Anyone who has followed the Angels for at least the last few seasons has noticed that it sure seems like pitchers perform better after they leave the Angels. I wanted to determine whether that perception matched reality when it came to the Angels current pitching coach, Mike Butcher.
My method was simple. Identify all pitchers who pitched at least 30 innings in their last season under Butcher's tutelage and then pitched at least 30 innings in their next season of action. For pitchers that split a season between the Angels and another team, I looked at the split season numbers (again, with a minimum of 30 IP for both teams).
Next I compared each pitcher's ERA+ in their last season with the Angels to their ERA+ in the next season. ERA+ is basically ERA adjusted for the ballparks pitched in and the league average ERA. An ERA+ of 100 is league average and a higher number is better. I tossed out those instances where the difference in ERA+ was less than 5 because that seemed to be too small of a difference to conclude that one season was better than another.
Anyway, a total of 21 pitchers met my parameters. How many of those 21 pitched better after leaving the Angels? A shocking 18 of 21, i.e., 86%!
Only 3 of 21 pitchers had a lower ERA+ in the season after leaving the Angels: K-Rod, Lackey and Haren. The 18 who had a higher ERA+ includes Santana, Saunders, Colon, Oliver, Garland, Arredondo, O'Day, Jepsen, Fuentes, Kazmir, Rodney, Chatwood, Greinke, Frieri, Hawkins, Vargas, Blanton and Grilli.
Moreover, of the 16 pitchers with the greatest % change in performance, 15 of them changed for the better after departing Anaheim. This group was led by Rodney, who improved from a poor ERA+ of 85 in his last season with the Angels to having one of the greatest seasons by a relief pitcher of all time, posting the highest ERA+ EVER of 641 (min. 50 IP), while allowing just 5 earned runs in 74 innings and racking up 48 saves. As I recall, Rodney's magical transformation occurred primarily because he stopped throwing the slider that Butcher had coached him to throw, relying instead on just a 95-mph fastball and a devastating changeup.
Others who experienced a tremendous improvement in performance include O'Day (158% improvement and a top-quality pitcher ever since), Blanton (131%), Santana (72%), Colon (68%) and Arredondo (68%). Several pitchers appeared to be broken beyond repair by the time Butcher was done with them and somehow managed a return to form, including the aforementioned Rodney and Blanton, as well as Kazmir.
In short, Mike Butcher's actual track record as the Angels pitching coach is atrocious, undoubtedly one of the worst, if not the worst, in all of MLB during his tenure. So I ask a simple question: How does this man retain his job? Is the Angels front office oblivious to this demonstrated incompetence? Or is it more likely a case of Butcher is Mike Scioscia's guy and therefore he is doing a great job?
Getting rid of Mike Butcher, not Mike Scioscia, should be the #1 item on Angels fans' wish lists.