The Morning Call
Data-driven Cotham hired as pitching coach
PHILADELPHIA— Caleb Cotham will be the Phillies’ fifth pitching coach in five years, the team announced Friday.
He just won’t be like any of his predecessors.
For one thing, Cotham turned 33 earlier this month, one year older than Cliff Lee and Jake Arrieta when the Phillies signed them to $120 million and $75 million free-agent contracts, respectively. Even in a role that is being filled by increasingly younger candidates (nine pitching coaches are not yet 40), Cotham will be the second-youngest after Seattle’s Pete Woodworth (32).
Cotham also comes to the job after two seasons as the Cincinnati Reds’ assistant pitching coach with a distinctly datadriven bent. Formerly a reliever with the New York Yankees and the Reds whose career was short-circuited by injuries at age 28, his style of pitching instruction is shaped by years of working with and for Driveline Baseball, the Seattle-area think tank that stresses cutting-edge technology and analytics.
Three of the Phillies’ last four pitching coaches — Bob McClure (2014-17), Rick Kranitz (2018), and Bryan Price (2020) — took mostly traditional approaches. Chris Young, who took over for Kranitz after the 2018 season and lasted one year before being replaced, pitched in the minor leagues but was light on coaching experience and, according to some Phillies pitchers, relatability after eight years off the field as an analyst and scout.
Asked last month what he wanted in the next pitching coach, manager Joe Girardi said “someone who combines analytics with pitching skill to get more out of the pitcher and apply it to what he’s doing mechanically.” The Phillies interviewed several candidates, including assistant pitching coach Dave Lundquist, minorleague coordinator Rafael Chaves, and World Series-winning former pitching coach Rick Dubee.
But Cotham emerged last week as the “heavy favorite,” according to one source, the Phillies believing that he not only checks each box outlined by Girardi but also will bring sorely needed continuity to the job.
“I’m a big believer that a guy has to be able to communicate well with the pitchers,” said Girardi, who managed Cotham with the Yankees in 2015. “He has to be able to mechanically help a pitcher achieve consistency, recognize quickly when something gets out of whack, and help them get back on track quickly.”
It surely helped Cotham, too, that he had the endorsement of newly crowned Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer. A longtime Driveline Baseball devotee, Bauer credited Cotham for tapping into Statcast data and using high-tech tools to contribute to his dominance (1.73 ERA, 36% strikeout rate in 73 innings) this season.
“Caleb was really helpful with a lot of the technical stuff,” Bauer told reporters last month. “I haven’t really had that situation before, where I have someone that I respect in the technological standpoint, the really nitty-gritty pitch-shaping and understanding the mechanics and how the ball was moving and stuff like that. It was good to have someone to bounce those ideas off of and have those conversations.”
Cotham’s pitching education began in college at Vanderbilt. As a freshman in 2007, he teamed with David Price and Mike Minor. Two years later, Cotham and Minor led a rotation that also included Sonny Gray.
The Yankees drafted Cotham in the fifth round in 2009 and moved him to the bullpen in Triple-A. Hemadehis major-league debut in 2015, then got dealt to Cincinnati in the Aroldis Chapman trade.