CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Mickey Callaway was as valuable an asset to the Cleveland Indians as any member of any coaching staff could be.
His true value will become more tangible over the next few years, dependent on the potential attrition of the Indians’ pitching staff and the potential growth of a promising New York Mets staff.
With Callaway leaving the Indians for a shot to manage one of the top young rotations in baseball, the former will be tasked with continuing down the path they forged under the 42-year old to become the best staff in baseball. The latter will be overjoyed if Cleveland’s arms have Callaway to credit as much as themselves.
The success of Cleveland’s pitching is well noted, given their leading the American League in ERA (3.64), wins (454), strikeouts (7.248) and fewest pitches per inning (16.1) since Callaway’s hiring in 2013. How couldn’t it be?
Those numbers could continue to trend in the same direction as the Indians return their entire rotation, presuming Josh Tomlin’s $3 million option is picked up. There is no reason to believe that the likes of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and company would forget the concepts that Callaway instilled in them.
The Indians rotation taking a step back seems unlikely, so deriving value from Callaway’s time in Cleveland compared to his time away will be less telling. What the pitching coach created in Cleveland was great, regardless of direct impact.
What Callaway’s Mets rotation accomplishes with Jacob deGrom, Robert Gsellman and Matt Harvey will be telling, especially if Harvey becomes refocused. That 16.1 pitches per inning number could be most important to the likes of Noah Syndergaard, a hard-thrower who will benefit greatly from a decreased workload.
Maybe Callaway’s most valued concept is his love for first-pitch strikes, something he stresses greatly. The Mets posted 3222 first-pitch strikes in 2017, yet came out with a 3.02 FIP following 0-1 counts. Expect that number to come down.
With all the success Callaway saw as a pitching coach, it becomes easy to forget that he will be in charge of much more as Manager.
There is no way to know if he has the chops to handle lineup decisions until he is tasked with them. In the clubhouse, Callaway was appreciated for allowing his pitchers to work through their issues, and was a dream for reporters.
The bright lights of the Big Apple will shine harder in both the clubhouse and press room, but Terry Francona did not seem to see either as a potential issue.
“The first thing that I noticed when the season started our first year was his level of confidence,” Francona said. “It seemed to me that it exceeded his experience. Then, as you watch him and you’re with him every day, you see that that confidence allowed him to have other voices, and get input from other people, and sift through that and take what he wanted. But my goodness, he had such an impact on the pitching staff.
“He’s so good.”