Phillies: Early, internal pitching coach candidate emerges

CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 20: Rick Kranitz /

As the Phillies flush out their coaching staff one small name could remain for a big role on Gabe Kapler’s staff

Phillies assistant pitching coach Rick Kranitz is likely an early candidate, if not the favorite, to be the next pitching coach.

During an interview on 97.5 The Fanatic former ESPN writer and Philadelphia native Jayson Stark was the first person to throw Kranitz’s name out as a potential McClure replacement.

After knocking the idea Curt Schilling, who told Kapler he’d be interested in the job, would join the staff, Stark laid a really big hint on the listeners. He immediately named Kranitz as the lone coach likely to remain in the organization, calling him “their kind of guy.”

SEATTLE – APRIL 20: Starting pitcher David Hernandez
SEATTLE – APRIL 20: Starting pitcher David Hernandez /

Kranitz, 59, never pitched in the major leagues despite seven seasons in the minors for Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs. He’s worked as a major league pitching coach in the past for the Marlins, Orioles, and most recently the Brewers. Phillies president Andy MacPhail, general manager Matt Klentak, and director of player development Joe Jordan worked for the Orioles when Kranitz was the pitching coach under Buck Showalter, Dave Trembley, and Juan Samuel. MacPhail held the same title in Baltimore while Klentak was the Director of Baseball Operations and Jordan was the scouting director.

Philadelphia hired Kranitz prior to the 2016 season as their bullpen coach and named him the assistant pitching coach in 2017.

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Hired by the Florida Marlins in 2006, Kranitz helped develop young pitchers such as Josh Johnson, Dontrelle Willis, Anibal Sanchez, Rickey Nolasco, and Jason Vargas. Baseball America named Kranitz Major League Coach of the Year after the Marlins became the first team in major league history to have four rookies with at least 10 wins each.

Despite having multiple rookie starters the Marlins staff finished 10th in ERA with a 4.37, as well as 10th in strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings, and home runs allowed.

Kranitz returned to Florida in 2007 despite manager Joe Girardi’s departure but resigned before the season’s conclusion. The Marlins team ERA dropped to the fourth-worst in baseball (4.94) despite having the league’s most strikeouts under Kranitz and new manager Fredi Gonzalez.

After leaving Florida Kranitz went to Baltimore where his staff compiled ERA’s of 5.13 (league worst), 5.15 (second-worst), and 4.59 (fourth-worst). Those staffs were led by a group of aging mediocre arms such as Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Koji Uehara, and Steve Traschel.

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Along the way came budding starters Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta, who didn’t emerge as a Cy Young-caliber arm until 2014 with the Cubs. Arrieta will be one of many intriguing arms available on the free agent market this offseason.

Leaving behind a mess in Baltimore Kranitz found his way home to Milwaukee as the Brewers pitching coach, where he worked for five seasons from 2011-15. During Kranitz’s tenure the Brewers staff ERA fell as followed: 3.63 in 2011 (ninth-best), 4.22 (ninth-worst), 3.84 (league-average), 3.67 (just above league average), and 4.28 (seventh-worst).

The large dip between Kranitz’s first two years with the Brewers mostly lands on the bullpen with closer John Axford seeing his ERA climb nearly three whole points.

Starting pitchers that came through Milwaukee under Kranitz’s eye include Zach Greinke, Mike Fiers, and Yovani Gallardo.

Kranitz-controlled pitching staffs have, over a 10-year career, a cumulative ERA of 4.38, just .03 points above the league average in 2017.

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Kranitz at least knows this pitching staff well and has worked for enough teams to have connections in the business. I’d consider him a strong candidate but perhaps not my favorite.