The Colorado Rockies officially announced today the firings of hitting coach Blake Doyle, catching and defensive positioning coach Rene Lachemann, bench coach Tom Runnells and baserunning, outfield and first-base coach Eric Young. Consequently, pitching coach Steve Foster, bullpen coach Darren Holmes and third-base coach Stu Cole will remain with the team in 2017.
Today’s announcement confirmed what we already knew about the fate of the coaching staff. With Walt Weiss out of the picture, there was going to be changes with the other coaches. Any new manager wants his own people in place. What is strange about this decision by the Rockies is who was fired, and who wasn’t. Indeed, the club made the wrong move with some of these decisions.
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First of all, why was Doyle let go? The Rockies finished with the highest batting average as a team in the National League (.275), and led the league in hits, runs, RBIs, doubles and was third in home runs.
Nolan Arenado tied for the lead in HRs and had the most RBIs in the majors. Carlos Gonzalez had 100 RBIs for the first time since 2010. DJ LeMahieu won the NL batting title. Charlie Blackmon hit 29 HRs including 10 lead-off homers. Trevor Story hit 27 home runs as a rookie before his unfortunate injury. Mark Reynolds slash line in 2016 was well-above his career slash line before his injuries hit.
Yes, there were stretches where the offense struggled but this is a common cause over a 162-game season. There were other hitters who struggled (e.g. Nick Hundley, Gerardo Parra), but catchers Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy showed a lot at the plate. David Dahl was terrific at the plate when he came up.
So there must have been a reason why he was let go. Perhaps he also had philosophical differences with management like Weiss did. We will never know the true reason. But for a team which did so well offensively, this is a strange decision.
Seeing Eric Young leave is also a surprise. The Rockies outfield had a good year as a group. One area he failed to have an impact was on the baserunning. There were many occasions the team suffered from its “nightlybaserunningerror” hashtag with terrible decisions being made on the basepaths.
Additionally, the club only stole 66 bases on the year, which was tied for fourth-worst in the NL. If the memo was to rely on speed and defense, it failed on both counts. Too many games occurred where the runners made no impact on the game, or worse made a negative impact on the game. Young simply failed to deliver on this aspect.
One man who should be thanking his lucky stars he still has a job is Holmes. How bad was the bullpen in 2016? A 5.05 ERA, which was the worst mark in 12 years. Only two relievers had passable years (Adam Ottavino and Boone Logan) whilst the veterans who were acquired over the offseason (Jake McGee, Chad Qualls and Jason Motte) all bombed.
Whether it was injuries, or the altitude, or a lack of coaching development, Holmes has a level of responsibility for this failure. The bullpen blew 28 saves in 2016 and towards the end of the season if the team had a slight lead, basic resignation from the players and the fans was there waiting for the usual implosion.
Maybe it was the hand he was dealt, but based on performance there is simply no way Holmes should still be the bullpen coach.
Steve Foster had better success as the pitching coach. Jon Gray took a major step forward in 2016. Tyler Chatwood was lights out on the road. Chad Bettis was inconsistent, but when he was on he was highly effective. Tyler Anderson had an excellent rookie year. German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman showed enough late they have a good future in a Rockies uniform. The only downside to the rotation was Jorge De La Rosa and Eddie Butler. Both of them ended up in the pen and neither of them can look at 2016 too fondly.
Out of the other coaches, Stu Cole was effective enough as the third-base coach and in terms of Lachemann and Runnells, it seems the organization wants new blood in the dugout, which isn’t a bad thing. Any new ideas and philosophies which new coaches can bring next season would be a welcome addition to this team which is close to being a contending squad again with the right coaches in place and a couple of pieces added to the roster.
In sum, the Rockies made some strange decisions with the firing of certain coaches and the acceptance of others whose performance may not have warranted this faith. Let’s hope their decisions today positively affect the organization going forward.