Ten months ago, Rick Kranitz got a call he did not anticipate or appreciate. After three seasons as the Phillies’ pitching coach and more than five weeks into the team’s offseason, general manager Matt Klentak informed Kranitz his time in Philadelphia was over.
In an age when analytics are all the rage, not to mention the main reason Kranitz was let go, it could have been a scary proposition for a 60-year-old pitching coach to lose his job that late in the offseason. Fear, however, was not the emotion Kranitz immediately felt.
“I wasn’t scared,” he said. “I was mad. Obviously in this game there are very few jobs available, especially at the time when I was let go. When you’re talking about being let go in November, yeah, it upset me. I could have spent the year without doing anything because I was getting paid, but that’s not what I was after.”
Kranitz wanted to continue to do what he has done every year since 2006 when the Florida Marlins first gave him a chance to be a big-league pitching coach. He was fortunate that one of the remaining openings after the Phillies fired him was with the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves believe they were fortunate, too.
“He fit right in, I know that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said before his team’s game against the Phillies Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. “I told him that he would when we interviewed him. I said, ‘You’ll have no problem fitting into our coaches room because we’re a bunch of baseball guys.’ ”
The Braves’ coaching room is an interesting study and a stark contrast to the Phillies’ room. Start with Snitker. He is 63 years old and has been with the organization since 1977. If you ever want to see a resume of a man who has earned the right to manage in the big leagues, check Snitker’s out.
Snitker is also surrounded by veteran coaches. The average age of his nine coaches is 55. He has three coaches 60 or older and seven coaches 50 or older. The average age of the Phillies’ staff is 45.8, and it drops to 42.8 if you subtract 75-year-old Charlie Manuel from the equation.
“Our staff here, including myself, we grew up doing this thing with our gut and our eyes and there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there,” Snitker said. “Like I told [Braves general manager] Alex [Anthopoulos] last year, you have a bunch of old dogs that you have to teach new tricks here. But it’s all good stuff. It’s all designed to help make the player better and help make your team better. These guys are getting the hang of it now and they’re using it.”
The analytically driven Phillies opted to elevate Chris Young to pitching coach and dispose of Kranitz because they thought the former was more equipped to take them where they want to go in the immediate future. Whether that is going to happen is open for debate. It’s possible that Young could be a one-and-done pitching coach.
Kranitz, according to Snitker, is quite capable of handling both the old-school teaching part of his position and the analytics being introduced to pitchers on a more frequent basis.
“He can blend both,” Snitker said. “He takes all the information and uses it and gets it to his players, and that’s not easy in today’s game because there is a lot of information out there. But I think the biggest thing is the way he interacts with the players every day. He has a great game awareness. He’s one of the first coaches here and he’s in front of his computer dissecting every game. He can be tough on them when he needs to be, and the guys respect him. Before we even left spring training, guys were telling me they liked him.”
The anger Kranitz felt 10 months ago has subsided.
“Absolutely,” he said. “This is one of the greatest situations I’ve ever been involved in. It’s a blessing that I was let go as I see it now. When I look at everything we have here, this is just a true baseball family. I’ve always admired this organization from afar, but once you get in it and you see the culture, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ You sit and talk to Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz, who had such a big part in all of this over the years and they are still involved. It’s just surreal. I couldn’t be more excited and proud to be with the Atlanta Braves.”
The best part for Kranitz, of course, is that he came to Philadelphia this week with the Braves comfortably in first place and he deserves some of the credit, especially with the development of 25-year-old lefty Max Fried and 22-year-old rookie right-hander Mike Soroka. Julio Teheran is also having his best season since 2016.