Baltimore Sun on Kranitz

There's a nice article in The Sun this morning about the Orioles' new pitching coach, Rick Kranitz, aka the guy who replaced Mazzone.

The whole thing is a good read, but here are a few bits that stood out to me:

On why Mazzone was let go:

Several Orioles tired of Mazzone's gruff demeanor and rigid methods and philosophies. Club officials, while respecting Mazzone's ability and resume, concluded he was not the right fit to mentor a young staff and decided not to retain him.

"Leo had a certain philosophy, and for that relationship to continue, you really had to make a commitment to teach that philosophy from Rookie ball on up," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "Leo has a tremendous track record, and I thought he did a good job here. But we as an organization were not willing to commit to [his philosophy] the whole way through."

Mazzone wanted all pitchers to pitch the same way:

For the most part, Mazzone insisted pitchers do things his way rather than how they were comfortable doing them. Catcher Ramon Hernandez noted that several of the Orioles' young pitchers weren't capable of executing the low-and-away fastball, Mazzone's signature pitch, but he felt as if he had to keep calling for the pitch.

"You knew it wasn't going to work," Hernandez said. "Leo was telling them to do it when they couldn't pitch that way. Some lefties can't pitch down and away. For young guys, Rick's a much better fit. He goes with what the guy wants to do."

..."I never felt like I completely related," [Garrett] Olson said. "Kranitz has done a great job of incorporating everyone. I don't think his style just fits some and not others. I think he's doing a good job of fitting [the] mold for everybody. Leo had a certain style, and it needed to work for you. I like to go inside on hitters, and I think other people feel the same way."

Kranitz tries to find what works and polish it:

"I'm not here to say, 'You guys need to change.' I'm here to learn [about] them, and if I have some adjustments to make, then we will. We'll do little things, just tweak a couple of things. We're not in the business of making huge changes."

...Said Florida Marlins catcher Matt Treanor: "In a lot of places, you see [pitching coaches] trying to switch somebody. Rick took their individual styles, and the only thing I saw where he would change something is if he saw something that was going to hurt a guy."

He's certain to have one fan on the staff at least:

It was Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera, the enigmatic but talented 26-year-old, who was supposed to be Mazzone's prized pupil. However, Cabrera's ERA rose each of the past two seasons, including last year's 18-loss campaign. Cabrera declined to comment on Mazzone but said: "I'm not going to lie. I feel better the way things are now."

Feeling good about oneself is always part of the battle, particularly with a young pitcher. Cabrera's 2005 numbers were respectable, if not particularly impressive (WHIP 1.43, K-BB ratio of 1.8-1). Then Mazzone came in and (maybe) told him he had to pitch a different way. For two years, his walks and ERA increased, and he pitched less and less effectively. Could this truly be a case of having the wrong teacher for a certain kind of pupil?

Indeed, Mazzone was oft quoted as saying (I'm paraphrasing here), "until you can throw low and away for a strike, nothing else matters." I think it's possible that there might be some talented guys on the Orioles who can't master that pitch, but could get it done with some other ones. Right now I'm sold on this being a better approach to pitching than some kind of "one-size-fits-all" philosophy.

Time will tell.

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