Bryan Price roundtable

DMZ · September 11, 2005 at 2:24 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Pitching coach Bryan Price comes up as a frequent topic in comments and emails, with opinions ranging from hate to seeming indifference. So we at USS Mariner Labs started to toss this around as a roundtable topic, and present for you our discussion.

This is Price’s sixth year as the full-time pitching coach of the Mariners. He was the roving minor league pitching coordinator from 1998-1999, which meant that he was responsible for the instruction of all pitchers at all levels of the minors. In practice, though, he was taking over Stan Williams’ job by the end of 1999, before Williams was sent into exile so that Price could take over full-time.

Price won the trust of Lou Piniella, a manager who had chewed up and spit out every pitching coach he’d had memory. Many of those coaches went on to have success with other organizations, though none of them was particularly remarkable.

Price convinced Piniella of the need to pull pitchers early, in particular, in order to keep them fresh for their next start. But Piniella also trusted Price to schedule out pitcher rotations, and eventually turned over management of the staff almost entirely to his pitching coach. This was lauded at the time: Piniella, in finally acknowledging he did know how to run a rotation or bullpen effectively, turned his greatest weakness into a strength.

Here’s the last few Mariner teams before Price came on:

              MAX   AVG           AVG        #GS per Category
94  112 11095 150  99.1 953355   8512     85  56  16  20  12   8
95  145 14094 160  97.2 1100839   7591     78  74  21  24  18   8
96  161 14014 135  87.0 314142   1951     22  99  24  19  11   1
97  162 15883 155  98.0 1051543   6491     66  76  30  30  14   9
98  161 14357 142  89.2 919247   5709     64  67  27  29   9  12
99 missing data

Team pitcher abuse, after Price took the reins:

              MAX   AVG           AVG        #GS per Category
00  162 15497 133  95.7 138171    852      8 100  31  29   1   1
01 missing data
02 missing data
03  162 16550 129 102.2 239102   1475     14  53  58  46   5   0
04  162 16489 133 101.8 318617   1966     19  63  53  37   8   1
05  137 13331 126  97.3 122077    891      9  71  35  30   1   0

(unfortunately, Baseball Prospectus doesn’t have pitch-by-pitch data for 99, 01, and 02, so I can’t go back that far)

That’s a dramatic decrease. It’s worth noting as well that while Price brought down the number of extremely high-pitch outings, that didn’t result in a reduction in the number of pitches he got out of his guys in every start.

It’s interesting that Melvin rode his pitchers a lot harder than Piniella. In fact, this is a good time to mention that Melvin was interested in taking Price with him to Arizona. However, we should note that Melvin was a poor evaluator of talent in players, so you may wish to discount his opinion of any coach.

Melvin also produced the years that did the most damage to Price’s reputation. Madritsch’s unconscionable overuse in meaningless games certainly didn’t prevent that injury that took him out this year. Where was Price in all this? Did he give up on rational pitch limits, or was Melvin (as amazing as this sounds) less reasonable about listening to him than Piniella?

This year, Hargrove-Price appears to be back to the far safer strategy. It’d be reasonable to point out though that they don’t have much in the way of horses that could be ridden deep into games.

Now, as to talent, one of the complaints about Price is that both Meche and Pineiro have stagnated instead of turning into aces. While I the Melvin-Price failure to see that Meche was wearing down badly in his first year back was horrid, there are not two aces held back by a manager. Pineiro’s problems defy easy analysis and Meche’s shoulder injuries make it impressive they’ve gotten anything from him.

It’s true that Price doesn’t have Mazzone-like miracle stories, where we can point to pitchers who were awesome here and sucked elsewhere, but what other pitching coaches do? There have been complaints that Price is particularly bad with mechanics, and I will fully admit I’m unqualified to evaluate it and unwilling to say that based on what little I know about it.

Don’t wait for me on this one. I’m not sure how to evaluate a pitching coach, either.

But you make a mean quiche!

Attempting to evaluate people whose “performance” is inextricably linked to the performance of other human beings is darn near impossible. The goal is to evaluate Bryan Price as a pitching coach, but we lack any way to extract from the Mariners team pitching data while Price has been employed just how much the results of the pitchers reflect Price, the pitcher himself, the minor league coaches, the manager, or some other influence. In most circles, the most widely accepted way of evaluating coaches is to simply judge them by the performance of the pitchers they are given. This is a results based analysis, and one that is full of flaws. But what are our alternatives? We have none, really. If we had hundreds of hours of minor league game tape and the ability to compare and contrast a pitcher from what he was before he got to Safeco with how he is now that he’s been around Price on a regular basis, we might be able to do some kind of before/after analysis and assign a percentage of the changes to Price. But, that’s just not possible, so we’re stuck with what we have: the performance of the M’s pitchers, and hoping that we can somehow get in the ballpark with a wild guess as to how much of that the pitching coach is actually responsible for.

So, acknowledging that this is a flawed way to evaluate Bryan Price, or any coach, and muting our conclusions to correspond with our limited ability to evaluate the data we have, what follows is the history of the Bryan Price pitching staffs, and how they have performed relative to reasonable expectations through the years.


Team ERA: 4.50.
ERA+: 101 (percentage above league average when adjustments are made for park factors)
Overachievers: Paul Abbott, Jose Paniagua
Underachievers: Jamie Moyer

The M’s had a league average staff with a bunch of pitchers who should have made up a league average stuff. Moyer had the worst year of his Mariner career, but the team got effective work out of spare parts like Abbott and Paniagua.


Team ERA: 3.54
ERA+: 119
Overachievers: Aaron Sele, Joel Pineiro, Arthur Rhodes, Norm Charlton, Ryan Franklin
Underachievers: Brett Tomko

The year where everything went right. They got career years from almost everyone in the bullpen. Joel Pineiro went from a middling pitching prospect to death-to-right-handers and posted a ridiculous ERA+ of 207 in his rookie season. Norm Charlton came back to life and was an outstanding middle reliever. With the exception of Brett Tomko, everyone achieved an expected level of performance or better. It was a banner year for the pitching staff.


