The problem with having Larry Rothschild as the pitching coach is that in moments of stress, Cub pitchers tend to become Michael Wuertz. At the age of 29, in his fifth season under Rothschild’s tutelage, the once-promising Wuertz has attained the status of triple-A reliever. Wuertz is the embodiment of his coach’s two-pronged philosophy: don’t trust your fastball; and keep throwing the same offspeed pitch until they hit it. Today, Wuertz is so demoralized that it is almost physically impossible for him to throw a fastball in the strike zone. His head can’t tell his arm to do it. What looks like a control problem is really a failure of nerve.
The “Wuertz effect” sometimes afflicts Carlos Marmol and used to cause occasional bullpen meltdowns by Ryan Dempster. This season, until yesterday, Dempster has been a confident fastballer.
Rothschild went to the mound after Dempster loaded the bases in the fifth inning, mostly on fastballs that weren’t close. Then Loney stepped in, and saw five pitches. Four were splitters. The fifth–actually the fourth in the sequence, immediately preceding the fateful 1-2 splitter–was a Wuertz special, a fastball a foot too high.
After Dempster threw the same splitter three times in a row, Ron Darling said, “The problem with throwing three, four, five splitters is that eventually you’re going to leave one up,” which is exactly what happened.
Memo to Crane Kenney: have someone ask Darling if he’d like to sit next to Lou in the dugout next year.