We went an entire season without ever really getting to know recently-departed pitching coach Mark Riggins. Larry Rothschild had been around so long, and Riggins’ background as a pitching instructor in the Cardinals’ organization was relatively murky, that it was easy to feel like it would take a while to “know” what Riggins was all about. Couple that with Riggins’ marriage to a manager, Mike Quade, whom we all sensed was not long for the job, and it was easy to feel like we wouldn’t have the necessary while to know what Riggins was all about.
So, indeed, here we are with Riggins gone, Quade gone, and Chris Bosio and Dale Sveum in their respective places. I can’t help but feel it would be nice to know more about Bosio than we knew about Riggins. The season will tell us a lot, but, in the interim, it’s time to start getting to know Bosio better.
Yes, Bosio and his pitchers will rely on advance scouts and some computer printouts for tendencies, but, he says, the strategy “is going to be more focused on how do we get them out. Let’s not worry about (what batters hit) on certain counts.
“Don’t write me a book,” he said at the Cubs Convention. “If you want to write a book, stick it in the mail and give it to someone who cares. Just give me some good information on how I can get this guy out. That’s probably in a nutshell what we’re trying to do.”
Then he is a believer in using certain pitches to get batters out?
“Either that or throw at his (helmet) ear hole,” Bosio said with a laugh. “We’re going to do our share of that. I’m an old-school guy. … There’s a way to do it and do it the right way. I know we’re on the same page, Theo and the coaching staff. It’s not rocket science, it’s just old-school baseball.” …
“For the most part, the (pitching coach) philosophies are all the same,” Bosio admits….
When he talks about “inside,” Bosio will be referring to location he wants pitchers to throw, not on some bit of inside information gleaned from a computer.
“We’re going to (do) our share inside,” he said. “We’re going to play a good, hard old-fashioned baseball with fundamental stuff. And try to minimize our walks and mistakes. If we do that, we’ll win our share of games.”
It was easy to sour quickly on Riggins given how terrible the Cubs’ pitching staff was as a whole in early 2012, but, upon reflection, as I’ve said before, he probably got a bum rap. Matt Garza credits Riggins with his change approach (which yielded his best season), and Jeff Samardzija’s evolution as the season went on is almost certainly partially due to Riggins’ efforts.
I’ll do better not to make that same mistake early on with Bosio.
That said, I’d be lying if I said I liked what I was hearing. Downplaying the use of statistical analysis in approaching batters in favor of saying things like “let’s not worry about what batters do in certain counts,” and “just get them out,” well, it makes me nervous. I think it would be naive to say that not all coaching staffs avail themselves of the available data. They do. And I’m sure Bosio, together with Sveum, will do the same.
But “old school” means something, too. It suggests an approach that, when push comes to shove, eschews numbers in favor of “trying harder.” Maybe there’s something to that, at the margins anyway, but it isn’t what I want to hear in January - especially a year after Mike Quade repeatedly and consistently threw out the book in deference to his gut, to disastrous results. And, frankly, while I support an increase in “effort” by Cubs’ players, I think that whole angle has been a bit overplayed this Winter.
We’ll see how things play out over the year, and I plan to go into it with optimistic eyes that expect not to be having this same conversation about the next guy in January 2013.