Team ERA: 4.07
ERA+: 103
Overachievers: Shigetoshi Hasegawa, John Halama
Underachievers: Freddy Garcia

Freddy began his yo-yo career, alternating good starts with starts bad enough to get him labeled Truly Terrible Freddy. Pineiro and Moyer were excellent, though. The team got some solid work out of John Halama after finally kicking James Baldwin to the curb. Overall, the staff was a bit better than league average.


Team ERA: 3.76
ERA+: 118
Overachievers: Ryan Franklin, Gil Meche, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Julio Mateo, Rafael Soriano
Underachievers: Freddy Garcia

The famous nobody-misses-a-start year. The entire rotation pitched the whole season, and while Freddy and Meche were simply league average, the other three starters were excellent. Meche, however, was worked way harder than he had a right to be, and he was pitching on fumes by the end of the season. The bullpen got remarkable debuts from Soriano and Mateo, both pitching lights out from the day they arrived with the team. When Arthur Rhodes is your worst reliever, you’re doing pretty well with the bullpen.


Team ERA: 4.76
ERA+: 91
Overachievers: Bobby Madritsch, Ron Villone, Scott Atchison
Underachievers: Gil Meche, Joel Pineiro

The wheels come off. Moyer shows his age, Meche and Pineiro fail to develop, Freddy gets traded, Ryan Franklin writes “I Miss You” cards to Mike Cameron on a daily basis, and the bullpen goes to crap. The pitching staff is betrayed by a weak outfield defense that was a 180 degree change from what they had been used to, and the effects are significant. The team does get terrific performancees from another pair of rookies, and Ron Villone thrives in his role as a middle reliever. But everything else is a disaster.


Team ERA: 4.45
ERA+: 98
Overachievers: Felix Hernandez, Eddie Guardado, J.J. Putz, Ron Villone
Underachievers: Gil Meche, Joel Pineiro

Sensing a theme yet? Gil Meche and Joel Pineiro take another step back, both being replacement level pitchers. The M’s get another phenomenal debut from a rookie arm. As talented as Felix is, he’s outpitching anyone’s realistic expectations for him right now. Guardado has excelled with half an arm. Putz has developed into a solid reliever after a middling minor league career, and Ron Villone was one of the best left-handed relievers before he was traded away.

Since Bryan Price took over as the pitching coach, the M’s staff have experienced several significant trends:

1. The bullpens have been among the best in the league, having received career performances from journeyman middle relievers and impeccable debuts from arms fresh up from Triple-A.

2. Nearly every Triple-A arm who has come up has pitched as well (or better) as could be expected.

3. Those same Triple-A arms almost all got hurt.

4. Gil Meche, Joel Pineiro, and Brett Tomko, all praised at one point in time as being elite young arms with mid-90s fastballs, have struggled to perform as anything other than replacement level arms and have been consistent disappointments.

That’s the data we have. Again, we’re trying to evaluate one man on the basis of his level of control over the performances of other humans, which is so hard to do its laughable. But it’s all we’ve got. So what are the results?

The Case For Bryan Price:

1. During his tenure, he’s had consistent, predictable success turning veteran mediocre relievers into all-stars. He has consistently been able to oversee one of the best bullpens in the league despite acquiring players with spotty track records that were not in high demand.

2. Arms coming up from Tacoma have been impact performers from the day they got to Seattle. The usual adjustment period for rookie pitchers simply hasn’t been an issue for the Mariners. When they’ve brought an arm from Tacoma to Seattle, that pitcher has, far more often than not, been a quality major league pitcher from day one.

3. The pitching staffs have, in every year except 2004, been league average or better, even after adjusting for Safeco Field. The M’s pitching has been the strength of the organization during Price’s time as the Mariners pitching coach.

The Case Against Bryan Price:

1. Gil Meche, Joel Pineiro, and Brett Tomko were all highly thought of early in their careers. All have flamed out during his time on the clock, and he has been unable to turn any of the three into the pitchers that the general consensus says that they should have become.

2. The M’s have continued to experience an inordinarily high amount of attrition of their young arms. While we cannot pinpoint an exact cause, the M’s have had to deal with numerous arm injuries with many of their most promising pitching prospects, and the organization has not even acknowledged that there could be a problem with the way the arms are being handled.

Essentially, that’s what the data tells us. There’s positives and negatives that cannot be refuted or waved away. During his time on the job, the pitching has experienced highs and lows. He’s got some feathers in his cap and some headshakers that make you want to punch him in the nose (Madritsch’s workload in 2004, especially).

Realistically, your opinion of Bryan Price as a pitching coach is going to come down to how much influence you believe Price has on the two negatives in his column. If you feel that another pitching coach would have been able to get more out of Meche, Pineiro, and Tomko, and you think that other pitching coaches would have been able to put a system in place to prevent the injuries to Soriano, Madritsch, Atchison, Blackley, Meche, Pineiro, et al, then you probably aren’t a big fan of BP. If you’re going to hold him responsible for the injuries and the lack of development of the Meche/Pineiro/Tomko unholy trinity, that’s a pretty tough thing to overcome, and you’re conclusion will almost certainly be that the M’s would be better off with another pitching coach.

That’s not a view I hold, however. I’ve never been on the Gil Meche bandwagon, and the expectations for him after labrum surgery have been wildly unrealistic. No one has ever recovered from a labrum surgery and pitched any better than Gil Meche has. Joel Pineiro has his own set of issues that, again, I don’t believe are related much to the pitching coach. If anything, I believe Pineiro outperformed his reasonable expectations his first two years, setting the bar too high in peoples minds, and setting himself up to be labeled a disappointment as he returned to his real level of talent. No one has been able to figure out Brett Tomko, and he’s now firmly established as a journeyman 5th starter.

The injuries, with the exception of Madritsch and Meche being overworked at the major league level, don’t have any real signs that point to Price or the coaching staff doing any particular thing wrong. As the injuries have occurred on his watch, we have to hold him somewhat responsible, but I can’t lay the blame entirely at the feet of Bryan Price for not fixing a problem that no one on earth has the answer to.

The data leads me to a moderate conclusion: Bryan Price has his strengths and weaknesses, but in relation to the 30 other human beings performing his job for other major league clubs, he’s an advantage for the Mariners. He’s an above average major league pitching coach, and the team is better for having had him around since 2000. He’s not an irreplaceable piece of the organization, and if he moves on, I won’t weep for the loss of a genius, but the team could certainly do worse than Bryan Price. Just look back at how terrible this team developed pitchers in the 20 years before he got here.


