The Atlanta Braves made a significant change this offseason ousting long time pitching coach Roger McDowell and replacing him with Chuck Hernandez. The motivation for making the move reportedly centered on the Braves not being pleased with McDowell’s ability to develop young pitching. So they went with Hernandez who has a good background in working with young players.
Atlanta spent the rest of the offseason making veteran additions to their starting staff and the results to date, small sample size and all, are not good. The Braves rank 29th in the league in ERA with a 4.82 ERA.
It is a question that Mark Bowman tackled for his weekly mail bag segment at MLB.com.
The Braves felt a change was necessary and indicated they didn't like the way McDowell developed young pitchers. So, yeah, it was odd to see them add three short-term veterans to their rotation and then give the big league pitching coach job to Hernandez. You can certainly argue it would have made more sense to keep Hernandez in the role as Minor League pitching coordinator, where he could have continued having a daily impact on the developments of Newcomb, Fried, Sims, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka and the other prospects who could be in Atlanta at any point within the next two seasons.
Bowman has been critical of the decision to replace McDowell, but it is a valid question to ask given the Braves’ early struggles in the pitching department. Colon and Dickey have struggled to start the season. Garcia has been better but the bar overall has been set pretty low.
From a team perspective, perhaps their thinking is that the future will begin much sooner than many were expecting. Sean Newcomb has shown flashes in Triple-A as has Lucas Sims who has saved his status as a prospect with a solid turnaround this season. A little further back are guys like Max Fried and Patrick Weigel.
The point is, this staff could go from one of the oldest to one of the youngest quickly. Atlanta would no doubt like to see Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia perform better to help build some trade value but have repeatedly stated that those veterans were stop gaps and wouldn’t block the development of their young pitchers as they progress through the minors.
Exit Question: What are your early thoughts on Chuck Hernandez? Does he deserve some of the blame for the team’s slow start in the pitching department?