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Mariners Hot Stove Show: A pre-spring training primer on new pitching coach Paul Davis

The Mariners will have a new pitching coach in 2019. (AP)

With pitchers and catchers due to report to Peoria for Spring Training in just one week, Aaron Goldsmith and Gary Hill took time to learn a little bit more about new Mariners pitching coach Paul Davis on the Hot Stove Show Tuesday night.

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This will be the first big league coaching job for Davis, who comes to the Mariners after spending six years in the Cardinals’ organization. Through the interview process which he detailed on the show, Davis came to believe that the Mariners would be a very good fit for him and the skillset he would bring to the job.

“Jerry is a very progressive guy and has envisioned a really 21st century way of doing things,” Davis explained. “That’s the easiest way for me to put it. They’ve set up some things that can really help that and create a very collaborative type of model where you can do a lot of different things and take advantage of the technology we have at our disposal now. I think from my perspective, I have a pretty varied background and I’ve been able to utilize some of those things the last six years as a minor league guy with the Cardinals and now I think I will be able to do a few more of the things I have been doing and utilize my strengths very well.”

That varied background Davis refers to includes coaching and teaching at the college level prior to taking the job with the Cardinals. He also spent time as the Philadelphia Phillies pre-draft psychological evaluator and served as a “bird-dog” scout. Davis held a number of positions with the Cardinals, the last being Manager of Pitching Analytics, a title no doubt that caught Dipoto’s eye.

It probably also didn’t hurt that his mentor in the Cardinals organization was Brent Strom who currently is the Astros pitching coach. At 70 years old, Strom is the senior pitching coach in baseball but also at the forefront of the “new school” analytics driven approach to working with pitchers that Dipoto favors. It was under Strom’s guidance that Davis began to learn about the new tools available to pitchers. After years of coaching relying on his eyes, he found the new technology to be game changing.

“Honestly there were a lot of things that were really eye-opening in that you had to take a step back and say, ‘Okay, we’ve always thought this but that doesn’t look like it was the case,” he said. “When I first started digging into it there was a process of several months, even into the next year, where I was learning pretty rapidly and a lot of things didn’t fit with conventional wisdom.”

The proof was in the numbers however, and those numbers utilized correctly give pitching coaches a chance to improve performance quicker than in the past.

“You don’t have to guess with as many things,” said Davis. “You would have an idea, but now you are able to capture the information and it is right in front of you. There is no guessing whatsoever. You can clearly see this guy gets x many swings with this pitch and he gets only half as many swings and misses with that pitch or what locations he has more success in. From that perspective it really helps you identify what a pitchers strengths are very quickly and then you can communicate that.”

The ability to understand the numbers and communicate them effectively along with his diverse background has landed Davis with the Mariners.

“Paul is a bright pitching mind with a very diverse background,” Dipoto said shortly after Davis was hired. “He has exceptional understanding of the mechanics of pitching, as well as the balance to make evidence-based decisions.”

Ten years ago having not pitched above the collegiate level chances are slim that Davis’ resume would have landed him a big league pitching coach job. The landscape has changed however and today Davis finds himself where he never really expected to be.

“I’m a coach, that’s really what I have been and what I love to do,” said Davis. “I think I am just very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. There are a lot of people like me actually that are beginning to be hired and have nice careers. They bring value to an organization. I think baseball as an industry is changing.”

Listen to the newest Mariners Hot Stove Show.

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