As you mention, one of the problems with evaluating Price is that he’s inseperable from the pitchers he had. For instance, let’s take Freddy Garcia. Price was clearly frustrated with Freddy’s work habits during the funk, even making some modest statements about it, which is extremely rare for Price.

Even if we assume that Garcia had the energy of a narcoleptic banana slug and no work ethic of any kind– not even a bad one, and that that was the cause of Garcia’s troubles, it was still Price’s job to find ways to motivate him. There are pitching coaches who are better at this part of the job, I think it’s clear — but those guys also tend to get into fights with their staffs, burn out teams and management and get fired quickly, and so on.

Yet at some point it really is the fault of the player. Like take a player with a torn labrum. You can give them a rehab program and book them appointments with therapists, but if they don’t care and want to goof off and play video games, at some point you’ve done all you can.

The big thing here is how you interpret his Chicago stint, where he’s clearly one of the best 30 pitchers in baseball this year. Is being reunited with a manager he’s close with, a fresh start in a new town, getting married and (we’re to understand) setting aside childish things been a boon? Were there greater circumstances at work than just Price failing to get a bored pitcher fired up?

I don’t know, and we can’t know. I’m inclined to think that there’s a lot beyond Price’s control there. It’s like… Carlos Guillen talking about how being traded to Detroit caused him to re-evaluate his approach, work harder, take more batting practice, listen to his coaches, and bam, he’s a MVP candidate. Was it even possible that he would or could have emerged while here, with Freddy, with the staff in place?

Ahh, Freddy. You know, there’s this misconception that since the trade, he’s been better than he was when he was here.

Freddy, 2004, Seattle:

107 IP, 3.20 ERA, 3.68 Fielding Independant ERA, 2.7 BB/G, 6.9 K/G

Freddy, 2004, Chicago:

103 IP, 4.63 ERA, 4.15 Fielding Independant ERA, 2.8 BB/G, 8.9 K/G

Freddy, 2005:

201 IP, 3.75 ERA, 4.05 Fielding Independant ERA, 2.5 BB/G, 6.2 K/G

In his Seattle career, Freddy walked 8 percent of the batters he faced and struck out 18 percent. In Chicago, he’s walked 7 percent and struck out 19 percent. His ERA in Chicago is higher than it was in Seattle.

Freddy is what he is; an enigmatic innings eater capable of providing quality innings and being frustratingly inconsistent. His time in Chicago hasn’t shown that to be any different than his time in Seattle.


49 Responses to “Bryan Price roundtable”

  1. Adam on September 11th, 2005 2:33 pm

    I’m pretty much with Dave on the “Meche/Pinero” arguement that dissenters always bring up. Both pitchers are pretty much damaged goods at this point, even Mazzone would have problems trying to resserect them.

  2. djw on September 11th, 2005 2:47 pm

    Yeah, I agree: I’m a pessimist, but Gil Meche (post-injury) has wildly exceeded *my* expectations.

  3. Russ on September 11th, 2005 3:13 pm

    But you make a mean quiche!

    No such thing as mean quiche. Good, yes. Tasty, yes. Mean, never.

    /back to the article.

  4. Mike Snow on September 11th, 2005 3:36 pm

    I would be interested to know what happens to Derek’s breakdown of pitcher abuse if you take Randy Johnson out of the equation. He’s extraordinary enough that it might be better to remove him from consideration.

    If this evens out the data, it may be that Price is not particularly better than other coaches at discouraging overuse. If the slant in the data remains, well, perhaps Price’s wisdom might have saved Jeff Fassero from going over a cliff.

    More quiche, please.

  5. Gomez on September 11th, 2005 4:32 pm

    The remark about players goofing off brings up an item to think about: how much poor talent evaluation comes into play. There are tons of pitchers with good stuff out there, but which ones have the mindset, intelligence, work ethic and intangibles to succeed?

    We see how goof-offs like Freddy and Carlos Guillen (who is somewhat irrelevant to the overall discussion given he ain’t a pitcher) were remotivated by being traded, and changed their mindsets. In Freddy’s case, he didn’t necessarily pitch better but he ended up with a better team, which can improve your outlook and morale even if it doesn’t necessarily improve your ability. But don’t let that take away from the fact that a lot of the guys that come into this organization never develop into quality major league players despite having the physical talent to do so. Could it be the mental ability to process information, realize what you need to do to improve and get it together… the work ethic needed to make it happen… and the emotional mindset that allows a guy to move forward without getting down on himself or make excuses in lieu of moving forward in times of failure… isn’t considered as much as it should be when evaluating players? Bryan Price can only do so much if a talented player isn’t mentally and/or emotionally capable of improving. At the same time, how can that be determined when scouting. It’s easy to watch guys and say, “Ooh, that guy’s got a great fastball.” But which of those guys can take in information, performance successes/failures and fate, and use it to improve?

    I’m not acting like I’m even close to having an answer, but it’s something to think about.

  6. Allen McPheeters on September 11th, 2005 6:14 pm

    I think you should have included “Price won the trust of Lou Piniella… [who] eventually turned over management of the staff almost entirely to his pitching coach,” in the list for “The Case for Bryan Price.” Piniella’s been around a long time, and while he might be stubborn, he’s not an idiot. I imagine Sweet Lou would be pretty happy to have Price on his staff down in Tampa. Then again, if Lou likes Price at all, he might not want to inflict that on a friend.

  7. dw on September 11th, 2005 6:23 pm

    Three things that stand out to me:

    Yeah, we should have expected more from Piniero and Meche, and yet they’ve leveled off developmentally. But I’m not sure there is a pitching coach out there who could coax them to be better than mediocre, outside of Mazzone. And Mazzone would have pitched Meche into the ground years ago.

    Yes, Freddt’s FI-ERA has risen since he’s gone to New Telecom-iskey. But I don’t hear about him imploding, either. And there is is in the BP stats: in 2003, among pitchers with 162 IP minimum, he has sixth in all of baseball in FLAKE. Right now, among the 74 pitchers who qualify with 162 innings, he’s #39 — dead in the middle. What I’m trying to say here is that where in Seattle he’d give up 4 runs before out #1 was recorded in the game, now he’s spreading them out over seven innings. While that shouldn’t make a difference (4 runs is 4 runs), it would often mean a short leash and a lot more work for the bullpen in the hands of Melvin and Lou.

