Harvey WarthenWell, when your intrepid columnist is wrong, he’s the first to admit it. Back in the most recent Dark Age of Metsian fandom, when the purge of the Willie Randolph/Jerry Manuel regime occurred, it was beyond comprehension how pitching coach Dan Warthen survived. Warthen looked like your kindly old uncle who told you stories that had no point, stuff that made no sense. In some circles, he was derisively dubbed “Floyd The Barber,” after the dotty Andy Griffith Show character of yesteryear. After all, the collapses of 2007 and ’08 could be blamed squarely on the failures of the pitching staff: in ’07, the starters faltered, in ’08, it was the bullpen. As pitching Grand Poobah, it was Warthen who oversaw the demise. There were some fine young pitchers on the roster, but they never seemed to improve. The John Maines, Mike Pelfreys and Oliver Perezes of the world continued to disappoint. And when pitcher after pitcher went down with injury, when trainers were being booed, team physicians being replaced and the “LOLMets” trope was in full flower, Warthen was the common denominator. When Sandy Alderson took over as General Manager and fumigated the clubhouse, the designated survivor was Dan Warthen. The thinking over here was that that was a major mistake and would sabotage any efforts to move forward with all the young pitching we’d been promised. If Terry Collins found himself on shaky ground as manager – and he did at times between 2011 and 2014 – most assuredly, it would be Warthen who would be the first to go, probably as a warning sign.

Boy, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

It can be argued that Warthen is one of the main reasons the Mets have had so much success with their young pitching since 2013. Yes, of course these guys have all the natural talent in the world. You can’t be taught to throw like Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom or Matt Harvey – more on him in a minute. It’s innate ability, something you’re born with, and there’s only so much a pitching coach can do to refine it. Well, somehow, Warthen has managed to do that. He has introduced what’s come to be known as the “Warthen slider” into the repertoire of the gunners mentioned above, giving each another weapon with which to strike at National League batters. Apparently, it’s working its way through the minors as well, as the successes of Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo can attest.

Harvey pitched against Miami yesterday, his third spring outing, and for the third time this spring he demonstrated a distinct lack of velocity and, consequently, for the third time this spring, he got lit up. He could only slog through three and two-thirds innings, giving up five hits, four runs and striking out three. His fastball speed barely touched 94 MPH. Having just come through surgery to correct something called thoracic outlet syndrome – a surgery which involved the removal of a rib – Harvey’s loss in velocity is understandable, but still alarming. There’s really no roadmap for recovery from thoracic outlet surgery. It’s not like Tommy John, where hundreds of pitchers have come through it and there’s a definite recovery timetable. TOS surgery is still relatively rare and we don’t know if Harvey’s velocity will every fully return. Marc Carig of Newsday asked Warthen about it, and like your kindly old uncle, he was reassuring. When asked when he thought Harvey’s velocity would return, he said “End of May.” That would be a nice Memorial Day present, wouldn’t it?

Leave it to your kindly old uncle to bring the juiciest watermelon for the picnic.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

19 comments on “Getting on board with Dan Warthen

  • Brian Joura

    I’m right there with you, Charlie.

    Here’s what I said about Warthen in November of 2010:

    So, what single thing can you say that Warthen has done to make the Mets pitchers better?

    I have no doubt that Warthen is a great guy and that pitchers like his personality. What I fear is that Warthen is the pitching coach version of Jeff Francoeur – all personality and style and no production nor substance.

    That the Mets’ housecleaning this year did not include Warthen was disappointing.


  • Name

    It’s actually quite interesting reading this piece and the one written in 2010 by Brian titled ‘Should the mets have kept Dan Warthen’. I believe some of the questions and concerns in that one were addressed over the last 6 years.

    In my opinion its very hard to draw the line between nature and nurture when it comes to ballplayers, but I’ve been happy with Warthen and I don’t mind when he jogs out to the mound unlike Collins

    • TexasGusCC

      The pitching coach has 30 seconds from the time he hits the field until he needs to be in the dugout. The manager can stroll after he made the motion for the new pitcher.

  • Eraff

    “The Warthen Slider” is really interesting….it seems that some of the guys have added it after arrival in Queens—- curious about why it’s not be pushed at lower levels.

  • Chris F

    I think we are missing the critical importance of Frank Viola in the development of this fine staff. Warthen may have a pitch he teaches, but he has also presided over some of the worst run of injuries to pitchers. Im ambivalent about the good v bad.

