The Nationals have moved on from pitching coach Paul Menhart and won’t renegotiate a new contract after his previous one expired at the end of the 2020 season, according to multiple reports Saturday.
Menhart, who had been with the organization for 15 years, was promoted to pitching coach in May 2019, when the team fired the incumbent Derek Lilliquist following a poor start to the season. The Nationals went on to win their first World Series in franchise history later that year behind the strength of their rotation, particularly Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer.
According to The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli, the decision comes as “quite a shock” to Menhart. Yet the Nationals largely underperformed in 2020 and their pitching staff was a big reason why. Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez were unable to replicate their 2019 success while Austin Voth struggled in his role as the team’s fifth starter. Closer Sean Doolittle lost some velocity on his fastball and his effectiveness went with it. Offseason signings Daniel Hudson and Will Harris turned in mixed results as set-up men.
Overall, Washington’s rotation ranked 24th in FanGraphs’ WAR metric this season while its bullpen was 23rd. However, injuries to important contributors such as Strasburg, Tanner Rainey and Sean Doolittle certainly made things more challenging for Menhart. Teams had less time to evaluate their players with the season lasting 60-games and they couldn’t send struggling pitchers down to the minor leagues.
The Nationals’ offseason shopping list was already expected to be a long one, but they will now have to add pitching coach to the top of it with Menhart out in D.C.