    All that to say that Freddy may be on paper a worse pitcher in Chicago, but he isn’t what we used to call “Freddie Hyde” all that much, and that makes him, off paper, a better pitcher.

    But the Freddy and Meche situations make me wonder if Price’s problem isn’t with teaching mechanics as much as it is with keeping the pitchers disciplined and communicating with them effectively. Meche says his shoulder hurts, BP calls him, indirectly, a crybaby. Freddy isn’t getting the job done because not disciplined. BP just lets him be. Something’s wrong here. He may have a problem we’ve talked about in education — he’s a good lecturer, but he’s an awful teacher. He can pontificate to the pitchers and show them video, but it just doesn’t seem like he’s a very good listener or a good motivator, two things that mark good teachers.

    I’m undecided about BP. I think fresh blood could help change things up, but BP is now a known quality, and he’s apparently worth a 10% bonus on the team ERA.

  8. Michael on September 11th, 2005 6:27 pm

    I’m impressed you guys pulled this roundtable out considering how hard it is to admit that intangibles are a part of the game (or so it seems).

    If we are going to credit Price for the staff’s failures in his tenure then we have to give him credit for it’s successes as well. I’d agree that it is difficult to guage how much of an impact he’s had on either, but like you say, if we are to judge him we have to use these as our measuring sticks.

    And based off of that, it seems to me there is more positives to point out then negatives. I can’t think of somebody off of the top of my head (other than miracle Mazzone, of course) whom I’d rather have (though I’d like to see what Hershiser could do if he had any talent to work with).

  9. Oly Rainiers Fan on September 11th, 2005 7:10 pm

    I had this conversation about Price at today’s game with the total stranger I ended up next to. (which, for a pleasant change, turned out to be a total stranger who knew a thing or two about the game).

    Seat-mate said he thinks our starters don’t come into the game adequately warmed up, and wondered if an inning by inning breakdown would reflect that with regard to scoring (or scoring opportunities) against us. He thought Price needed to change the warm-up routine; I told him from my limited observations I think Price doesn’t have a set warm-up routine, but rather, defers to the starting pitchers as to their preferences – though I know Slaton counts pitches down there pre-game, but it seems spotty as to how many each pitcher throws pre-game or even when he shows up in the pen.

    My thoughts on Price run more towards that I don’t think he has as much pull with Hargrove as he had with Melvin and Piniella. So my main complaints with regard to which relief pitchers come in and when, well, I don’t know whether to put it on Price or Hargrove. And since I like Price better, I’m putting it on Hargrove.

    We have 3 very good pitching coaches in Seattle. 2 of them are on the big team, and 1 in Tacoma. If Price leaves, to go work with somebody else, I feel pretty confident in both Jim Slaton and/or Rafael Chavez’ abilities to pick up where he left off.

  10. Oly Rainiers Fan on September 11th, 2005 7:29 pm

    Also – I gotta ask, what exactly does the bullpen coach do? Maybe we should try evaluating a combination of pitching + bullpen coach. Matt Sinatro left with Piniella, Orlando Gomez lasted but a season, and now we have Jim Slaton out there. I mean, how much of the bullpen’s performance can really be attributed to Price versus bullpen coach?

  11. DMZ on September 11th, 2005 8:23 pm

    Slaton, by the way, has a great reputation as a guy who can find any pitcher’s strengths and turn them into (at least) something useful. I’ve heard a lot of good things about him.

  12. Oly Rainiers Fan on September 11th, 2005 9:01 pm

    Slaton was the pitching coach in Tacoma for several years, before he had to take a year off due to family issues (brother’s death). Maybe that sheds light into why Price seems to be ‘better than average’ – maybe what we really have is ‘better than average’ through the ranks. Of course, that doesn’t exactly agree with the attrition war results, does it? (which were, incidentally, mentioned favorably and linked to in a SABR-L post today, if you didn’t see that).

  13. Myron Marston on September 11th, 2005 9:44 pm

    Thanks for the excellent analysis.

    I’ve been thinking that the Mariners already have a great pitching coach candidate lined up for whenever BP leaves: Jamie Moyer. Over the last 10 years, I can’t think of any other major league pitcher who has managed to get better results out of such league-average stuff. Which, if you think about, is what you really want out of a pitching coach.

    While we’re at it, maybe we can bring in Edgar as Hitting Coach, and let the late 90’s/Early 00’s M’s live on….

  14. roger tang on September 11th, 2005 10:24 pm

    maybe what we really have is ‘better than average’ through the ranks. Of course, that doesn’t exactly agree with the attrition war results, does it?

    It would if the problems spring from the medical, as opposed to the baseball, end….

  15. tede on September 11th, 2005 10:26 pm

    Well speaking of Price not motivating lazy, overpaid, partying pitchers, what about Poland….err Kazu? Yeah, I know the answer. (Kazu should have made the list of overachievers in ‘01 and under achievers in ‘03.) The guy made little or no effort to rehab himself from his rib “injury” in ‘03. (I hope his second marriage works out better.)

    Yep, Price deserves some of the discredit with Melvin for the nobody-misses-a-start year. Especially due to what historically happened to those teams (1967 Dodgers) in the following year.

    Price also definitely deserves some share of the blame for the M’s pitching staff’s lame approach in setting up some of the problem hitters. Palmiero for instance (and Ibanez while he was with the Royals). The M’s were getting clobbered by putting the shift on Palmiero, throwing one token outside pitch, and then pounding him inside and daring him to pull the ball into the more reachable RF bleachers. It’s not his main responsibility, but he’s been there long enough to say “hey this isn’t working, let’s try something else”.

    I guess the problem with Price (and Holmgren for that matter) is if you fire him, you’d probably have to settle for a replacement who is less capable than the guy you let go. It will be interesting to see whether the FO and/or Hargrove wants him back and under what condition$.

