PHILADELPHIA -- The strength of the Phillies' pitching staff is perhaps the No. 1 reason the team found itself in first place in the National League East in August and made a 14-game improvement in the standings from 2017.But the Phillies recently dismissed pitching coach Rick Kranitz and promoted assistant
PHILADELPHIA -- The strength of the Phillies' pitching staff is perhaps the No. 1 reason the team found itself in first place in the National League East in August and made a 14-game improvement in the standings from 2017.
But the Phillies recently dismissed pitching coach Rick Kranitz and promoted assistant pitching coach Chris Young to take his place, as the team had confirmed on Wednesday. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal first reported that multiple teams had pursued Young as a head pitching coach.
One source told MLB.com that one of the two teams that had interest in Young resided in the NL East. The Braves and Marlins are looking for someone to fill their vacant positions. The source said the Phils simply did not want to lose Young.
Dave Lundquist was named assistant pitching coach on Friday. This past season was Lundquist's 11th with the Phillies and his third with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he most recently served as pitching coach. He previously coached for Double-A Reading for three years (2013-15), Class A Clearwater for four (2009-12) and Class A Lakewood for one (2008). Originally selected in the fifth round of the 1993 Draft by the White Sox, Lundquist, 45, pitched professionally for 12 seasons from 1993-2004, including stints with the White Sox (1999) and Padres (2001-02).
Paco Figueroa, formerly named outfield/baserunning coach as announced previously, had most recently been the Minor League hitting coordinator for the Dodgers.
The news of Kranitz's dismissal surprised Phillies pitchers, many of whom became close with the popular and affable Kranitz. Word spread quickly.
"Kranny is a stud," right-hander Tommy Hunter said. "But so much of the game is out of your control. You can only control certain things. Throw the ball, catch the ball. That's the message that I think some of the younger guys on our team are having a hard time with. Relationships get built in this game. People find those relationships.
"Kranny is a big relationship guy, so there is a strong bond with our players and Kranny. Not just our pitchers, but position players and everyone. There's something to be said about a guy like Kranny in your clubhouse. That's why we all loved him. But then again, this is not a decision of the players, so as a player, you just have to accept it and move forward."
"Best pitching coach I EVER had," reliever Pat Neshek wrote in a text message. "He was a huge influence on me during my time in Philly and I think with the entire pitching staff. You'll never hear one pitcher say anything bad about him. He had an excellent attitude every day that the players respected. Decisions happen in baseball all the time. Kranny will be tough to replace."
The Phillies ranked 18th in the Majors with a 4.14 ERA, but one of the worst defenses contributed to that number. The organization puts more stock into other metrics anyway. The Phils ranked among the best in the big leagues in categories like FIP (seventh, 3.83), xFIP (sixth, 3.87), WAR (sixth, 19.6), strikeout rate (sixth, 23.9), average exit velocity (fifth, 86.9 mph) and balls barreled (seventh, 2.2 percent).
Last season was Young's first as a coach. He spent the previous three as a scout with the Astros (2015-17) and five before that as a scout with the Padres ('10-14).
Young is steeped in analytics, which no doubt is a big reason why the Phillies added him to manager Gabe Kapler's staff last year.
"CY is observant," Hunter said. "He has a knack for understanding your strengths and knowing how to relay that information to you the best way possible.
"I don't think our pitching staff is going to take any steps back. We still have to pitch. That's something that I think is an important message for the young guys. Nobody is throwing those baseballs for you. No matter who is there, you still have to make the pitches and you still have to get those outs. It's going to be different. I don't know how else to say it. It's going to be different without Kranny, but I think CY is capable of doing a pretty damn good job as well."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.