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A Philosophical Shift

Just a final post here on the McCatty-St. Claire swap. There is a very clear philosophical trade-off with this move. St. Claire was very much a new-school pitching coach, relying on numbers and video. McCatty is more of a gut-feel guy, and his desire to preach toughness and aggressiveness might help a staff that's been plagued by walks. (Or so the theory goes.) Many of the young pitchers on staff have worked with both St. Claire and McCatty, so first, here are some thoughts from two of them, w/r/t pitching philosophy.

JOEL HANRAHAN, on McCatty: "He's positive. He doesn't like over-analyze everything. He stays positive, and he's gonna say, 'If you get beat, get beat with your best stuff.'"

JOHN LANNAN, comparing the two: "I think Saint was more about the video, statistical analysis of your starts. Like, how if you don't throw first-pitch strikes ... it affects everything. And he had a book full of all the numbers. Steve McCatty is more of a 'Go out there, take responsibility for what you do out there and whatever happens happens. Just know that the pitch you throw is your responsibility, and whatever happens you've got to deal with it.'"


Here's how McCatty answered the question about the philosophical shift.

Q: Randy was a big video guy. Do you plan to use that?

Lethal Weapon was one of my favorite ... [laughter]. We watch it, we watch it. It's a great tool. We'll watch and look at things and see if there are some mechanical things we can change. We talked about adding the mechanical to the thought process of what they're trying to do. It's not always that you just repeat every delivery. You try to do it, but you try to get yourself in a position where you're going to throw a good strike with it. So, yeah, I'll look at it, but I firmly believe that when you're in the big leagues you're talented enough that if your mental approach will allow you to compete and just go out and be aggressive and attack the zone, I think you're going to find out you'll have lower pitch counts, a lot more innings pitched and more success... I really think that a positive approach is more effective at times than always worrying about, 'Well, where are my hands at?' 'Where am I at on the rubber?' 'Where am I landing here?' By the time you do all that, when you go to throw the ball you're not making the pitch you need to make. So I try to get guys to believe that the thought process takes you where you want. When we work on the side we'll work on some mechanical things, but I just want guys to go out there with the approach that we're planning to play hardball.

By Chico Harlan  |  June 2, 2009; 6:04 PM ET
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Next: More On Flores's Setback


This really does not inspire confidence that the Nats are making the right decisions here.

Posted by: Liebercreep | June 2, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm just worried that the guy's turn-to reference for a lame joke is a 20-year old quasi-comedy.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | June 2, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

the ra-ra cheerleader approach works when you have talented individuals that know what they are doing, know what they want to do, and how to accomplish it. but when you are building a team of pitchers, especially young pitchers, somewhere along the line they need guidance that goes beyond positive moral support. otherwise, you get more daniel cabreras.

Posted by: theraph | June 2, 2009 6:12 PM | Report abuse

McCatty, you make a much better case for yourself than Mike Rizzo.

Posted by: Section506 | June 2, 2009 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Its about attitude, that has to change so in that context it makes sense. But I think that has to start with Rizzo and Acta ... not St. Claire.

Losing is a frame of mind that needs to be obliterated one way or another. Manny, said I decide when and where they pitch ... if he puts a pitcher into a situation that he's not ready for ... if he sets the team up for failure ...

Posted by: periculum | June 2, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

Looks right now like Guzman is the most valuable trade bait they've got. Which is why I suspect they keep Gonzalez up.

Posted by: periculum | June 2, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

In honor of a well-respected pitching coach being canned because the problem with this team is pitching, let's take a look at the team's offense.

As a team, the Nats are batting .261/.351/.426. Not bad, since the league average is .259/.335/.409 (that's AVG/OBP/SLG). So they're 4th in average, 3rd in on-base average, and second to only Philly in slugging average.

But, let's look at that again when there are runners in scoring position:

They're .242/.344/.378, lower in every category. The league averages are .257/.354/.403. What's more, the Nats have 116 strike outs in that situation, while the league average is 94.3.

But it's not like the Nats can't get men in position to score. The Nats have had 547 plate appearances with RISP, the league average is 541.7.

With the bases clear, it's a different story:

Nats .270/.355/.432, 215 K in 1038 PA
League .256/.324/.410, 202 K in 1060 PA

Posted by: Section506 | June 2, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Woo! Things are so much better now!

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | June 2, 2009 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Welcome to Washington, McCatty. Hope you;re wearing your batting helmet.