  16. msb on September 11th, 2005 10:31 pm

    speaking of unquantifiable, re: Freddy– how much can we attribute his keeping things more together in Chi (if indeed he is) is due to being more mature and/or with not having to be the no. 1?

    and the whole problem with the general make Moyer/Edgar coach notion is in actually getting one to do it– why go back on the road half the year, when much of why a guy retires is to be with his family?
    (not that Moyer doesn’t already have experience as pitching coach, if the Stan Williams era scuttlebutt can be believed….)

  17. TheEmrys on September 11th, 2005 10:33 pm

    Where was Price when James Baldwin was here? Good lord those were awful starts. I swear that man aged me three years with his horrible outings.

  18. msb on September 11th, 2005 10:39 pm

    TheEmrys said:”Where was Price when James Baldwin was here? Good lord those were awful starts. I swear that man aged me three years with his horrible outings. ”

    hey, you can’t coach a Zombie.

  19. Oly Rainiers Fan on September 11th, 2005 10:57 pm

    Freddy’s gotta be more comfortable in Chicago, playing ball for Ozzie Guillen, fellow VZ and I thought I heard he was also related to Mrs. Freddy Garcia somehow…

    True, we don’t really know how much of the attrition damage is due to inaccurate or incomplete or bungled medical diagnoses or procedures versus ‘coaching’ and/or usage. I can’t even begin to imagine how we could separate the two.

  20. Tim Bakajanai on September 12th, 2005 12:59 am

    This is kind of a followup to #7, with a tweak.

    Price rather pissed me off when I read a quote of his about Meche (I think) and Meche’s pain.

    Here’s the thing. I think the guy knows a lot about the mechanics of pitching, and not an awful lot when it comes to modern biomechanics. I just don’t see a single hint of knowledge in any of his quotes, while I do see hints of ignorance.

    Biomechanics just isn’t simple, and it’s a darn modern science. How many folks ten years ago had ever heard of the transversus abdominus, for example? Err, the core 🙂

    So we have a ridiculously complex activity like pitching, where a tender muscle here and an inflamed tendon there can change a pitcher’s emphasis – putting pressure on a certain tendon.

    Price can probably sometimes spot and understand that, but nowhere near often enough. This is my speculation.

    Btw –
    Moyer’s supposedly a fitness freak. I’d be interested in knowing how much he’s studied up on this stuff, but if he has he’d be a stellar pitching coach.

  21. Tim Bakajanai on September 12th, 2005 1:00 am

    Gah, pressure on a certain ligament is what I said….

  22. Bela Txadux on September 12th, 2005 3:49 am

    I’m rather surprised to hear remarks here that Pryce ‘isn’t good at mechanics.’ I have heard any number of pitcher’s praise him in print for attribution for an outstanding ability to refine their mechanics, Moyer in particular, and, FWIW, heard similar remarks in articles about Pryce before. This is not ‘modern biomechanics’—Brian may have no special training in physiology—but an eye for keeping guys in their optimal delivery pattern. If anyone has SPECIFIC negative comments or quotes from relevant sources to the effect that Pryce is _not_ ept in keeping his pitchers in trim, I’m interested to hear that: that would be news. The great bulk of the info I have heard since he arrived says that he is outstanding is this regard.

    To me, supposing that Pryce is good at getting guys in a groove, that would explain his consistent ability to get above average performances from average or below pitchers. Dave spoke to this, but consider: Moyer was a journeyman crafty lefty until Pryce shows up. Jamie praises Brian to high heaven, indeed looks very sharp in his delivery, and has by far the best years of his career. Paniagua; Hasegawa; Villone; Halama; Franklin, yes Frankie, a replacement level guy who at least turned in effective, back of the rotation efforts for a few years. J J Putz was a mess, when he arrived; now, he’s at least effective. I’m not touting Pryce as a miracle worker, but he does have a consistent record of getting average guys in an optimal groove. That is the direct responsibility of the guy with his job position, and we have results that are directly attributable to him; not Slaton, not Chavez, not somebody’s buddy: Pryce, pitching coach.

    Freddy Garcia was and is a rockhead; $20 arm, $1 head. Pryce confessed in print to ” a sense of ineptitude” in being unable to get a consistent performance out of Freddy, but then Freddy didn’t have a track record of _listening_ to anyone, coachs, catchers, teammates. The issue wasn’t preparation, as far as I remember; Garcia did his conditioning, and nominally did his preparation, and then took the mound with air between his ears. For all that, Pryce taught hit to throw a slider, and got him to use it, and it became his best pitch in ’04, and a significant component of his ‘revival’ before and after his trade. I’ve spoken to this before, but these are the kinds of details to remember in assessing whether or not Pryce ‘did anything with the problem guys.’ The repositioning of Pinero’s hands at the start of his delivery, dicussed en blog several weeks ago, my turn out to be a similar example. I’m in agreement with Dave, too, that Garcia isn’t really significantly better with Chicago than he was while here. He hasn’t had meltdown days, but, hey, he turned in a ‘good’ year earlier in Seattle, too. So Freddy’s ‘sudden improvement when freed of Pryce’ is not an operative description of the facts.

    Pinero was always overestimated in my view, and his ‘failure to develop’ is difficult to deliver to Pryce’s door: Joel’s injury, on the other hand, should be borne in mind in scrutinizing Brian’s overall track record. Joel went out and threw the maximum number of innings in his careeer; next year, he has a major injury. Pryce may well have been unable to change Pinero’s usage, but he _did not_ get his usage changed. In the same way, the overuse of Meche in ’03 and Madritsch in ’04 is something difficult to describe as ’caused’ by Pryce. It’s quite clear the Bob Melvin had his own expectations of his starters, and their use, and abuse, is principally his responsibility. But more on that in a moment.

    I think that the two most egregious instances of pitcher abuse during Pryce’s tenue were _not_ mentioned above. 1) Guardado hurt his knee in Camp ’04, got in very little work, and was rushed out on the mound far too soon, bum knee and all (the knee required surgery which was only done after Eddie’s shoulder caused him to be shelved). Guardado’s shoulder injury is directly attributable to that usage; he alluded to as much himself, although it was his decision to go ahead and throw as much as anyone’s. This kind of injury was significantly predictable, and entirely avoidable. This is something for which Pryce definitely bears responsibility: it his his job to avoid situations of this kind. He did not manage to avoid it, or to get the organization to avoid it. 2) Rafael Soriano showed up in Camp ’04 with a bad elbow. He got ‘rest,’ and very little work. He was bundled onto a succession of airplanes, to rush around to minor league teams and get ‘rehab innings’ pitching in cold weather despite not being any better, ‘because the team needed him.’ When a diagnosis was finally made, he needed TJ surgery, as was probably the case when he arrived in ST. This was likely not Pryce’s decision at all, but he certainly had an opportunity to weigh in forcefully on a different approach, so if he signed off on it, that’s on his chit, too.

