During my career I’ve been guilty of every “type” of pitching coach that you described Zita. I got jobs because of who I knew more that what I knew, and I was just “there” because somebody else left and out of pure convenience - “Baker, congrats on your promotion to Pitching Coach.” In fact my very first paying job as a pitching coach was because of just that - right place, right time. And I must admit, over the course of time I learned a lot more from those I so-called coached, then they did from me. Fair? No. But much of life is like that, which is easy for me to say.
I honestly think though, somewhere along the line, things “click.” In the pitching circles that I was in, it did, and without sounding like “I’m full of myself,” I got pretty good at my trade. The numbers showed it, along with the careers of those I coached. Unfortunately, the line of those that didn’t benefit from my presence was a long one, and not because of my lack of sincerity, but because of my lack of experience.
Now before I take all this in the chin without going down swinging, let me take the time to make some observations. Professional pitchers are a strange lot. Their very moody, “if-ee” most of the time, and really full of themselves, and last but not least, some are as dumb as a fence post. The only exception being that of Steven Ellis, who is a real gentleman, a credit to the game, and an outstanding ambassador of Professional Baseball. For the rest of the vast majority of professional pitchers, when these guys step onto a pitcher’s mound, they’re like a Jekyll-n-Hide. I’ve walked out to more mounds that I can recount, to settle a man down, only to be told… " I got this, get the @#$! away from me," which by way was exactly what I wanted to hear.
The farm systems of many, not all, MLB clubs are really fine tuned to be progressive enough to weed out those that aren’t really cut out for life in the Majors. The Professional Independent Leagues have no such design, so I can’t make comparisons here. However, the farm system is designed to groom a man by not only what he brings to the table in a “as is” state, but to study his “as is” state and run it through a metering systems and either make it better, or, break it. I know that last one - break it, sounds rather extreme, but that’s what the farm system is for, for everyone. Better to put a man through his paces at that time and place then send him up only to crash and burn in the show. So, in the final analysis, the system works - not for everyone, but then again the pace and tempo of farm life is not designed for everyone.
And last but not least, it SHOULD COME AS NO SURPIRSE that the pitcher WILL come out on top of his confrontation with ANY batter, simply because of the numbers… batting average I mean. Tell me anywhere in any job where a man can show up and produce only 30% of time, and still keep his job, and I’ll show you a man and his job that’s a joke. Yet, in baseball a 300 batting average is great - go figure. Now I know that number is subject to a lot of things that have to do with more that just pitching, but still.
I also think that the crop of professionals today understand more about the complexities of the pitcher’s role and his ability to study his job, batter after batter, pitch after pitch. A pitcher gets to practice his craft during real time in a game over and over again, whereas a batter only gets his shot just so many times. Add to the fact that a pitcher’s repertoire can change with just the slightest adjustment, and no wonder the numbers are showing what they are.
All in all, todays pitching coaches are mostly a crafty lot, well versed in what has to be done to get the most out of what they have. If not, no paycheck. By the way, that last part - no paycheck, was an incentive enough for me, especially when a man knows nothing else.