The Miami Marlins are close to hiring Jim Benedict as their new Vice President of pitching, according to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.

Obviously this isn’t finalized yet, but if it goes through, it would be a huge loss for the Pirates. The new trend among baseball front offices is creative job titles. Benedict currently serves as a Special Assistant to General Manager Neal Huntington. He spends his time working with pitching projects, mostly focusing on upper level and MLB guys these days. During the season he also does advance scouting for the Pirates, going on the road and seeing opposing teams right before the Pirates are about to face those teams.

As I said, this would be a huge loss for the Pirates, as Benedict has been essential to their success with reclamation pitching projects. From day one, he spent time working with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon on their deliveries. Both pitchers had plus-plus fastball velocity, but were extremely too hittable due to a lack of movement and deception on their pitches. Cole eventually started throwing down in the zone and with more of an angle, and Taillon did the same, with a very detailed breakdown of that process here (including quotes from Benedict and Taillon).

Benedict totally rebuilt Charlie Morton’s mechanics to mimic Roy Halladay’s delivery in 2011. Morton had a 5.98 ERA and a 4.53 xFIP in 251.1 innings before the transformation. Since the change, he has a 3.96 ERA and a 3.89 xFIP in 624.1 innings.

This year, Benedict worked with Clayton Richard in extended Spring Training, rebuilding his mechanics in an amazing way by using his old football throwing motion from his days as a quarterback at Michigan. He also rebuilt the mechanics of Vance Worley last year to get him back to the majors. In both cases, the players had major injuries that led to negative changes in their mechanics.

This would essentially be like losing Ray Searage, as both are pitching gurus who have led to the Pirates getting a lot of value from their reclamation projects the last few years.

UPDATE: It sounds like the move is official, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.

UPDATE 7:45 PM: Neal Huntington commented on Benedict’s departure after the move became official.

“We wish Jim success in his future endeavors and thank him for his sizeable impact on the Pirates. Our goal is to help each member of the Pirates’ organization reach their personal and professional goals and sometimes that means people will leave the organization in pursuit of those individual ambitions.

Jim has impacted our pitching program and has helped many of our pitchers and pitching coaches develop. We are fortunate to have several quality pitching instructors within our organization and we look forward to their continued growth and increased positive impact as new opportunities arise from this change.”

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77 COMMENTS

  1. This loss is significant, period. No one here is privy to the content of the offer or why Jim decided to take it, but I would hope that the PBC group left no stone unturned in the attempt to retain him.
    That being said, they have to show a positive spin about current depth and talent in the coaching rank… the issue I have is that if it existed we’d have heard about it by now. Benedict was the name that most players spoke of when it came to their ability to reconnect with something that helped them regain their confidence. That skill is worth quite a bit, and in this city worth more than in others I’d say.
    A very tough loss. However how can anybody do anything other than wish Mr. Benedict and his family the best. He helped get this rotten baseball club back to respectability and fans are able to enjoy their sport again. Thanks Jim and good luck.

  2. Unfortunately I had some inside info that let me know that this was on the horizon. Sad to see him go but best of luck.

  3. Sorry to see Benedict go. I’m especially sorry to see him go to the Marlins since I loathe that organization – at least the leadership.

  4. Is it just me or does NH’s quote seem a little bit on the begrudging side? I feel like a guy who personally saved the organization millions of dollars per year in starting pitching would receive a little more praise than “Jim has impacted our pitching program and has helped many of our pitchers and pitching coaches develop”. I’d love to know the details of whether this went down amicably or if there were hard feelings on either side, but I’m sure we’ll never know.

      • My comment says what I thought he would say- a little more than he did. Didn’t mean to make a huge deal about it or read to far into it, just thought it seemed a little understated. Begrudging was probably too strong a word.

    • Why does there always have to be some nefarious meaning behind news?

      If there were hard feelings, I would think Benedict would’ve left last year when he was being ‘courted’.