    Which brings me to my main concern with Pryce: he dosn’t stand up to the organization or his manager when they are making bad decisions about deploying, using, or abusing talent. Now, to be fair, what can he do, resign? Professionals don’t air their disagreements in public, either, so we don’t really know what stand Brian Pryce did take on this injury risk issues, or what stand he realistically could take. His power is persuasion, and if he’s surrounded by people with executive autority who don’t listen, that power is negated. As, for example, in the decision to carry too many arms in the Mariner bullpen all this year. Guys have never been able to stay sharp; many times, guys have had seven days off when they’ve been brought in to pitch, and gotten hit around. It’s taken Hargrove all year to finally settle into something like defined roles for guys other than Villone and Guardado. I see this as poor decisionmaking, but it’s hard to attribute that to Brian. Maybe he’s enthusiastically concurred in all of that, but since he hasn’t gone on record I can’t say.

    In assessing the superior performance of pitching coaches like Mazzone and Duncan, it’s important to remember that they have worked entirely with not only the same manager but the same GM for the length of their period of success, and in both cases all three individuals have been hand in hand on program and authority. Pryce hasn’t had the same situation. He’s on his third manager, and _none_ of those managers is demonstrably someone who understands the niceties of running a pitching staff. Hargrove appears the best of the three, but this isn’t his strength, either. Melvin we’ve discussed with disgust, and Pinella has been TERRIBLE in this regard throughout his entire career: Pryce was the first guy who ever got him to listen at all. Both GMs, Bavasi and The Other Guy, have had a high opinion of Pryce, but both have participated in highly questionable medical descisons on talent entrusted to the team, such as Guardado’s pitching on a crumbling knee, or the head games with Meche when his shoulder first went bad: the team didn’t want to hear that, so they didn’t hear that, period—till his arm fell off. It is easier to see Pryce as the relative voice of sanity in pitcher use/abuse in a shifting but never optimal context rather than another brick in the load here, as Derek’s pitcher abuse profiles demonstrate, regardless of the absolute accuracy of that view. It is clear that the Mariner organization can do and should do better in injury prevention and injury management, and this is not an issue with Pryce per se, but one which extends well beyond his role and job description.

    I’ve been a Pryce supporter, and I remain so. In areas where he seems to be able _directly_ to improve performance, we have manifestly seen improved performance. In areas where his responsibility is difficult to assess, we’ve seen poor decisions made by others which he may or may not have concurred with. But he didn’t dig in his heals against those bad decisions, so perhaps a lack of will to a degree is a fault that we can, reasonably attribute to him, here. And this also shows up, perhaps, with folks like Freddy Garcia, Gil Meche, and Matt Thronton who seem to have a heard time getting the message. Maybe no one could have an impact on them, but Bryan certainly hasn’t been able to do so. If that’s Pryce’s worst negative—an inability to get folks who don’t listen in management or on the mound to get with the program—I’ll keep him, yes. It’s the hard of hearing types who need to be moved, or move on.

  23. toonprivate on September 12th, 2005 8:03 am

    The high injury rate (so well documented here!) to the M’s premium minor league arms has happened under BP’s watch, right? But Price will ultimately be judged on what happens to Felix, the first great starting pitching prospect he’s had to work with. so far the price-hargrove approach this season hasn’t filled me with confidence: 100+ pitches per outing in games that are essentially meaningless. it hasn’t quite reached madritsch abuse, but… The point above is well taken. I’d say that the M’s, like most teams, don’t have now nor have they ever had a consistent system-wide approach to player development and the way they want the game to be played. Until they have one, it will be just a matter of luck if they actually win regularly — a couple of FA signings that happen to work out, a trade, Felix, etc. That makes it hard to single out BP as either a plus or a minus.

  24. Rusty on September 12th, 2005 8:11 am

    Derek and Dave, thanks for the analysis. You’ve changed my opinion somewhat about Price. I wasn’t necesarily for firing Price, but my opinion of him had fallen considerably.

    In the comments above, someone mentioned Moyer. And although Moyer arrived before Price did, I think you have to give Price at least a tiny bit of credit for consistently getting superior performance from a pitcher who’s fastball tops off at 86 mph. Moyer might someday make a good pitching coach on his own, but I’m guessing he works well with Price to fine tune his performance.

  25. Gomez on September 12th, 2005 9:31 am

    Gotta agree with Rusty and say my opinion on Price has improved with this insight, along with many of the comments (especially the last comment by Bela Txadux). It really does seem like he’s been limited by managerial and front office decisions beyond his control, but has done what he can to get the most out of who he’s got.

  26. Ralph Malph on September 12th, 2005 9:34 am

    You can’t really blame Price for the Madritsch abuse…a pitching coach can’t force a manager to pull a pitcher. The pitching coach can go over to the manager and say “hey, skip, he’s at 125 pitches and this might be a good time to get him out of there”, but what is he supposed to do when the manager is staring, tight-faced, blankly out into space and doesn’t say anything?

  27. Tad on September 12th, 2005 10:49 am

    It is commonly opinion among baseball luminaries that hitting coaches are of little to no use to major league hitters due to the commonly expressed reasoning that major league hitters already know how to hit and know their swing better than anyone else. How many hitting coaches have made an immensely positive impact on a hitter.

    Why then do we look at pitching coaches any differently? Once a pitcher makes it to the major leagues what can a pitching coach really do to on a stictly mechanical tweaking or drilling basis so that the pitchers performance has a dramatic positive upswing.

    Either a pitcher has been able to figure it out or not.

  28. DMZ on September 12th, 2005 11:18 am

    Why then do we look at pitching coaches any differently? Once a pitcher makes it to the major leagues what can a pitching coach really do to on a stictly mechanical tweaking or drilling basis so that the pitchers performance has a dramatic positive upswing.

