Hmmmm...the Pirate pitching staff gave up the most runs, hits and walks in the NL this year. They also had the highest ERA and the next to fewest strikeouts in the League. Somebody's head had to roll after a season like that, and it was Jeff Andrew's.
He, along with first base coach Lou Frazier, fell to the axe of Neal Huntington today.
Andrews, 49, had spent 22 years in the minors toiling as a pitching coach. After last year's disastrous showing under the guidance of Jim Colburn, he was hired by Pittsburgh, where it was hoped his familiarity with the Pirate pitchers, many of whom he had tutored at Indy, would drive a revival of their early success. It wasn't to be.
The dismissal was a mild surprise, but his fate had been decided for awhile, apparently, to happen so soon after the season. And while his work didn't merit his return, the inaction of the new Pirate suits has to be blamed, too. He never had a chance to succeed with the material he had at hand.
They knew in the spring that they had problems with the starting staff. And while they brought in some help for the bullpen, Phil Dumatrait was the only rotation arm that they added. When Matty Mo quickly imploded, the five men they had were the only five they had left to dance with in 2008.
No meaningful competition for jobs and the failure to land a veteran inning-eater to replace Morris, both as a pitcher and mentor, had as much to do with Andrew's firing as his coaching did. And they know that. That's why they dealt for Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, and Dan McCutchen.
So the pitching cost Pittsburgh more than Jeff Andrews. It also cost the Pirates their two most productive bats, Jay Bay and Xavier Nady. Those five guy sure caused a lot of turmoil this year.
Our major concern is that for many of the staff - Paul Maholm, Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny, Matt Capps, and John Grabow - the new boss will be the fourth pitching coach in five years, following Spin Williams, Colburn, and Andrews. That's a lot of tinkering and mind games to deal with for a young crew.
As for Frazier, we'd guess his day jobs of coaching the outfielders and base-running fell short. He was a tireless worker, but too many missed cut-offs and too many gaffes on the basepaths during his watch sealed the deal for him.
Huntington said to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com: "Ultimately, I am the GM, and I am accountable for our performance. I am not proud that I had to make coaching changes this soon with people that I hired only one year ago, but I feel like this is the best move going forward."
We suggest, given the youth of the team, that he bring in a couple of veteran heads that can teach the game and provide a little fire to the troops. And we hope that he continues to really emphasize the fundamentals throughout the system, from Bradenton to Indianapolis, so the learning curve isn't so steep at PNC.