Should Butcher Get Axed?
By Virginia Todd
Yes, that’s supposed to be a pun. Yes, I know I’m not good at it. No, you don’t need to point it out, I already know. Yes, I still did it anyway. And I happen to think the answer to the question is a resounding yes as well. Here’s why:
The past few seasons, when everyone’s been so unhappy with the Angels’ performance, can all be boiled down to pitching. Sure, there have been other areas in which the team could improve. Situational hitting has been almost non-existent. Base running errors have jumped exponentially, it seems. The same goes for fielding errors. Everyone not named Mike Trout has looked as if they were expendable at one point or another. But, when all was said and done, hitting was not the problem. Let’s look at last year as an example, since it was most recent and freshest in our minds.
On the offensive side, the Angels were 5th in BA (batting average, for the acronymically-challenged) with .264, 5th in OBP (on base percentage) at .329, their .414 SLG (slugging percentage) was good enough for 6th, and the team was 7th overall in runs with 733.
In the AL West, the Angels had a better BA and OBP than the Oakland Athletics, the Texas Rangers, and the Houston Astros, and only Oakland had a better SLG and scored more runs, but somehow, all three of these clubs had winning records against the Angels last year (most sadly of all, the Astros had a winning record. I still can’t get over it. Probably never will).
Yet the best our pitching staff could muster was to get 14th in quality starts with 87. They were 24th in ERA (earned run average), 26th in BAA (batting average against), and 27th in WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). That is 24th, 26th, and 27th, of 30 MLB teams. That’s right. I’ll just let that sink in for a minute here…
Wow. Mind blown. I mean, I knew it was bad, but until I did the research, I didn’t realize just how bad.
So, while the offense was in the top third of every category listed, the pitching staff was in the bottom third of all but one of them, and the best that can be said is that in that one area, they were in the middle.
Quite the hubbub was made at the end of the season. We all know why. The Angels lineup was laden with talent and hitters galore, but the season hopes were snuffed out in spectacular fashion. Not only did they fail to make the playoffs again, they had a losing record. Fans were in an uproar, clamoring for something to be done. Even before the season ended, rumors swirled that either Jerry Dipoto or Mike Scioscia were finished in Anaheim.
Turns out, that’s not the case. Instead, hitting coach Jim Eppard and bench coach Rob Picciolo were let go. I guess I can understand the hitting coach. Even though the Angels did ok overall in hitting, individual numbers for the big hitters (aka Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton) were sub-par to say the least. And, as I mentioned before, the situational hitting was pretty atrocious. Especially when it came to hitting with RISP (runners in scoring position). What I don’t understand at all was firing Mr. Picciolo. Any and everyone is welcome to try to explain this one to me. Please. No comprendo at all.
June 27, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher (23) talks to starting pitcher Jered Weaver (36) in the dugout in the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Anywho, getting back on track… while it was mentioned that both Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia’s jobs were in jeopardy, and two others lost their jobs, not once has Mike Butcher been seriously discussed as a culprit for the Angels woes or that he could/should be in danger of losing his position. Of course, there are rumblings from fans, but those don’t usually amount to anything. What I don’t understand is why not? He sure looks happy in this picture here, doesn’t he? Especially for a guy whose pitchers were among the worst in the league last year.
Pitchers on the whole have gotten worse when they’ve come to Anaheim and worked under Butcher. I’m not joking. Dan Haren has always been known as a workhorse who pitches a lot of quality innings and keeps his team in the game. He came to Anaheim, and, as my sister Vanessa is fond of saying, “He got Butcher’d.” His velocity decreased each year with the Angels. He goes to the Washington Nationals, and suddenly, his velocity is up, as you can see if you look at his velocity chart. Now, I don’t know a ton about reading those charts, but they sure do look like they trend in the upward direction once he left the Angels and the tutelage of Mike Butcher. Now he’s got a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Way to go Danny boy! Welcome back to sunny SoCal! Just don’t pitch too well in interleague games against the Angels, ok?
Scott Kazmir was pretty phenomenal for the Tampa Bay Rays (starting back when they were still the Devil Rays). Then Butcher got his hands on him. All of a sudden, he started having troubles. Those problems multiplied and he ended up on the disabled list. While trying to rehab and come back, he showed moments of his brilliance, but, in the end, he was also “Butcher’d” and found himself playing in an Independent League. Last year, he makes a comeback with the Cleveland Indians, and lo and behold, he’s winning 10 games again! And guess who’s velocity also improved? Yep, Mr. Kazmir’s, this time by quite a bit, as you (and even I) can see in his velocity chart here. Good for you Kaz! Hope it continues for ya! I’ve always wished him nothing but the best, I wish his best could’ve been here, but still. Now I hope he pitches well except for games versus the Angels.
Not to mention how Ervin Santana did once he left. Or how bad Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson did last year. I mean, the overall pitching numbers speak for themselves. What I posit is that a different pitching coach would get different results from the staff. With different pitching results, the Angels would have won more games, and the season would have turned out differently. Because, after all, if everyone is aware that the problem is pitching, why is it that the person who’s responsible for the pitchers hasn’t been in the hot seat when apparently they’re willing to put just about anyone else on there? Maybe we’ve all been “Butcher’d.” Maybe now I just like saying it as much as my sister. The world may never know.