The Royals announced today that they have hired a new pitching coach: Dave Eiland. Eiland had been serving as an advisor with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 after spending three years as pitching coach for the New York Yankees. Prior to that, Eiland was a pitching coach in the Yankees’ farm system from 2000 to 2007 and pitched for them in parts of five seasons over his 12-year career.
Eiland fits the mold for what the Royals were reportedly seeking. He was a mediocre pitcher for close to 15 years, had been a part of championship teams, and has experience coaching. And what’s given him a leg up with the Royals is that he’s worked with young pitchers with the Yankees, including Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, and even some with Ivan Nova. Those factors made his contention for the open Royals spot pretty strong. Still, considering that the Yankees had the oldest pitching staff in the AL in 2008 and ’10 (and the third-oldest in ’09), the situation the Royals have will be significantly different.
What were his results with the Yankees? Well, a lot of folks have theorized that a primary goal for Eiland will be reducing the Royals’ pitchers’ walks. It will. But his past doesn’t necessarily show that to be the case. Hughes was the major case of walks decreasing, going from 4.0/9 IP in 2008 to about 3.0/9 IP in ’09 and ’10. Otherwise, pitchers basically held steady or increased their walks, showing extremely minor improvement if any at all. It’s hard to know what to call Eiland on and what not to, but there wasn’t that necessary improvement in walks.
As for the team ERA, it did steadily decrease over Eiland’s time, but with the addition of CC Sabathia and replacements of some aging pitchers, again, it’s hard to judge his involvement. The Yankees did increase their strikeout totals during Eiland’s tenure and ranked among the five best in the AL during that time, leading in 2009. Compared to the three prior years, during which they were consistently below average, that is an improvement.
What do I think? Well, I’m not an expert by any means. I was never a pitcher and have never coached pitchers. But any change from Bob McClure is a good change, in my mind. And Eiland will be a new experience for everyone. Since we have low standards and young pitchers, it’ll be hard to tell what to relate to his involvement and what is just the maturation of Royals pitchers. The walks situation with the 2011 Royals may have been partially the first full major league season for young pitchers and partially McClure’s coaching, but I can’t say with any confidence that Eiland will be either great or subpar. We’ll just have to wait and see.