The Angels’ staffing shakeup continued Tuesday with the firings of pitching coach Doug White and bench coach Josh Paul.
Under White, the Angels took a major step forward in terms of analytics. They began using radar devices and high-speed cameras to analyze pitchers’ offerings. The technology helped some to improve the shapes of their pitches and discard pitches that were not working for them.
But the Angels’ pitching staff as a whole put together one of the worst campaigns in franchise history. They posted a 5.12 ERA — the third-highest posted by any Angels team — and allowed the third-most home runs (267) in baseball. No other team in franchise history had allowed more than 228, a record set by the 2000 Angels.
Pitchers struck out 1,404 batters, which was just about average in MLB this season. The Angels of 2018 also struck out an MLB-average number of hitters.
White, a pitching coach in some capacity since 2003, had spent his four previous seasons working in the Houston Astros’ system. He was their bullpen coach in 2018. Astros relievers had a major league best 3.03 earned-run average, improving by more than a run from their 2017 ERA under White’s direction.
In Anaheim, White was charged with a staff of aging veterans, inexperienced minor leaguers and a few pitchers seemingly on the cusp of becoming all-stars. Injuries had wrecked the staff by the end of May, and the death of Tyler Skaggs on July 1 furthered the collapse.
When inexperienced pitchers were called on to fill the vacancies, most struggled to acclimate to the major leagues. Jaime Barria and Jose Suarez, for instance, battled mechanical changes suggested by White and fell into deep ruts. Both finished their campaigns with ERAs worse than 6.00.
Rookies Patrick Sandoval and Griffin Canning, however, credited White for slight adjustments to their stances on the mound that improved their ability to deceive hitters. Sandoval, in particular, had a good working relationship with White from their shared time in the Astros system.
White also suggested to closer Hansel Robles, the Angels’ most successful pitcher of the 2019 season, that he begin throwing the changeup he hadn’t thrown regularly in the major leagues since 2017. Robles took the suggestion and posted a 1.52 ERA with 50 strikeouts over his final 40 games.
The inconsistent performance of the pitching staff forced the Angels’ hand.
“Doug brought a tremendous amount of energy, passion, creativity to the job,” general manager Billy Eppler said. “I think there were players that got better here under Doug’s tutelage. I think he’s going to be a [successful] pitching coach as he moves forward in his career.”