Losing seasons tend to be followed by organizational shakeups, and Dipoto hasn’t even waited for the body to cool on the 2017 season before starting in on overhauling the Mariners coaching staff, yesterday announcing these changes:
Manny Acta moves to be the bench coach, a position formerly held by Tim Bogar. Bogar and Dipoto’s relationship stretches back over two decades, when the two were teammates on the 1995 Mets; he was also Dipoto’s special assistant when he was GM of the Angels. Letting Bogar go surprises me a little, as I hadn’t heard much about him one way or the other, but this might be more about simplifying Manny Acta’s role. Acta was already doing all the defensive positioning as well as coaching third base, so this allows him to focus entirely on analyzing data for the duration of the game. If you’ve sat anywhere behind the Mariners’ dugout during a game, you’ll notice that Acta has a tablet with various charts and graphs that he flips through for the entire defensive half-inning. Now he and his tablet can enjoy some more quality time together. Additionally, the organization might be allowing Bogar to pursue one of the manager jobs that’s coming open this off-season; he was drafted by the Mets, who currently have a manager vacancy, and has served as the interim manager for the Rangers (in 2014, after Ron Washington’s departure), where he was a candidate for the job Jeff Banister eventually filled.
Assistant hitting coach Scott Brosius will move to Acta’s old spot at third base and will also act as the baserunning coach. While we love Manny Acta so much as a person and a forward-thinking baseball mind, as a third-base coach...there are questions. In this piece on the Cardinals’ historically dreadful baserunning, Zach Gifford argues that UBR (Ultimate Base Running, a stat that awards value for taking extra bases and penalizes players for making outs on the bases) might be the best metric we have for evaluating a third base coach, since the third base coach is in charge of directing players in scoring position. By UBR, the Mariners rank 28th in the league, just ahead of the Tigers and the Reds. In fact, their mark of -10.7 is almost a twenty-point swing from the top team in the league (the Royals, at 9.1). Despite attempting to retool their roster to be faster and make havoc on the basepaths, the Mariners were woeful at baserunning this year; their -12.3 BsR mark on Fangraphs is baseball’s fourth-worst, so clearly something needs to be done.
Looking at Brosius’s MLB stolen base record, he doesn’t immediately appear to be the best candidate for a baserunning coach. In his eleven-year career in the majors, Scott Brosius stole 57 bases—fewer than Billy Hamilton has stolen in each of his past two seasons—and was caught 30 times. In 1994, he was caught more times (6) than he was successful (2). However, those who are familiar with Brosius’s coaching tenure at Division III Linfield College know a different side of the ex-slugger. After serving as assistant coach for five years at his alma mater, Brosius ascended to head coach in 2007, a position he would hold for the next eight years, until Dipoto came calling. Under Brosisus’s leadership, the Linfield Wildcats went 232-81, making three appearances in the D-III National Championship, which they won in 2013. Brosius was named NW Conference COY in ‘08, ‘10, ‘11, ‘13, and ‘14, and West Region COY in ‘13 and ‘14. Under his tenure, the team stolen base percentage hovered right about 80% every year, and three different players became school record-holders for stolen bases. And while Brosius wasn’t the most fleet of foot as a player, he was part of the 2001 Yankees, a team renowned for the havoc they created on the basepaths.
Adorable gum-chewing Casey Candaele, whose name I just learned how to spell, also departs the organization, taking the story of his very cool mom with him. This does not feel great. In his place at first base will be Chris Prieto, who I know only as “guy I can’t ever identify in team dress-up day photos.” Oh hey, look here’s this extremely comprehensive history on him Ashley Varela wrote in 2015. Thanks, Ashley!
There are still a few vacancies on the big club’s coaching staff. After Mike Hampton’s abrupt departure this year as bullpen coach, it’s unclear if interim coach Nasusel Cabrera will stay on. Scott Servais didn’t have...the warmest endorsement after the club’s batting practice pitcher was named as bullpen coach: "It’s an important role, but you don’t want to disturb six different affiliates by moving all kinds of people around. Nasu is very capable, and I’m looking forward to having him down there." Capability! It’s not the highest bar, but it is a bar! More to the point, the “disturb six different affiliates” line makes me wonder if they’ll look internally for candidates. Lifting Lance Painter, aka “the Pitcher Whisperer,” out of Tacoma seems like a natural fit, although to the detriment of the Tacoma pitching staff and guys like Andrew Moore and Chase De Jong, who are still developing and can benefit from Paint’s expertise.
The Mariners will also need another assistant coach. Mike Curto suggests Tacoma manager Pat Listach might get a look; like his players, Listach has been looking for an opportunity to make it to The Show. Listach has a fiery, big personality that draws players to him—when I was at the Rainiers media luncheon this past spring he had a constant clutch of players clustered around him, hanging on his every word—and would be a solid addition to the MLB coaching staff, although in a much more limited role than he enjoys at Tacoma. If he were to be moved up, there’s a possibility Darren Brown, who led the champion Jackson Generals in 2016, could be promoted from Double-A Arkansas. That would leave an opening for OSU grad Mitch Canham, who is just 32 but has already made the jump from managing A-Clinton in 2016 to A+ Modesto in 2017, where he led the Nuts to a Cal League championship. Canham is beloved by his players, the majority of whom he’s now had for two seasons, so promoting him alongside them again would be a pretty cool story. Since the MLB season isn’t even over yet, these assignments are still subject to change, but getting such an early start on arranging the coaching staff indicates that Dipoto is looking ahead towards another intense off-season.