Brian Bannister, the pitching guru frequently mentioned as a favorite to replace fired pitching coach Cal Eldred, isn’t joining the KC Royals.
At least not in that capacity. Maybe he and Kansas City can get together on some other and future role with the club, but it isn’t happening today.
Instead, the Royals announced Thursday that they’ve picked American League Central Division rival Cleveland’s bullpen coach to succeed Eldred—Brian Sweeney is KC manager Matt Quatraro’s new pitching coach.
At the same time, the club revealed it’s chosen José Alguacil, Washington’s minor league infielder coordinator until Thursday, to be Quatraro’s big league infield coach.
That it took the Royals almost two months to make these hires plainly suggests the club is carefully building Quatraro’s staff and won’t rush putting it together. And Sweeney’s hire especially reflects the franchise’s increasing commitment to data-driven decisions.
New KC Royals pitching coach Brian Sweeney should be what the club needs.
Sweeney looks like a good choice to help implement principal owner John Sherman’s well-chronicled desire to increase his club’s dependence on data. Sweeney is known for his heavy reliance on pitching-related data and information, an approach that seems to have served him well in his work as Cleveland’s bullpen coach since 2020.
Take 2022 for example. Cleveland’s relievers ranked high in several critical categories. Only World Series champion Houston’s bullpen saved more AL games than the Guardians, and Sweeney’s relievers had the league’s second lowest WHIP and OBA and third best ERA, and also surrendered the third lowest number of runs, hits, homers and walks, and hit the third least number of batters.
Kansas City’s relief corps, on the other hand, had the AL’s worst ERA, WHIP, and OBA, gave up the most walks, ranked next to last in saves and runs, tied for second worst in hit batters, and gave up the third most hits.
Sweeney’s professional resumé includes major and minor league pitching experience—he went 4-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 24 big league relief appearances spread across parts of two seasons each with Seattle and San Diego, which included time under Seattle pitching coach Carl Willis, who he later joined on Cleveland’s coaching staff. He was 88-61, 4.09 in 14 minor league campaigns and won 23 times in three years with the NPB’s Nippon Ham Fighters.
Sweeney put in two seasons as pitching coach of Philadelphia’s Low-A Lakewood affiliate in 2016 and 2017 and worked in the same capacity in Rookie ball for the Phillies in 2015.
The KC Royals also added José Alguacil to its 2023 coaching staff Thursday.
New infield coach Alguacil joins Kansas City after serving as Washington’s minor league infield coordinator last season. He also worked 15 seasons with San Francisco, where his assignments included time as the club’s first base coach and managing in the Giants’ minor league system.
Alguacil never made it to the big leagues, but slashed .237/.299/.311 in a seven-year minor league career during which he saw action everywhere on the field except behind the plate. He played second base, shortstop and third the majority of that time.
Kansas City has two new coaches.