the dude is fighting for his job and having to get big leaguers out day by day.

  31. Jim on October 28th, 2004 11:08 am

    I wish the M’s would have just wiped the slate clean… Lou was not happy with Price… and would not have touched him with a “Ten Foot Pole” when it came time to move to Tampa Bay.

    Also I do feel that Price is partially responsible for some of the pitching staff injuries. No proof… just a gut feeling.

  32. msb on October 28th, 2004 2:37 pm

    “Lou was not happy with Price… and would not have touched him with a “Ten Foot Pole” when it came time to move to Tampa Bay.”–Comment by Jim — 10/28/2004 @ 11:08 am

    and you know this, how? When Piniella set up his staff it was reported that Tampa did not request to talk to Price, Moses & Myers as they were considered to have ties too deep to the organization to move, and also that the Ms were telling their managerial candidates that they would have Price as pitching coach.

  33. stan on October 28th, 2004 5:51 pm

    A name I am sure no Mariner fan wants to remember that I think should be brought up regarding Price is Jose Mesa. I recall Mesa having one of his melt downs and Price, instead of going ballistic like Lou, actually working with the guy and getting some decent apperances out of him. Before BoMel was hired I was hoping that the Mariners would make Price the manager. I know pitching coaches generally have not had a lot of success as managers, but Price impresses me as a bright enough fellow who would be able to get the talent that is there out of his players.

  34. Jon Wells on October 29th, 2004 12:54 am

    We now have a second coach hired for Mike Hargrove’s staff. Former big league catcher Ron Hassey has been hired as the M’s new bench coach.