The NY Mets named Dan Warthen pitching coach on June 17, 2008, replacing Rick Peterson. During his tenure, the team has gone from the bottom of the league in many pitching stats to near the top and now back down again. The Mets starting rotation was seen as giving the team its best chance at getting to the playoffs and then going deep into the post season. But so far in 2017 it hasn’t worked out that way.
Here’s an interesting chart of the Mets ERA since Warthen has been the pitching coach. It shows the team ERA dropping to well below the National League average the previous three years.
However, so far this season the NY Mets have hovered near last in ERA in all of MLB. They are also next to last in batting average against. Dan Warthen’s coaching skills were at least partially credited for the previous success. Now he is sharing in the blame for their failures.
The Dan Warthen Slider
The 64 year old Warthen has become famous for teaching a slider, now known as the “Warthen Slider”. It’s a pitch that is held deeper in the hand and runs harder. It’s been highly successful for Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey in the past. Closer Jeurys Familia used the Warthen slider too. He used it as his put away pitch when ahead in the count. The pitch is supposed to put less stress on the elbow.
But despite many precautions four of their five young starters, counting Zack Wheeler, have had Tommy John surgery. Warthen even worried that Noah Syndergaard, now on the DL with a torn lat, would eventually succumb too. As he told the NY Times last year:
It’s very rare in today’s game — when you throw as hard as they do — it’s hard to fathom the idea that he’s not going to have it. I think it’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. He may be able to go six or seven years without having it, as hard as he works, as clean as his delivery is. But it just takes that one pitch.
Farm System Pitching Coaches
It should be noted that the NY Mets staff came up through their farm system. Many of them benefiting from the pitching coaches in their minor league system. Frank Viola, former Cy Young award winner and the AAA coach in Las Vegas for the last four seasons, garners much praise from the pitchers. Viola has been coaching in the Mets system since 2011 and tutored much of the rotation at some point in their minor league careers. If Warthen eventually takes the hit for the poor performance this season, then Viola could get a promotion to the big leagues.