The Astros have added a number of new players to the roster this offseason. Dexter Fowler, Scott Feldman, Chad Qualls and others promise to have a positive impact on a club that has finished in last place for three straight seasons. But the best addition of the offseason might just be someone else.
In my opinion, newly hired pitching coach Brent Strom will have a bigger impact on this team than any other individual. Working the last seven years as the minor league pitching coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals organization, Strom also has experience as a big league pitching coach. In fact, he was the Astros pitching coach for the 1996 season.
One of Strom’s biggest success stories is Shane Reynolds. The two met in the early nineties while both were working in the Venezuelan Winter League. Here’s what the former Astros right-hander recently told The Chronicle’s Evan Drellich.
He completely changed me. He helped me with the two-seamer, the sinker and a small controlled curveball and taught me the split-finger. That in a nutshell is the only way I got to the big leagues and had a fairly successful career. It was him. … I love Brent Strom.
Yes, that was a long time ago. There have been many advancements in the game since that time. But the 64-year old Strom isn’t just another old school baseball man. He has progressed with the times and embraces modern technological advancements and statistical data as important tools to be used for the job at hand. And, despite the perceived generation gap, Strom has had tremendous success working with the young pitchers in the Cardinals’ organization. That bodes well for an Astros staff that is made up of mostly youngsters.
I have often wondered how much of the Astros lack of recent success should be pinned on the coaching staff. I was never a fan of Brad Mills and I have had my doubts about some of the other staff members. That certainly isn’t the case with Coach Strom. Well respected around the league as an expert in the area of pitching biomechanics, Strom brings the knowledge and experience that, in my opinion, should translate into long term success for several members of the Astros pitching staff.
Strom’s approach includes the avoidance of a cookie-cutter style delivery. Instead, he focuses on developing each individual’s strengths. He is always willing to listen to different theories concerning preparation and routine. Consequently, his teaching methods have continued to evolve through the years.
Can Strom be a Leo Mazzone/Dave Duncan type of success story? I believe the potential is there. I hope that turns out to be the case. Furthermore, it would be great to see Strom pass his knowledge and techniques on to a qualified successor when he is done. Say someone like Shane Reynolds… or maybe even Roger Clemens.