On Monday morning, the San Diego Padres fired pitching coach Larry Rothschild as the pitching staff continued its struggles.
Before the MLB All-Star break, the Padres pitchers had an ERA of 3.41, which ballooned to 4.77 after the midsummer classic. Rothschild, who joined the Padres after the 2019 season, was praised for his work with Zach Davies, getting the best season of Davies’ career in the shortened 2020 season.
However, Mike Clevinger, Dinelson Lamet, Keone Kela, Dan Altavilla, and Adrian Morejon have all suffered major injuries under Rothschild, with all but Lamet requiring the dreaded Tommy John surgery. With the possibility of a humiliating missed postseason becoming more and more real, the Padres reacted by firing Rothschild, with manager Jayce Tingler saying that it was his decision.
Rothschild has struggled to get the best out of many pitchers, with former Cy Young winner Blake Snell the chief example. Snell has a career-worst 4.82 ERA in his first year as a Padre, and he’s struggled with control, walking more than anyone else in baseball. Yu Darvish has also underwhelmed with Rothschild as his pitching coach, putting up a 102 ERA+, a park-adjusted stat in which 100 is average. Darvish’s 2018 season was below average at just an 85 ERA+, but other than that, the 2021 season is the second worst he’s recorded. Chris Paddack also struggled in Rothschild’s two seasons despite a stellar rookie season under Darren Balsley.
Ben Fritz, who previously served as the bullpen coach for the Padres, will take over for the final month of the season in an interim role. The Padres bullpen has been fantastic in 2021, putting up a league-best 3.12 ERA. Now, the Padres rotation is decimated, as Yu Darvish, Chris Paddack, and Dinelson Lamet are still on the injured list, while Ryan Weathers has a 13.17 ERA in August. There are not many options for Fritz to pull from, so it will take a miracle or a healing potion from Ben Fritz to change the Padres fortunes.
The combination of poor pitching, bad injury luck, and desperation from the Padres led to Rothschild being let go. Rothschild seemed like a prime candidate for being relieved of his position after the season, but the decision to fire him with just over a month left in the season is peculiar. It is certainly possible that the Padres are attempting to use Rothschild’s firing as a way to motivate the Padres players, but it’s a risky move.
Fritz has never served as a pitching coach at any level, so it is most likely that the Padres will not make him the permanent pitching coach in 2022. The Padres rotation will stay relatively the same in 2022, with the exception of Mike Clevinger rejoining the rotation, so the situation will improve as players return from their injuries.
In the short term, the Padres need to find ways to win. They’re a game back of the Reds for the final wild-card spot, and they are 10.5 games back of the Dodgers, so the fifth seed is what the Padres are in reach of. The bats will need to pick up the starters, as even when Yu Darvish returns, the rotation will still be short-handed. Starters Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove absolutely need to eat innings and get wins when they start, and Ryan Weathers needs to try and fix his massive problems.
It’s going to be a difficult fight for the Padres to try and get back in the playoff race, but the firing of Rothschild may motivate the team or create the culture shift the team needs.