The Yankees fired pitching coach Larry Rothschild on Monday in what came off as yet another concession by general manager Brian Cashman to the cutting-edge, tech-savvy updates that he has pledged to implement whenever possible for the organization.
Rothschild, 65, joined the Yankees under then-manager Joe Girardi in 2011, and as the team pointed out in Monday’s statement, their pitchers led the American League in winning percentage (.567), strikeouts (12,634) and first-pitch strike percentage (61.9) during his tenure. Cashman himself said last week that the pitching staff was not the reason they lost to the Astros in the ALCS, but with the decision to fire Rothschild with a year left on his contract, he obviously sees room for improvement.
According to an organizational source, Rothschild’s voice was losing authority in the decision-making process as the front office was exerting more analytics-driven control in the pitching realm. This season, the Yankees ranked 14th in the major leagues in ERA (4.31), placed 12th in opponents’ batting average (.246), were tied for ninth in WHIP (1.30) and slotted eighth in K/BB ratio (3.03).
“I want to personally thank Larry for his near decade of commitment to this organization,” Cashman said in a statement. “Larry cares deeply about his craft and the pitchers under his tutelage, and he played a significant role in our successes over the past nine seasons. There’s a reason why Larry has had the type of distinguished baseball career he’s had, and it starts with experience and dedication that is difficult to emulate.”
Cashman may have telegraphed Rothschild’s firing in June, however, with the hiring of Driveline’s Sam Briend to be the Yankees’ director of pitching development, a newly created position and a nod to more data-based influence.
“There’s an explosion of technology and data and analytics in our entire sport clearly that we’re on top of,” Cashman said at the time. “But what we’re not on top of, we’re going to close the gap on.”
Rothschild might not stay unemployed for long. The Phillies introduced Joe Girardi at a Monday news conference shortly after Rothschild’s firing, and their new manager made it sound as if a reunion is possible.
“I thought he did a great job there,” Girardi told reporters. “The game has evolved and Larry continues to evolve. Obviously, Matt [Klentak, the Phillies' GM] and I have a couple of positions that we need to fill and we are going to talk about every name that is out there and get who we think is the best person for Philadelphia. Obviously, I have close ties to Larry and we’ll discuss everything.”
With Luis Severino limited to three regular-season starts because of shoulder and lat muscle injuries, the Yankees pivoted to the new-school route by using an “opener” for 20 starts, finishing 13-7 in those games after winning the first 11. Recently, Cashman has talked more about how carefully scripted bullpen scenarios have become, and the Rothschild firing is a reflection of the Yankees’ continued makeover of their pitching department as well as the philosophy that goes with it. It comes even after Rothschild’s role in helping Aaron Boone transition from the broadcast booth to the dugout.
“Larry is someone I leaned on extensively over these past two years,” Boone said in a statement. “I’m truly grateful that I had someone as established and loyal as Larry as I made my transition to the dugout. Seeing him work day after day, I have a deep appreciation for how devoted he was to his craft and how tirelessly he dove into his responsibilities. His distinguished career clearly reflects how highly he is regarded amongst his peers in baseball, and I wish him the very best moving forward.”
The Yankees’ pitching staff had the highest ERA of the Larry Rothschild era this season:
ERA AL rank
2019 4.31 6
2018 3.78 5
2017 3.72 3
2016 4.16 7
2015 4.05 8
2014 3.75 8
2013 3.94 8
2012 3.85 5
2013 3.73 4