There has been nothing traditional about Tommy Hottovy’s career in professional baseball.
After a standout career at Wichita State, Hottovy was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2004, but didn’t make his big-league debut until 2011 in part because he had Tommy John surgery in the minors. After eight games with Boston, Hottovy made nine relief appearances in 2012 with the Royals
Hottovy left his playing days behind after an injury in 2014 and joined the Cubs the following year as an advanced scout with the unusual title of “director of run prevention.”
On Thursday, Hottovy got a big promotion: he’s the Cubs’ new pitching coach. He’ll be working for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, one of the first to embrace sabermetrics in the dugout.
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“There are guys that just don’t speak both languages,” Hottovy told The Star in 2016. “That can understand what the baseball mind sees in something, but can also talk about exit velocities and spin rates and hard-contact rate. All these things that the analytics departments push, they often times get lost in translation.”
Hottovy replaces Jim Hickey, who resigned after last season. Maddon is in the final year of his contract and there is speculation that 2019 might be his final season with the Cubs.
While Hottovy didn’t have great success in the majors, he was The Star’s Male Scholar-Athlete of The Year in 2000, then a standout reliever for the Shockers from 2001-04, compiling a career record of 16-5 with 187 strikeouts in 182-plus innings with a 2.66 earned-run average.
Wichita State won three Missouri Valley Conference tournament championships during his four years, while Hottovy rose up MLB Draft boards after his senior season when he logged a 9-3 record, 2.25 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 76 innings.
In a news release, the Cubs noted that “Hottovy has worked within the major-league pitching infrastructure for the last four seasons, formulating game plans with the coaching staff and assisting pitchers in their game preparation on a daily basis.”
“When I was pitching, I had to break down hitters quite a bit. I didn’t have the ‘stuff’ that most of these guys have,” Hottovy told FanGraphs shortly after the 2015 World Series. “A lot of what I do is data accumulating. Baseball is a data game. It’s stats, stats, stats; there are numbers for everything. How do we want go about breaking down a hitter? How do we want to attack his weaknesses, and at the same time use our pitcher’s strengths? I go through video and data and formulate a game plan based on my perspective, then I sit with (former pitching coach) Chris Bosio and Mike Borzello (the Cubs associate pitching coach). We discuss everything.
“When you have a bunch of eyes breaking down hitters, and you get everybody on the same page, you feel a lot more confident in what you’re trying to do. We each have our own approach, and when we come to the same conclusion, we have a good feeling about how we want to attack guys.”