Chicago Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and his new-age philosophies have produced stellar results for the Cubs pitching staff in the early going of the season.
After Jim Hickey unexpectedly resigned from his pitching coach duties following last season, the Chicago Cubs were left with multiple roles to fill on Joe Maddon‘s coaching staff. They decided to stay in-house and hire the relatively unknown Tommy Hottovy to take over the role. So far, the decision has paid dividends.
Prior to becoming the pitching coach, Hottovy was working hand in hand with Cubs catching coach Mike Borzello. His official title was run prevention coordinator. In that role, Hottovy learned from Borzello and used video and statistics to form game plans with Cubs pitchers and catchers. He’s brought the same approach to his pitching coach job.
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Hottovy, 37, is the youngest pitching coach in the major leagues. Hottovy brings a relatable aspect to dealing with his pitching staff, as well as implementing a heavy emphasis on analytics.
While it’s still early in the season, the new approach appears to be working with Cubs pitching. Jon Lester, Cole Hamels and Kyle Hendricks have all had varying degrees of success, but nobody has benefitted from the pitching coach change more than Jose Quintana.
Quintana put together his third straight quality start in Tuesday night’s win over the rival Dodgers. Quintana was in command throughout the night as he consistently kept one of the top offenses in baseball off guard.
Quintana can credit Hottovy’s plan for increased usage of changeups for a large part of his success. Ever since Quintana’s first start against Milwaukee, when Quintana threw his changeup just 5.7 percent of the time, he’s been using it at a much higher rate (11.5 percent). With the uptick in changeups, Quintana has been able to dominate.
"“I trust that pitch and use it more than in the past,” Quintana said via the Athletic (subscription required.) “I’ll keep using it. I think that’s the key for me.”"
With Quintana working with Hottovy to utilize all of his pitches in a more effective manner, he finally looks like the pitcher that the Cubs traded prized prospect Eloy Jimenez for.
Hottovy’s biggest test
Perhaps the biggest project for Hottovy is getting Yu Darvish right. Darvish has been the only Cubs starter (including Tyler Chatwood) not to enjoy success thus far in 2019. With Darvish, the issue isn’t a matter of stuff as much as the mental hurdle of coming out of a funk that has plagued him since his brutal showing in the 2017 World Series.
The stuff and work ethic is there for Darvish, and he seems to be working extensively with Hottovy and other coaches to get to the root of his problem. Darvish is currently 1-3 with a 5.96 ERA but has shown flashes of the type of pitcher he could still be.
He has featured a high 90’s fastball and wipeout slider at times but has struggled mightily to put it all together. Darvish has had slightly better results of late and hopefully can continue to work with Hottovy to maximize his potential in the near future. Time will tell if Hottovy can right the ship with Darvish, as he has with other pitchers on the Chicago Cubs staff.