The Cincinnati Reds announced that Derek Johnson, the teams current pitching coach, will also now be the Director of Pitching. If that role sounds familiar to you, that is the job that Kyle Boddy had before leaving the organization near the end of the 2021 minor league season.
The Reds press release notes that Johnson will be responsible for the development and communication of pitching philosophy and initiatives throughout the entire organization.
Along with the new job and responsibilities, Derek Johnson is also getting a contract extension. He had already been under contract through the 2022 season, but he’ll be around longer than that. General Manager Nick Krall, however, did not specify how long the extension was for.
As for the job itself…. this is where it’s probably about more than just Derek Johnson. As noted, the role was previously held by Kyle Boddy, who left the organization two months ago. For the most part, the Director of Pitching gig is about the minor leagues. Johnson was always going to be in charge of what was happening with the pitchers at the big league level. Johnson also had some input as to how things were happening in the minors, too. But now he’s going to be fully in charge of setting the direction for all of that from the top to the bottom of the organization.
Now if you are wondering if there is going to be too much on the plate for Derek Johnson now with an additional set of responsibilities, you probably aren’t alone. It’s a fair question. With that said, and this is simply me talking out loud here, there will probably be plenty of help. My expectation is that for Johnson, much of the Director of Pitching stuff that’s related to the minor leagues is stuff that will take place during the offseason. Setting the plan, the direction, the initiatives that he believes is where things need to go. Generally speaking – those things aren’t likely going to be changing during the year. I would expect that during the season he will be involved, still, but that the day-to-day kind of stuff is going to fall to the pitching coordinator while Johnson focuses on the big league pitching staff.
There will still be some meetings to discuss what’s going on during the season that he will most certainly be involved in, but it’s less likely that this is something that he will be dealing with every single day during the baseball season.
That brings us to the actual minor league side of things. Kyle Boddy had the job previously. And under him was a pitching coordinator, Bryan Conger, who will be returning next season. Boddy’s job is now Derek Johnson’s. I also don’t believe that Johnson is going to do the same job as Boddy did. Not that he won’t be good at it, or anything of that nature. I believe that the responsibilities are going to be different. The Reds are adding, at least according to the job posting that they had two weeks ago, a second minor league pitching coordinator.
What that suggests to me is that they understand that there is a need to spread out all of these responsibilities in the organization. The day-to-day stuff that Kyle Boddy was doing simply couldn’t be done by Derek Johnson while he was also going to be the big league pitching coach. There’s simply not enough time in the day for that to happen and for anyone to be good at the jobs.
There is going to be plenty of thoughts out there that the Reds are being cheap and simply adding a job and responsibilities to another person’s job – in this case, Derek Johnson’s gig, to not have to replace someone in the organization that left/was let go. Given that they are adding a second minor league pitching coordinator, though, kind of throws that idea out the window.
One quote from Nick Krall’s initial statement on the move really stood out to me.
We think our pitchers and player development staff are going to be very receptive to his vision because he isn’t afraid to merge old school methods with new school analytics and ideas.
There are a few reasons why this particular statement stood out. When Kyle Boddy and minor league hitting coordinator C.J. Gillman left the organization late in the season, both made comments that the organization was heading in a different direction than the one that they believed in. Many took that as being a direction that was away from being analytical.
No organization is truly going to go away from analytics in today’s game. Some teams are absolutely going to be ahead of the curve in these areas, but no team is returning to the 1970’s with regards to their analytical approach. Derek Johnson is considered to be very forward thinking with regards to analytics and pitching approach. So this should help alleviate the fears, at least in some ways, of the direction of the organization when it comes to the “running away from analytics” crowd.
But what really made this blending of old school and new school quote stick out was something that Chris Welsh mentioned on the Reds Alert Podcast with Steven Offenbaker. He had mentioned that the organization may want to get back to having former big leaguers in these roles.
On the surface, the philosophical differences between Derek Johnson and Kyle Boddy don’t really seem to be there. Perhaps there was something unspoken from one or the other that we simply haven’t heard about. But from all of the things that we do know, they are pretty similar in what they believe in.
When I first read the quote my mind went to the idea that whoever, if the speculation is true that someone in the organization wants “experienced big leaguers” being in these roles, that having Derek Johnson take over the role will silence that voice because while he hasn’t been a big leaguer, his resume is one that can’t be argued against at this point. But by-and-large, the ideas and approach seem to remain similar as they were before.
Of course, there’s a lot of speculation there on my part. But that’s how I read the situation when it was presented. Your mileage my vary.