The best pitching coach in the majors

From Bill James Online, lowest OBP allowed versus a hitter leading off an inning:

1. Johnny Cueto, Reds, .234

2. Bartolo Colon, A's, .236

3. Homer Bailey, Reds, .236

4. Bronson Arroyo, Reds, .244

5. Jered Weaver, Angels, .255

I don't know if Bryan Price is the best pitching coach in the majors -- it might be impossible to really quantify such a thing -- but I do know if I won the lottery and bought a major league team that Price would be the first guy I'd call to run a pitching staff.

Price has been a pitching coach for 12 seasons with three different franchises -- the Mariners, Diamondbacks and, for the past three seasons, the Reds.

Price pitched five seasons in the minor and then worked his up the Mariners system as a coach, becoming the team's major league pitching coach in 2000. The team allowed 125 fewer runs that year, won 91 games and made the playoffs. The next year, the team cut another 153 runs off its total, allowed the fewest runs in the league and won a record 116 games.

Of course, those teams had Mike Cameron playing center field and John Olerud playing first base and other good defensive players, but it was a dramatic improvement from the pitching staffs the Mariners had been running out under Lou Piniella. The Mariners allowed the fewest runs again in 2003.

In 2006, Price joined Bob Melvin -- one of his managers in Seattle -- in Arizona. That first year, the Diamondbacks allowed 68 fewer runs. In 2007, they allowed 56 fewer and won a division title. The 2008 team allowed fewer yet, with the staff having the best walk percentage and best first-strike percentage in the National League. Of course, you need good pitchers to have good pitching staff, and that team did have Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and a still effective 44-year-old Randy Johnson.

When Melvin was fired early in the 2009 season, Price resigned. He became the Reds' pitching coach in 2010. They hadn't made the playoffs since 1995. His first staff allowed 38 fewer runs and the Reds made the playoffs. In 2012, the Reds allowed the fewest runs in the National League. As you can see from the list above, Price stresses getting the leadoff batter out -- of course, all pitching coaches do -- but the Reds throw strikes (third-best walk rate in the NL) and succeeded despite a tough home park to pitch in.

The only bad staff Price was in charge of was the 2011 Cincinnati staff that ranked 12th in the NL in runs allowed, and suffered through bad seasons from Arroyo and Edinson Volquez. That staff only had one starter make 30 starts, but good health is usually another hallmark of Price's staffs. Reds starters didn't miss a start in 2012, and his '03 Mariners staff only used five starters all season.

He's developed young starters -- Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto being good examples -- and in three years under his wing in Arizona, Brandon Webb won a Cy Young Award and finished second in the voting twice. It's one reason to believe Aroldis Chapman will succeed as a starter in 2013.