Between mostly middling pitching performances and the ALDS disappointment, the New York Yankees need to part ways with Larry Rothschild.
New York Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild has been serviceable in his role since 2011, but it’s time to move in a new direction. Between the issues surrounding Luis Severino’s performance in Monday’s Game 3 loss to underwhelming results on the mound, he just isn’t the man for the job anymore.
The Yankees have a roster that is built to win now and the starting rotation is the greatest weakness. If the team is to take a step forward and continue contending for a World Series, that means making tough decisions. That starts with letting Rothschild go, and here’s why.
Now, to be perfectly clear, this article is not a smear campaign against Larry Rothschild as a coach. He won a World Series ring as the Cincinnati Reds’ bullpen coach in 1990. As the Chicago Cubs’ pitching coach from 2002 to 2010, he oversaw the development of Carlos Zambrano. He also helped Ryan Dempster go from a mid-rotation option to a solid No. 2.
Moreover, in Rothschild’s nine years on the job, the Cubs were a top-10 pitching team five times. The man clearly knows something about developing pitchers, and the elevation of Luis Severino to ace status proves that.
There’s just one problem. Since Rothschild arrived in the Bronx in 2011, the results have been underwhelming. The Yankees ranking fifth in ERA last year is one of two times (the other being ranking tenth this year) that the staff has been in the top 10. The rest of the way, the team has ranked anywhere from 11th to 18th. Granted, a lot of that had to do with young pitching prospects not panning out as well as aging starters underwhelming, but that changes nothing. Rankings are just the tip of the iceberg as to why Larry Rothschild has to go.
Square pegs in round holes
No disrespect to Rothschild, but there have been some cases in New York where it seems he wants to morph a pitcher to suit his own vision instead of just working with what’s there. One name that comes to mind is Nathan Eovaldi, who dominated his former team in Game 3. Eovaldi was acquired from the Miami Marlins in winter 2014, and had a reputation as someone who was all velocity with no control.
Rothschild helped Eovaldi use his changeup more for 2015 and the results spoke for themselves. The young Texan righty won a career-high 14 games and led the American League in win percentage while throwing the pitch 20.4 percent of the time. For context, Eovaldi only threw the changeup 3.1 percent of the time the year before.
That all changed the following year. Rothschild had Eovaldi abandon the pitch that gave him a career year in favor of a splitter. Eovaldi struggled to learn the pitch before going down with Tommy John surgery.
Fast forward to today, and Eovaldi learned a cutter while with the Tampa Bay Rays to help balance his splitter. Per Fangraphs, he threw it 32 percent of the time. His fastball use dropped to 39.8 percent from 48.1 percent in 2016, his last season in New York. If the changeup was working so well, why would Rothschild have Eovaldi abandon it entirely?
Failure to communicate
However, the biggest reason Larry Rothschild has to go has more to do with a complete communication breakdown on Monday. Severino drew the start and wasn’t himself from the get-go. His fastball velocity was down just a tick, but it was enough that he gave up way too much hard contact. The Red Sox weren’t biting on his slider as much as he would have liked. His changeup was hit or miss.
This led to Severino throwing 35 four-seam fastballs out of 70 pitches. Against a fastball-hitting Boston Red Sox team that won 108 regular season games, the results weren’t pretty. Severino lasted just three-plus innings and allowed six runs on seven hits, striking out two and walking two.
But that’s not the worst of it. The first pitch of the game was at 7:40 pm, and it was reported by Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media that Severino didn’t take his first warmup tosses until 7:32. Was this time crunch to warm up the reason for his implosion?
Both the Yankees and Severino claimed the alleged mix up over when the game started wasn’t a factor according to Coley Harvey of ESPN. But consider this, I’m going to assume everyone reading this has been to at least one game at Yankee Stadium. If you try to get there early, you’d know that whomever starts the game begins their warmups at least 20 minutes before the first pitch. Not only that, but YES Network analyst and former Yankees catcher John Flaherty offered this on the postgame show:
John Flaherty on YES: “There is no way you can go on a big league bullpen mound eight minutes before the scheduled first pitch and expect to be ready.”
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) October 9, 2018
This means one of two things happened on Monday. Either Severino just didn’t have his best stuff, or he legitimately forgot the start time. If the latter, that’s all on Larry Rothschild, who described the conversation over the matter as “blown out of proportion.”
Talk of Luis Severino's preparation for ALDS Game 3 has been blown out of proportion, says Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. pic.twitter.com/qvSYnvopAi
— YES Network (@YESNetwork) October 9, 2018
I don’t know about you but if I’m a major league pitching coach, I’m making sure my pitchers know what time the game starts at least two days in advance regardless of if they’re pitching. Not only that, but I’d have given Severino a reminder both the night before and the morning of the game.
Yes, Severino is a grown man and should know that information on his own, but the state of baseball now is one where communication is key. Lack of communication is why Joe Girardi was let go as manager at the end of last season. Now, consider that Rothschild was retained as pitching coach ahead of this season before Aaron Boone was hired as manager. We may never know the full story about Game 3, but it sounds like there was a mix up that never should have happened, and that falls on Larry Rothschild not communicating with Severino.
Thus, it’s time to bring in someone to modernize the pitching staff’s overall approach. Maybe YES analyst and former Yankee David Cone would be a good idea, as he has clearly embraced analytics and is more in the same laid-back vein as Boone.
Rothschild, on the other hand, was referred to as the “Curmudgeon in Chief” by Joel Sherman of the New York Post. If that doesn’t signal the need for a change at pitching coach, then what does?
Larry Rothschild is a phenomenal pitching coach. He knows how to develop young arms and has shown as such during his tenure with the Yankees. Unfortunately for him, the team is at a stage where it needs to get younger in every area.