    Pitching is so much more complicated, harmful to the pitcher, and difficult to do successfully that a good pitching coach and trainer are an important part of a pitcher’s success. Pitcher mechanics do get out of whack as their condition varies, and it’s important to the coach to fix those things as early as they can.

  29. DMZ on September 12th, 2005 11:19 am

    what is he supposed to do when the manager is staring, tight-faced, blankly out into space and doesn’t say anything?

    Shake him by the shoulders and say “wake up, you moron!”

    I understand what you mean, but it’s part of his job to be a forceful and persausive advocate. I can’t believe that Piniella would listen to him and change his view on pitch counts but Price couldn’t get through to…

    wait, no, I can believe that.

  30. DMZ on September 12th, 2005 11:27 am

    If anyone has SPECIFIC negative comments or quotes from relevant sources to the effect that Pryce is _not_ ept in keeping his pitchers in trim, I’m interested to hear that: that would be news.

    I’ve heard grumblings that pitchers sent down to the minors show up with their mechanics sometimes badly screwed up and the minor league guys have to get them throwing consistently before they can start talking to the guy about approach or whatever else they need to work on.

    Nothing quotable, though, or particularly credible. I’ve heard it stated as fact from some fans before too, often as if it’s out there and commonly circulated.

    Personally, I can’t evaluate the truth of the claim, and without evidence to back it up, it’s meaningless.

  31. PapaLima on September 12th, 2005 11:48 am

    It seems to me that when it comes to coaches, they fall into three categories. Either really good, really bad, or just kinda in the middle. That third category seems to be (by far) the biggest; most coaches, I think, don’t really have THAT much effect one way or the other.

    I have to wonder just how much pressure there is on managers and GMs to stick with their gut instinct. The work that’s been done on pitcher abuse is, to me, not overwhelmingly conclusive… but it’s certainly POWERFUL enough that if I were in charge, I’d be taking it very seriously.

    For example, King Felix shouldn’t be throwing more than 80-90 pitches per game, IMO. The kid is 19 freakin years old, for crying out loud! Shut him down at 135 innings and at 85 pitches per start. Why risk it? To me, the risk of increased injury definitely outweighs the “experience” he’ll gain throwing later in the game (especially for a team so far out of first place they’d need satellite imaging to see it).

    So the question then falls towards the organization. Why doesn’t Bavasi simply set down the law? Who’s in charge of this? Can’t that person read and comprehend?

    Which leads me into wondering how much of the stuff we’re talking about it truly up to Price, and how much he (or ANY pitching coach) can make his desires known. Maybe Price is in meetings, pounding on the table occasionally and saying “look, we suck, why are we pitching Felix more than 85 pitches?”

    But that’s more a managerial or organizational decision, so we don’t know if Price could do anything about it.

    Personally, I’m with Derek. I think that there’s just too many things that are beyond Price’s control. So much of baseball is run in a “that’s the way we’ve always done it” manner that I have to wonder how much control a pitching coach really has over, well, pitchers.


  32. Eggs on September 12th, 2005 12:02 pm

    I have never been able to come up with a satisfactory answer nor as anyone explained one to me as to why when Meche went down last year and worked with Chavez he came back up and was great. Before and after while working with Price he struggles.

    Dave, you give many pitchers Price has helped. You list three he has not helped; Tomko, Joel, and Gil. Those three all had really good stuff including velocity but with questionable mental toughness. Now I have heard many a time from Price (on pre-game interviews etc) that he wants a pitcher to sacrifice velocity if needed to try to have pinpoint control. Now I think that is a great philosophy for a Moyer or a Franklin, but not for someone like a Meche.

    The explanation for why Chavez helped Meche was because he convinced him to believe in his stuff and forget pinpoint control and just use your stuff and be agressive (paraphrase of Meche’s explanation. Meche uses that mantra and pitches great in the last half of 2004. Now he is back out there in 2005 looking timid with a lower velocity (I know possible injury related).

    Dave does it seem possible to you that Price tries to force one ‘concept of pitching’ on all his pitchers; namely sacrifing velocity and agressiveness for hitting your spots perfectely. While that philosophy works great for more of ‘soft tossers, etc, it does not work well for pitchers with great stuff who also tend to get flustered, IE Meche, Tomko, Pineiro. Those guys should be gaining confidence by simply having an attack attitude just like Chavez taught Meche.

  33. Dave on September 12th, 2005 12:12 pm

    Gil Meche worked with Cal McLish, not Rafael Chaves, in Tacoma when he went down last year.

    He wasn’t “great” when he got back. He was slightly above average.

    Brett Tomko never had “great stuff”.

    Dave does it seem possible to you that Price tries to force one ‘concept of pitching’ on all his pitchers?>

    Anything is possible in the realm of speculation. There’s no evidence of this, though, and I don’t think its true.

  34. Mat on September 12th, 2005 12:25 pm

    As for hitting coaches vs. pitching coaches, it seems logical to me that pitching coaches would be more influential. Pitchers act, and then hitters react. I suspect teaching those reactions is much harder than teaching pitchers proper mechanics, etc.

  35. Eggs on September 12th, 2005 12:30 pm

    I didn’t remember who he worked with but the point remains the same. Thanks for the input. Tomko was considered to have great stuff as a prospect though.

  36. forgotten schmo on September 12th, 2005 12:30 pm

    So bring Pinella back and keep Price seems like the best answer.

  37. msb on September 12th, 2005 12:37 pm

    Eggs said:”I have heard many a time from Price (on pre-game interviews etc) that he wants a pitcher to sacrifice velocity if needed to try to have pinpoint control. Now I think that is a great philosophy for a Moyer or a Franklin, but not for someone like a Meche.”

    I have never heard him advocate it for all pitches (or pirchers, for that matter). I have heard him talk about changing speeds to either regain lost control of some pitches, or to fool the batter:

    “The professional game is all about repeating quality pitches,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if that quality pitch is at 95 mph or 85 . . . it has to be located. You have to be able to take velocity off. You have to stay away from the predictable. You have to have an out pitch. You have to have the guts to go out there and throw strikes in front of 40,000 people who are hoping you choke.”