      As NH said….teams want our personnel because we are successful.

    • I think it’s just you. Aside from that comment, which doesn’t seem begrudging, he also said that Benedict had a “sizeable impact” on the Pirates. What else can he say?

    • You have to be careful with public recognition. When you recognize one person the others who also contributed can feel slighted. The Pirates pitching success goes beyond Searage and Benedict.

  5. We’re entering an entirely new phase of the Nutting/Coonelly/Huntington regime. No longer do we draft near the top every June. And now, we’ve lost three or four top flight administration people, (Benedict, Bannister, etc.) the greatest loss of which is probably Jim Benedict. He is possibly irreplaceable?

    So the new phase is, can the Pirates continue to compete drafting near the bottom of each round every June while also attempting to replace some of the key front office and instruction people such as Benedict? Success has brought a lot of attention to the Pirates methodology and to the people who have implemented it so well to date.

  6. The Pirates survived Perry Hill leaving. They will survive this. This is an organization. You can bet they have a list of replacements for every position. Most importantly the Pirates are not afraid to make changes after one year if they don’t like the direction.

    • That was the first thought that came to my mind EW. I remember how certain Pitts sports media types were forecasting the end of the world then.

  7. VP of pitching is a great title. Maybe the Steelers should hire Jack Lambert as the VP of tackling or Mean Joe as the VP of Sacks. No, they would both have to be the President of those things.

  8. Somehow or another we’ll survive this, at least I hope so.

    Not much we can do about it any way except try to find the next Jim Benedict.

  9. Curious of what kind of salary Miami is going to pay Benedict, you would assume it would be pretty substantial. Miami has money that Pittsburgh doesn’t and it was a figure that Pittsburgh couldn’t match. We will now see exactly what Searage can do without his right hand man as Benedict did most of the behind the scenes work and Ray got all the accolades.

    • That’s not an accurate assessment. They both played a role. For example, Searage worked with Happ exclusively. And they both worked together on other reclamation projects, but there’s nothing that says one person’s work was more important than the other. Basically the Pirates lost one of their pitching gurus, but they still have another in Searage.

  10. I will frankly confess to being confused. Many on this and other blogs worship at the Searage-Benedict altar. And I tend to think they are good – but far from great pitching coaches. Proof of my argument lies in the 4 and 5 starters – Morton is erratic – Locke is done after the second time through the lineup. Yes the found some things to make Happ effective. But they have had Locke and Morton for several years and they have not been able to make either of them more than a bottom of the rotation filler – some one who you would love to upgrade if the right opportunity presented itself.

    • Great instruction and coaching along with good scouting only enhances the talent that is present. It doesn’t raise abilities to levels that just are not there. In simpler terms, you don’t make chicken salad out of chicken ……

    • Took a lefty getting knocked around in High A ball and pitcher with a ERA of six and FIP around five in his first 250 MLB innings and made them into serviceable major league pitchers.

    • As noted above, Morton had a 5.98 ERA and a 4.53 xFIP in 251.1 innings before the transformation. Since working with Benedict, he has a 3.96 ERA and a 3.89 xFIP in 624.1 innings.

      Locke was struggling in High-A with control and command. They added a turn to his delivery, similar to what Ted Lilly had, and Locke has gone on to put up a 4.16 ERA and a 4.06 xFIP in his career. Those numbers (4.08/4.00) are slightly lower since he added the turn. Speaking of Lilly — career 4.14 ERA/4.28 xFIP.

      I think the biggest impact Benedict and Searage have had is that they’ve been so good that they’ve altered reality in Pittsburgh. It used to be that a guy with the numbers Morton and Locke put up would be the ace of the staff in Pittsburgh and a guy people talked about as being one of the only reliable pitchers in the rotation.

      Now? They aren’t even considered MLB quality starters by Pirates fans, because all of the reclamation projects have pushed expectations well out of reach for real life strong number four starters that could start for any team in baseball.