    • Jim OMalley

      Viola all the way….

      • TexasGusCC

        Frankie V wants a MLB job.

  • Dalton Allison

    It may possibly be a scenario of the younger guys being more open to taking lessons from Warthen than veterans would be.

  • Mike Koehler

    What is a Warthen slider compared to a regular slider? And aren’t those the worst pitch for the arm? Maybe he should be teaching them Johan’s circle change.

  • Eraff

    does the complain of “more injuries to our pitchers” really hold up?

    My seat of the pants is that 20% of starters will be out with a severe arm injury each year—maybe more…and that’s a universal observation

  • Jimmy P

    Couple of thoughts:

    * We’ve seen that SA values continuity, and there’s something to be said for that. It can be a positive thing for an organization to create a consistent personality, vision, stability. I can find Alderson frustrating in that sense — it often looks a lot like doing nothing — but, again, there are positives. This season will be an excellent test case, as he’s basically pinned the hopes for the 2017 season on the 2016 roster.

    * I am surprised that people are willing to continually bash Collins for his handling of the bullpen, yet give Warthen a free pass on the same issue. He’s the guy in TC’s ear. It strikes me as wildly inconsistent and inaccurate to praise Warthen on one hand, yet damn Collins on the other.

    • Chris F

      * I am surprised that people are willing to continually bash Collins for his handling of the bullpen, yet give Warthen a free pass on the same issue. He’s the guy in TC’s ear. It strikes me as wildly inconsistent and inaccurate to praise Warthen on one hand, yet damn Collins on the other.

      ^ +1

    • Brian Joura

      I think it’s more accurate to share blame with Alderson rather than Warthen on the bullpen.

      To me, the majority of the bullpen problems boil down to usage and construction. Using your closer for the fourth time in fifth days despite having a 5-run lead, the mindless chasing of the platoon advantage, the insistence on carrying multiple lefties regardless of how ineffective they are, the refusal to carry a long man. I view those things as manager/GM, rather than manager/pitching coach. These seem to be top level strategy/organizational direction.

      Now, having your reliever throw 11 consecutive pitches in the exact same location – that’s something I’d blame the pitching coach more than the GM.

      Mechanics, being prepared to compete at the MLB level and how are we going to attack the hitters in this particular game — those seem more in the realm of coaches than front office

  • Jim OMalley

    Who made the decision to let Harvey go out for another inning against the Royals? Ah, never mind…that’s water under the bridge.

  • Matt Netter

    Dan Warthen might be my favorite Met. He actually has a really interesting back story. He came up as a prospect but was overused his first season and a half in the majors and never bounced back. That experience certainly must help inform the way he treats his pitchers now.

    Warthen has a dream job right now in some respects, getting to work with so much talent and potential, but, between the injuries, risks of injuries, mechanical issues, mental issues and the NY pressure, he has his work cut out for him. I’ll be most interested to see how he works with Harvey this year and if he can help Robles turn the corner. Another pet project for him could be Josh Smoker.

  • TexasGusCC

    I was behind Warthen since the beginning. I knew he was a great coach and was glad the Mets kept him… Yeah, whatever.

    I don’t think I even knew who the pitching coach was until 2012. He never gives an interview, he was never quoted in the papers, and he doesn’t have the Leo Mazzoni rocking motion and philosophy to catch your attention. He’s done well and has actually mentioned retirement. He is 65 years old. Frankie V may be here next year.

  • Metsense

    The original article was when Warthen should have been released and he has never done enough to change that thinking. On a team that has elite pitching there have not been elite results (except for RA Dickey). Pitching is the Mets strength yet the consistent criticism is the bullpen usage, the decisions when to pull the starter and the numerous injuries. Warthen is part of this decision making process. I think over the years, he could have done better. Now, after two playoff years, I would not “rock the boat” because an adequate job finally reaped some results. He has not made an impact on this team.

  • MattyMets

    Metsense – Does Warthen deserve blame for how the bullpen is managed? It’s hard to know how much input he has with in-game decisions. That ultimately falls on Collins.

    • Metsense

      I am one of many on this site that believes the bullpen is mishandled therefore Warthen is part of the process and agreed with TC on the bullpen. If he doesn’t agree with TC then he is not voicing his concerns and therefore has no impact which was thus stated in the last line of the comment. I am not “on board” with Wharthan but I also don’t want to “rock and boat” while we are in calm waters.

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