  38. Nintendo Marios on September 12th, 2005 12:40 pm

    #14 is on to something.

    The cases for and against BP reconcile if biomechanics, medical treatment and physical therapy are given more analytical weight and placed beyond BP’s control.

    Moreover, there is a new trend that requires reconciling. It is difficult but to suspect that the Ms medical staff has developed an especially blind eye toward player initiated pharmacological rehabilitation and conditioning.

    Pitching coach contribution, any coaches’, could well be insignificant. Pitching is, however, inherently stressful physically. I wonder if medical staff responsible for a team’s biomechanical understanding, medical protocols and physical therapies aren’t in fact more significant that any pitching coach?

    If we’re interested in the performance of airplances, it won’t take us long to focus equally on the mechanics back in the hangar even if they aren’t on the plane, like pilots, while the plane performs. Put another way, significance isn’t restricted to guys wearing stretchy pants and stirrup socks…

  39. Eggs on September 12th, 2005 1:04 pm

    36 I never said he advocated it for all pitchers. I said he has for certain pitchers and asked if it seems possible he does for all. Why would you counter a point I didn’t make? And yes he has said it for Meche.

  40. roger tang on September 12th, 2005 1:08 pm

    Yes, Tomko was considered a prospect. BEFORE he got to the Mariners. That someone gave up on him before he got here, and that he’s not had resounding success elsewhere, is not a strike agains Price.

    The other thing to think about here is that there might be some vague synergy effect here where Price’s coaching methods work with the trainers’ medical philosophy to aggravate injuries. Look at them by themselves, and there might not be anything that pops out. Look at them together, and….

  41. msb on September 12th, 2005 1:42 pm

    Eggs said:”36 I never said he advocated it for all pitchers. I said he has for certain pitchers and asked if it seems possible he does for all. Why would you counter a point I didn’t make? And yes he has said it for Meche.

    sorry if I misinterpreted what you wrote in #30

    re, your point about what Meche learned in Tacoma ( because he convinced him to believe in his stuff and forget pinpoint control and just use your stuff and be agressive)?

    Price actually said the same thing before Meche went down to Tacoma (from May 2004–“Price would like to see Meche forget about mechanical issues, as well as where his hands and feet are positioned, and just rely on his stuff, which scouts regard as generally above average. “I’d prefer to see him just start to pound fastballs and a nice breaking ball down in the strike zone,” Price said.) It seems to have just been one of those things where Gil was ready to hear it when it came from 80-something Cal, when he couldn’t hear it from Price or Chaves.

  42. sidereal on September 12th, 2005 3:15 pm

    I must have missed the Nardi Contreras roundtable.

  43. msb on September 12th, 2005 4:05 pm

    well, Nardi, he’s kinda low-key you know.

  44. Eggs on September 12th, 2005 4:58 pm

    41, thanks for the info. I was and still am very curious as to Price’s approach to Meche.

  45. Mountainman Ernie on September 12th, 2005 9:19 pm

    The price isn’t right. We can explaine what he did or didn’t do right or wrong. We’ve had good observations on both sides. But, at last the fact remains. Is Price the problem or someone higher up? Will we ever know? Only changing coaches will tell. But, will the playing field be even? Instinct tells me we’ll never know. I don’t like his style but that’s only my opinion. Like noses, everyone has one. Great discussion though.


  46. ray on September 12th, 2005 10:59 pm

    In terms of preventative medice, I think Peterson (Ex-A’s, now Mets, I believe) has a whole system to prevent arm troubles. I’ve heard that BP is of the old school in that one plays through pain (no pain, no gain) which is ridiculous. Like I said, it’s heresay, but he hasn’t shown otherwise — a system that prevents arm injuries. (And Trainer Rick just seems to be a reactionist himself). That is the only grip I have against BP.

  47. ray on September 12th, 2005 11:02 pm

    Oh, and another thing. Since we are talking about coaches, why not add one for current and past hitting coaches and their philosophies. It always seems that guys get much better offensively when they leave the Mariners, regardless of park.

  48. The Ancient Mariner on September 13th, 2005 3:00 pm

    Why not add one for hitting coaches? Because aside from teaching guys plate discipline and strike-zone judgment (an area where Sweet Lou and Uncle Lee had a real effect), they don’t really do much.

    #40 touches on something important here: Tomko wasn’t on Price’s watch. By the time we got him, he was already going sour; Don Gullett is generally considered, rightly or wrongly, as one of the great pitching coaches out there, and Gullett had completely given up on Tomko. As far as the Reds were concerned, he was uncoachable and doomed to failure. It would have taken a Mazzone to turn Tomko around.

    As for my $0.02 on Price, I’ve been distressed to see the apparent drop in his influence on pitcher use patterns since Lou left — but then, how many managers in baseball take a football-type approach and let their pitching coaches run the pitchers? — but the points adduced above only strengthen my conviction that our pitchers are better because of Bryan Price, and that’s really the bottom line.

    That said, as Derek mentioned about 35 posts back, Jim Slaton has a remarkable knack for getting the best out of pitchers. I saw Ken Cloude pitch for Tacoma, right near the end of his time in the organization, after his injury problems and the rest. One game was against Vancouver the year they won the AAA World Series, when they fielded a lineup that was probably as tough and disciplined as most of those he faced in the majors. Cloude looked positively Felixesque — he didn’t have his control, but it didn’t matter much, because they couldn’t touch him. He walked a few guys, but he didn’t let a ball leave the infield, and left with a shutout. The work Slaton had done with him was simply beyond belief; and if Price leaves after this season, I’m confident we won’t see any dropoff.

  49. Frank on September 14th, 2005 10:45 am

    I think one point brought out here is that Price does well with Mediocre pitchers, but doesn’t get what’s expected out of top talent.

    I think he makes all pitcher’s mediocre, a point I have brought up before. His mantra is throw strikes, put the ball in play, trust the defense.

    This works really well for mediocre pitchers. If you have an average defense, you would expect average results from this approach, and better defense means better results.

    On the other hand, there is something to be said for the psyche of a power pitcher. Look at Randy Johnson’s comments about getting pumped up for his game in Seattle. If you want nasty, you have to think nasty, and this is where I believe Price’s approach falls short.