A week ago, the Texas Rangers bullpen had been performing in a very iffy manner, and Sam Dyson was atrocious in the "closer" role.
No one mentioned Brad Holman as the problem.
The Rangers offense has been consistently inconsistent; running up the score in one game, looking completely ineffective in the next.
There has been no outrage over Anthony Iapoce, the Hitting Coach. Except for a couple of guys who have been grumbling about him since he was hired.
Bullpen management has been a mess, and there have been some concerns about Left Field and First Base playing time.
Manager Jeff Banister has been criticized fairly heavily, but to be somewhat fair he's not doing anything differently than in previous years.
Beyond the usual suspects, there hasn't been too much muttering about Pitching Coach Doug Brocail. Until he was asked for some comments about the surprising and unexpected pull of Yu Darvish in a game against Oakland.
"The 1st 5 innings he got away w/ a lot of stuff. He didn’t pitch in at all. I was ready for him to come out."
Darvish was pulled by Banister without any mound visits, without any signalling, and without any significant communication between Catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Pitcher Darvish. After an 8 pitch walk to Yonder Alonso, which went to a full count and featured three foul offs by Alonso, Brocail informed Banister "(he) had seen enough." There was never an attempt to communicate, according to Brocail, because Darvish hadn't adhered to the "game plan" of pitching inside. Banister, for his part, said Darvish was pulled without warning because "He was brilliant, then got behind hitters. As good as he looked through five, the sixth just got extremely challenging on him." This is a hard quote to take from Banister, who has repeatedly preached a philosophy of letting (other) pitchers get themselves out of jams, including the inability to find the strike zone. Which, I will note, Darvish was still doing...just not as well.
These comments caused a minor storm of controversy after the game, most of which was anchored to Brocail's comments. Doug Brocail came across as nit-picking Darvish's performance publicly, a huge no-no for coaches at the MLB level. He seemed like a petulant teacher unhappy that a student had solved a problem using an alternative process, and furthermore punished the student for doing so. Banister's comments indicated a Manager not actually in control of his team, seeking to blame his actions on his coach and the player.
Some have called for Brocail to be fired. The inevitable response is that coaches don't actually do all that much, so firing Brocail wouldn't actually accomplish anything. This defense is predicated on the idea that the Pitching Coach isn't actually on the mound making pitches, and further doesn't have the power to make a pitcher throw the pitch the coach wants at any given time. Or indeed any time. This is true, of course. Although, as we clearly see from the Darvish game, the Pitching Coach apparently has the ability to bypass normal routines and get the best starting pitcher on the staff pulled prematurely from a game.
As frustrated as many Rangers fans are, you're never going to get anywhere arguing with the beat writers, the team's news editors or PR people, the managers and coaches, or the front office. Evan Grant, to pull a name at random, is never going to agree with you that Doug Brocail should be fired, unless Brocail does something so public, embarrassing, and possibly borderline illegal that Grant loses more credibility and readership by ignoring it.
Doug Brocail may not be back next year...I can't make a predictive statement on that yet. The current Rangers management doesn't seem to like firing people mid-season, though. In fact, I suspect Banister would be the first to go if any of the on-field staff get canned. Banister's management choices have a much more obvious and direct impact on the games than Brocail's and Iapoce's. You could even argue that the Rangers would be .500 or better except for choices made in-game by Jeff Banister. You can't PROVE that, of course...but there is plenty of evidence to support the argument.
At the same time, Brocail and Iapoce can both make pretty good arguments that they, at least, are doing their job. When the Rangers' bats work, they work gangbusters. Rougned Odor still isn't on top of his game, but he HAS been more patient this year. And just as with the Pitching Coach, Iapoce can't actually get on the field and tell Odor how to make every single swing, or tell him mid-at-bat to NOT swing at this pitch as it's coming toward him. It's just not possible outside of video games. And to be honest, if Darvish would have been pitching inside to Oakland hitters, maybe he would have had better results. Personally I doubt it; Darvish has never had any luck challenging Oakland hitters. It was pretty amazing to see him getting the outside edge calls that were requiring Oakland to swing at pitches they couldn't do much with.
But even saying all that, Brocail should still be in the hot seat. I have no problem with his pitching philosophy, or his gruff attitude. His comments and treatment of one of his players was out-of-line, though. It was made worse by comparison with how other members of the pitching staff have been treated in similar situations. You don't get accusations of insubordination against Cole Hamels, or Sam Dyson. Or even Martin Perez. Darvish, however, gets the typical rookie treatment of a short leash and needling comments. You can bet that Brocail and Banister are just as frustrated when any of those pitchers have trouble, yet they neither get the same fast hook, nor the same comments. This is inexplicable to me.
It has been stated repeatedly that this was a baffling move by Banister and Brocail. A big part of that is because Brocail has been perceived as MORE open and communicative than Mike Maddux was. Brocail can't make Darvish's pitches for him, but his job is to implement organizational philosophy and do his best to put each pitcher in a position to succeed in every game. The comments Brocail made, and his part in pulling Darvish unexpectedly, do not further those goals, they work against them.
This is where Doug Brocail did screw up, and deserves some blame. From my perspective anyway, either Darvish felt he could completely ignore Brocail, or Brocail did not communicate the "game plan" properly to Darvish. When Darvish got results with a different strategy, Brocail seemingly failed to either work with a plan that was effective, or failed to adapt a new plan that would transition Darvish to a strategy Brocail felt would work even better. And finally, when Darvish did have trouble, there didn't appear to be any effort made to correct the situation, just a quick yank without any communication. That's poor management anywhere other than life-threatening situations.
I'm willing for the moment to give Brocail some benefit of the doubt. His chosen actions and subsequent comments were likely due mostly to frustration, for understandable reasons. Unless this becomes a habit with Brocail, my consternation is still firmly fixed on Banister. He is Brocail's superior on the baseball field, and as a self-professed and lauded players manager who values proper leadership, as well as understanding the emotions and motivations behind player's actions, he should have been in between Brocail's hasty judgement and a poor game management move. Normally my criticism of Banister is limited to his extremely poor choices of words during interviews, and his, in my opinion usually deplorable, bullpen management. It really seems unusual to me that Banister engaged in pulling Darvish at that time.
BUT...I'll also readily admit that I don't know what all Banister considers when he makes any of these decisions. He can run a bullpen opposite of how either "The Book", conventional wisdom, or modern analysis says to run a bullpen one night, and the next make almost perfect changes at almost perfect times.
Then again, as TMAC pointed out to me yesterday on Twitter, the Manager always looks better when the players execute. Which is true. It was pointed out frequently in 2015 that Shawn Tolleson wasn't the best option at "closer", but as long as it worked out no-one wanted to complain TOO loudly. Blaming the coach is all about judging what you can see without all of the contextual information, and trying to understand what you can't see. And that's an article for another time.