There won’t be any drama with the Orioles coaching staff this offseason. MASN’s Roch Kubatko reported on Tuesday night that the team has invited back the entirety of the 2017 coaching staff for next season. For many, contracts were set to expire when the calendar turned over to November.
Despite a league-worst starting rotation and a near-league-worst team on-base percentage, not much of the blame for the poor performance of the 2017 team seems to have fallen on its coaches like pitching coach Roger McDowell or hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh.
Should the Orioles have made a change with their coaching staff for the sake of making a change? If they wanted to do so, the reason would have been easy to grasp. A 5.70 ERA from the starting staff really speaks for itself.
On the other hand, it’s not McDowell’s fault that the Orioles decided a starting rotation that consisted of Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Jeremy Hellickson would be good enough to try to compete. When that’s what you have to work with, the ceiling is limited.
Maybe he should have been able to do more to help those guys be a little less bad, maybe not.
Yet even if you give him a pass for the irredeemably horrible starters the front office saw fit to put on the team, Kevin Gausman taking a big step back was discouraging. That’s a guy whose potential the O’s need to maximize. Perhaps it took until July for good advice to pay off. Gausman had a 3.49 ERA from July to the end of the season.
With hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh, the story is much the same. A number of key Orioles disappointed at the plate. Manny Machado barely salvaged a season from complete disappointment with his .259/.310/.471 batting line, though he still didn’t meet expectations. Chris Davis was a disaster and Mark Trumbo was even more of one. It wasn’t a good thing for the team.
At least in Coolbaugh’s case, there were success stories to balance out some of the failure. Jonathan Schoop took a great step forward this season, crushing 32 home runs while posting an .841 OPS. Welington Castillo turned in the best-hitting season of his career. There was also rookie Trey Mancini, who was a revelation even as he had to adjust to left field on the fly.
As tough as it is for fans to accept, we just don’t know a whole lot about what makes a good coach. Most of the work that they do is hidden from public eye, though there are exceptions, like third base coach Bobby Dickerson’s occasional tendency to send runners to their doom for no apparent reason. This has never seemed to bother the Orioles, either.
With the Orioles, you never quite know if they will be able to get through a basic step of offering contracts to their coaches without drama. Last year, for instance, brought about the weird saga of then-bullpen coach Dom Chiti apparently wanting to come back but never getting a call from the team.
Coaches can make suggestions, but when you get down to it, it’s up to the players to play. The Orioles don’t seem to blame the coaches for the players who didn’t get it done this season. As a result, the team will have some continuity heading into next year. Hopefully that turns out to be a good thing.