Originally written on Monkey with a Halo  |  Last updated 8/9/12

Mickey Hatcher is gone.  Long gone.  Mercifully gone.  Ask any Angel fan and they will gleefully inform you that this is nothing but a good thing as they had been calling for his head for nearly a decade.

But now that Hatcher has been fired there is a void in the heart of the Halo faithful.  A different coach must now become the target of their discontent, even if it is misguided.  Despite Hatcher being sent packing only a few months ago, the void appears to have already been filled by none other than pitching coach Mike Butcher.

As far as I can tell, the case for Butcher being made into the new pariah is based primarily off these bits of evidence:

  • He is not revered former Angels pitching coach Bud Black.
  • Instead of resurrecting Scott Kazmir's career as expected, Kazmir instead totally imploded.
  • The bullpen is a national disaster zone.
  • Ervin Santana has devolved into a mess... again.
  • Players like Fernando Rodney have blossomed since leaving the Angels.
  • Angel fans need someone to take out their frustrations on.

Those arguments aren't without their merits, but they are also highly cherry picked just like these cherry picked bits of evidence in favor of Butcher not being a problem at all:

  • Jered Weaver has thrived under Butcher's tutelage
  • Butcher seemingly played a major hand in rejuvenating Darren Oliver's career.
  • Ervin Santana has had several highly successful years during Butcher's tenure.
  • John Lackey completely fell apart after leaving the Angels and Butcher.
  • Virtual nobodies like Matt Palmer, Rich Thompson, Bobby Cassevah and Jerome Williams have all enjoyed periods of extended success with Butcher as their pitching coach.

Those points aren't intended as a defense of Butcher, mind you, just an example of how a case could be built that he is a good pitching coach.  The thing is we really don't know what Butcher is or isn't responsible for.  Yes, we have a concrete idea of what a pitching coach does, but nobody outside of the Angel clubhouse knows exactly what Butcher did or did not do to contribute to the various successes and failures of the Halo pitching staff since 2006.

Can we really blame Butcher for Kazmir falling apart?  It is doubtful Butcher was the reason Kazmir lost his velocity and slider, but perhaps a better pitching coach could've compensated for it? (Probably not given that nobody has even wanted to try.)

Can we really credit Butcher for Weaver going from pretty good pitcher to possibly the best pitcher in the AL?  Clearly Weaver has loads of talent, but he also relies a lot on deception and guile.  How much of that did Weaver develop on his own and how much did Butcher help cultivate?

Can we really blame him for Rodney's failures as an Angel?  He wasn't good before joining the Angels and nobody ever thought he could do what he is doing in Tampa right now, probably not even Rodney himself.

Can we really blame him for the current state of the bullpen?  None of the relievers have blossomed under Butcher, but how much improvement can he really make to a bullpen that has four players who are age 36 and older?

There are so many other hypotheticals involved that we just can't answer but I think we can safely say that Butcher probably isn't a horrible pitching coach.  I'm also pretty sure we can't say that he is a great one either.  And maybe that is the real problem.  Maybe a World Series hopeful team like the Angels should never be content with someone on their coaching staff being merely average at their job.  Granted, it is probably very, very had to find a really good pitching coach, but finding average ones is likely much, much easier.  It might not be the worst idea to replace Butcher in hopes that his replacement is substantially better knowing that at worst, the new hire is probably just as good as Butcher was.

On the other hand, maybe causing such turmold on the coaching staff may not be worth it what might prove to be only a marginal upgrade in coaching ability.  It certainly isn't worth it if the driving reason behind it is that the fans are pissed off.  That's probably the absolute worst reason, actually.

All of that is purely academic though as their is zero reason to believe that the Angel organization is even remotely unhappy with the work Butcher is doing much less as unhappy as what is really just a small faction of Angels fans are.  But that won't stop that faction from continuing to criticize Butcher, in fact, it might only strengthen their resolve because the best kind of whipping boys are the kind that you know are going to be around for a long time to take your punishment.


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