    • I honestly don’t believe this will change our approach at all. It might decrease our attractiveness to pitchers. Also, we might not be able to execute the plan as well.

  11. Well, I guess we’re about to see how much of a genius he really was. Honestly, Clayton Richards didn’t accomplish anything, Morton was better but never really someone you could count on, and there are many pitching instructors (including Searage) who would advocate pitching down in the zone. And very few of our high level pitchers have officially made it – including Taillon and Glasnow. My thinking is he wasn’t completely happy here as this was the second straight year he was exploring options. Could be money or something else…

    I am also curious who he was scouting – opposing pitchers or hitters. If he was scouting hitters that could be a second hit as our pitchers always seemed to have a good game plan. If he was scouting pitchers, I doubt we’ll miss him in that capacity since he was either no good at it or the Pirates weren’t able to translate his info into hitting success. I say this based not on stats but watching how inept we appeared to be against other starting pitchers – rarely taking advantage of their tendencies.

    • In half a season, Richard had a 3.83 ERA and a 3.43 xFIP in 42.1 innings.

      Also, it was two years ago that Benedict was approached by the Phillies, and turned them down. There wasn’t anything last year connecting him to another team. If he was really unhappy, he probably would have left for the Phillies, rather than sticking around for two more years. And if he didn’t want the Phillies, he could have easily found a job elsewhere, as he’s highly regarded in the industry.

      In regards to scouting, the Pirates just won 98 games. I’d say their MLB scouts who were prepping for opposing teams right before they played those teams deserve some credit.

      • I thought Rich ‘s point about the prep arms was pretty good. You yourself have noted the amount of TJ surgeries in the system lately.

        Yeah, Benedict deserves a lot of credit. But let’s not pretend he’s been flawless. Seems to me they still have an issue growing their own arms.

        • There have been a lot of TJ surgeries across baseball. That’s not limited to the Pirates.

          As for the prep arms, I didn’t think it was a good point. Taillon would have made it this year, but he was injured. Glasnow was drafted out of high school in 2011. To expect him to have made it this year is expecting too much, and not realistic of the timeline for prep pitchers. And we’re talking about two of the top pitching prospects in baseball, so I don’t see how they could be viewed as a negative right now. Incomplete, maybe. But there are still positive results there, even if they haven’t translated over to the majors.

  12. Congratulations Jim Benedict on your new job. Thanks for being such a valuable member of the Pirate organization. And all of the great work you did helping to make a better Pirate pitching staff. You will be missed. Wish we could have kept you.

  13. Good for him, obviously bad for us. This is what happens to successful organizations. Like Luke said, the information is not available to go all “Nutting’s cheap”, so I’m just going to assume that this was an opportunity to his liking and wish him the best. I’m sure this will open up an opportunity in the ranks for a deserving replacement!

    • Can’t see it happening but would love to see A.J. stay in the organization. Of course he has no coaching experience and wants to stay home with his family.

  14. Hard to believe we wouldn’t offer the money and title to make him stay here. Maybe he seems room for advancement there he doesn’t see here

      • Money and title are not the reasons he left. If anyone believes that, they are clueless about what drives people like Jim Benedict to do what they do.

          • NMR, people like Benedict, who sacrifice things most people consider important, like family life, to travel for the majority of the year, to assist young men reach their potential, aren’t driven by financial remuneration like most “normal” people. They are driven for personal and professional challenges and achievement.

            Now of course, the money has to be right for them to make these sacrifices, but considering he has been a loyal employee for several years, one would assume the money was right in Pittsburgh.

    • Depends on what MIA actually gave him. Him getting a raise seems totally fair and would be odd of PGH not to match. MIA offering him double his current salary would be another thing altogether, and MIA very well could have done that.

      Details would be needed before getting into how easily PGH “gave him up”, and i doubt those details are really made easily available.

      • And why exactly, without knowing what he makes in the first place, would doubling his salary be dumb?