Posted by: jdschulz50 | June 2, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

It is funny that everyone is asking for stability and wants everyone out of town now! They think Rizzo can't run an organization, but God help us if any of you stepped up to run the ship.

Posted by: tengoalyrunr30 | June 2, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

It's 7:29. Is McCatty still the pitching coach?

Posted by: baltova1 | June 2, 2009 7:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm still in shock that Guzman struck out looking in the first inning. That's VERY un-Guz like.

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | June 2, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Looking good so far in the early innings.

Posted by: PattyinSJ | June 2, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Y'all seem to like Dibble here, right? Well, Dibble is all in on this pitching coach change. Telling it like it is....

Posted by: nunof1 | June 2, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

And there's the bonehead play of the game, folks!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | June 2, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

egads...WP/E2 for 2 runs. That's a new one.

Posted by: Naugatuck-Nats | June 2, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

You gotta give the Nats credit for one thing - they are inventive. Most every game they find some unusual way of making themselves look amateurish. Another play a high school team wouldn't make.

Posted by: LeeM9308 | June 2, 2009 8:26 PM | Report abuse

Let's see. The team has a milquetoast manager and is on pace to lose 120 games, give or take. So the right move is to fire the pitching coach?

This sounds pretty gutless to me.

So the team has replaced a video/stats oriented pitching coach with an old school guy who throws the children in the pool to see who sinks and who swims...Wait, didn't we just have a manager like that and didn't the "brain trust" decide they didn't want that type of leadership? So now we have a pitching coach from the school that was rejected with the new school manager.

Holy schmolly.

Can no one in this organization put two thoughts together?

Posted by: MartinZook | June 2, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Another classic Kearns at bat -- get behind in the count with the usual fastball under the hands and then hit a dribbler to the left side. The guy simply cannot drive the ball. Not enough bat speed to handle a fastball but just enough to try to pull the low and away breaknig pitches.

Posted by: SackMan | June 2, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Everyone here seems to like Dibble. Well, I don't so much and here's why. He isn't logical. He praises the new pitching coach because the new pitching coach preaches a message that the pitching coach doesn't matter, that the pitcher must take responsibility, 'go out and get 'em,' blah, blah.

Well, if the pitching coach ultimately doesn't matter, then, why make a switch? Why make a switch to one who thinks that way?

Plus I agree, the pitchers we have aren't very talented. Hard to see how a sink or swim approach can work.

That said, if Dibble wanted to make an intelligent case for the new coach, who is supposed to inspire our second rate pitchers with confidence, he should have quoted Berra. "90 percent of baseball is half mental."

Posted by: JLNash819 | June 2, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Great, it's pitching by osmosis now. Some kind of Zen will lead the ball beyond the hitter throuhg the strike zone and to the glove. Just do it! Trust your stuff. Cliche some cliche cliches. If you are gonna get beat, get beat with your best stuff. (Odd how Hanrahan went up and gave up the double on a slider to Winn, a guy who cannot hurt you even if he could catch up with the 95 mph heat that Joel has).

Again I urge -- Mr. McAtty, rent do not buy in DC. Lerners, don't bother stitching this guy's name on the jersey as he will not be here long.

Posted by: dfh123 | June 2, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Driving to the game (quite late), I heard Charlie and Dave in somber tones discussing the new coach's first appearance on the field. I thought, what have I missed? Who is managing the team? Then I find Acta is still there! Then I thought of W's giving the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet.

Rizzo has a great reputation for scouting talent, but does he enjoy stepping on people as much as it seems?

Posted by: paulkp | June 3, 2009 12:56 AM | Report abuse

I am hoping that McCatty is describing a shift in emphasis, not a total reliance on cliches and an abandonment of any emphasis on mechanics or useful statistics.

I keep remembering Dibble's repeated admonitions to not "over coach" Zimmermann, and I have to think those comments were not made in a vacuum or purely hypothetical. It appears that they were likely directed at St. Claire's coaching style, which Dibble -- not that he's necessarily the last word on the subject -- seemed to think was too inhibiting.

Time will tell, and coaches can only coach, not play.

I still think, along with many of you, that the better move would have been to change managers.

Posted by: Meridian1 | June 3, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

We need to get Detroits pitching coach. Have you seen what he has done with Edwin Jackson???!!! He sucked last year for the Rays and this year he is DOMINATE!

Posted by: Cartaldo | June 3, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

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