Chuck Finder reports today that Joe Kerrigan is undecided on returning for 2010. I understand that some people, including the Pointy Haired Blogger, have seriously started to question Kerrigan's contribution to the 2009 Pirates. I think it's always natural to question the coaching staff when things go downhill and I agree that it's nigh impossible to actually quantify the effect that a positional coach has on a team. I won't try to do that, but there's one thing that I think people are missing out when they characterize Kerrigan as "no difference maker."
In 2008, the Pirates allowed 884 runs. That's 5.45 runs per game -- an insanely high National League total, especially in a neutral/pitcher's park. Through 144 games this year, they've allowed 664 runs. That's 4.61 per game, on pace for 747 over the season. That's 140 runs less than last year, which in short-hand amounts to 14 wins over the course of the season. Can you imagine this team with last year's pitching staff? It would be unbelievably brutal.
Now, I know that some of the improvement in the staff comes from dropping Matt Morris, John Van Benschoten, and Yoslan Herrera. And I know that some of it comes from improving the defense all over the diamond. And some of it comes from pure, simple, stupid luck. Still, I think Kerrigan's had a hugely positive effect on the pitching staff this year. Ross Ohlendorf has come a long ways from where he was when he came from New York last year. Joel Hanrahan is light years better than he was in Washington. I think Matt Capps is breaking down due to fatigue from the Jim Tracy era, but earlier in the year Kerrigan held him together for longer than I expected. Paul Maholm, despite the peripheral rise in ERA, is not a significantly worse pitcher in 2009. Ian Snell, despite what he may be telling people, is not any different in Seattle than he was in Pittsburgh. I have some questions about Zach Duke, but he's certainly not getting worse under Kerrigan. Jesse Chavez has emerged as an effective big league reliever.
When the off-season starts, I'm going to look at all of these guys at length and try to break down some of the things that have happened on the mound this year. Until then all I'm going to say is this: Please stick around, Joe. The Pirates need you.