        You have any idea how much money Benedict and Searage have saved this organization?

        • Surely didnt mean to insinuate that PGH doubling it would be dumb, but that MIA may have done it. I think the instant reaction to this news being “why didnt they pay him what it took” is lazy and assumes knowledge we dont have.

          PGH could afford to likely triple his salary if they wanted to. But there are about 20 other reasons he could have left. I dont see the value in discussing what he may have been paid/why PGH didnt just offer him more as if thats the first and most important aspect of why he left. Really, i just wish him the best and dont get all that upset over if we didnt pay him X amount. He’s gone, FO gets to test its depth.

          • Money isn’t why he left. An opportunity for professional growth and a new challenge are much more likely reasons.

            • You don’t even know what the hell he’s going to be doing, Scott. What, exactly, is the “growth” he’ll be able to achieve in Miami that he cannot in Pittsburgh?

              • What world are you living in? People leave positions they’ve been successful at for new positions all the time. Especially in the sports world. And money is rarely the determining factor. Don’t compare his situation to a player. It’s not even close to the same.

                • Literally, in the last year, arguably the best manager and best general manager in the sport have taken new jobs for more money. That’s what world I’m living in. Reality.

                  • Just because they’re making more money in new position doesn’t mean that is why they took new job. It’s a secondary reason compared to the opportunity and challenge.

                    If money was primary driver for FO/Mgr moves, than why don’t Yankees have best in the business?

                    • Because it isn’t 2008 anymore, Scott. The Yankees narrative as the team with all the money is dead. The Dodgers, you know, with the $300m payroll, do have a couple decent guys working for them. You apparently haven’t noticed that.

                    • They also have a MGR opening. You may have noticed that, NMR.

                      And the Yankees still have money. As do the Phillies. Look what all that money has done for them lately.

                      The whole money is everything in baseball narrative is so blown out of proportion. Is it your position the Mets and Royals are playing in the WS because of money?

            • I’m pretty content with how I phrased what I said. As opposed to self righteous “sure it’s not money” insinuations of money being a major based on nothing.

              Money factored in, but the knee jerk reaction of speculating we are cheap is lazy.

        • Doubling one persons salary when they are this valuable is fine in a bubble, bit those kind of actions have trickle down effects…imagine you seeing a peer get a 100% raise without any kind of money thrown your way. I would expect ray every other member of the pirates analytics team to also expect a hefty raise if they saw their organization get into a bidding war for one guy. The organization is (or should be) built on a strong foundation of capable people, not just one guy. It will most definitely hurt to lose him, but I really don’t think it’s rational to assume anyone should double a members salary without knowing all the details.

          Think if his salary used to be the near equal of NH himself…how do you think our grand architect would feel if his boss doubled an underlings salary without doing the same for him?

          • And that would *still* be a drop in the bucket.

            Look, its quite obvious why the Pittsburgh Pirates cannot afford to pay star players into free agency, but if we’re now defending their unwillingness to pay a fraction of those salaries to the coaches that ENABLE them to succeed without top talent then you may as well pack up shop and go home. There’s nothing these guys could do that you wouldn’t defend.

  15. Ok, I am sure this is my dumbest question ever,
    but how many other teams have a VP of pitching?

    No doubt he deserves this type of recognition, but
    I just have not heard of this before.

    • It’s nothing more than the same title inflation you’re seeing around the league. Simply a way to attract more talent, by first and foremost paying them more money, and giving them a bullshit title to match.

      You can bet that the Marlins poneyed up for Benedict, and the Pirates did not match.

      • Money may have been a contributing factor, but I doubt very much it was the determining factor.

        Most likely Benedict saw an opportunity for a new challenge in an organization he can have a big impact in.

        Generally speaking people with his type of skill set are not driven by money. If he were, I’m sure he would’ve left at least a couple years ago.

  16. Maybe the guys below him are better. Any organization that is successful has a lot of talent and depth. Let’s see what PBC has.

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