Personal Notes

June 17th, 2015

Mid-season update on the Pittsburgh Pirates: they have a solid team, now 8 games above .500. They just beat the Phillies three games straight with two of the three extra innings games ending 1 – 0 in Pirates favor. The Pittsburgh pitching staff is raising some eyebrows for their great pitching so far this season. Surprisingly, two Pittsburgh starters, Gerrit Cole and AJ Burnett possess #1 and #2 best ERA’s in the National League.

What’s behind the big turnaround in the Pirates’ pitching? Number 1 reason is the pitching (assistant) coaches, Ray Searage and Jim Benedict. Ray is the best “fix-it” pitching coach in the league. Jim uses technology to improve performance as well as any other coach. The Pirates were in large part willing to make several gambles on discarded pitchers because they knew they had just the coaches who can fix faulty fastball and splitter command in these two assistant coaches. Searage improved the command of both Liriano and A.J. Burnett in back-to-back seasons. and Jim Benedict had helped Charlie Morton with his throwing motion, allowing him to discover his effective two-seam fastball. Mark Melancon (among the NL leaders in Saves) and Jason Grilli (Saves leader two years ago) rebounded under Searage. The Pirates picked up AJ Burnett after the Yankees cast him off in 2012, then “fixed” his delivery. AJ pitched for two great years in Pittsburgh before the Pirates lost him in free agency to Philadelphia in 2014. The Phillies let him go at the end of the 2014 season due to an un-productive effort to work with him. AJ returned to a Pittsburgh uniform this year and, to the Phillies’ chagrin, improved his delivery due to input from Searage and Benedict pitching 9 scoreless innings against the Phillies during the Pirate sweep.

Thomas M. Riddle
President, VNFA

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