The Braves announced to reporters this morning that pitching coach Chuck Hernandez will not return in that role for the 2019 season (Twitter links via Gabe Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution). The rest of the coaching staff is returning on new two-year contracts, which match the length of the extension inked by manager Brian Snitker earlier this morning. MLB.com’s Mark Bowman had previously tweeted that Hernandez’s spot on the coaching staff could be in jeopardy.
Though the Braves surprised with a 90-win season and a National League East division title in 2018, the team’s pitching staff was an obvious question mark down the stretch and proved to play a significant factor in the team’s early exit from the postseason. Atlanta pitchers walked an MLB-worst 10.31 percent of the hitters they faced during the regular season, and the Braves’ staff issued 27 walks in a 3-1 series loss to the Dodgers in the NLDS.
Hernandez, 57, will unsurprisingly take the fall for the staff’s inability to locate the strike zone, even if the blame can’t be solely placed on his shoulders. He spent three seasons in the Braves organization, serving as a minor league pitching coordinator in 2016 before taking the reins as the Major League pitching coach in 2o17. A baseball lifer, Hernandez began his career as a coach 33 years ago in the White Sox’ minor league system and has served on Major League staffs with the Braves, Marlins, Indians, Tigers, Rays and Angels (where he was named pitching coach at the age of 31 in 1992).
Burns notes that GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated an openness to retaining Hernandez in a different capacity (Twitter link), though it’s not clear whether Hernandez himself wants to return in a new role. Given his vast experience, he’d certainly be a candidate to land a coaching job elsewhere even after being cut loose in Atlanta, and he may simply prefer the opportunity to embark on a new challenge in another organization.
The rest of the Atlanta staff includes bench coach Walt Weiss, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, assistant hitting coach Jose Castro, first base coach Eric Young, third base coach Ron Washington, bullpen coach Marty Reed and catching coach Sal Fasano. The Braves will presumably go outside the organization to find a new pitching coach in the coming weeks.