Understanding new San Diego Padres pitching coach Ruben Niebla’s philosophy

After the firing of pitching coach Larry Rothschild during the 2021 season, the odds were high that the San Diego Padres were going in a new direction with the next hire. To the surprise of no one in the baseball community, Padres general manager A.J. Preller hired Ruben Niebla from the Cleveland Guardians organization.

It is interesting to note that the hiring came before Bob Melvin agreed to become the San Diego Padres next manager. The risk of losing Niebla to another organization was too great to ignore, so  the Padres brought the San Diego native into the fold.

Niebla will be tasked with improving a pitching staff that finished in the middle of the pack in MLB team rankings. But before moving forward, it is important to understand his pitching philosophy.

The hiring of Ruben Niebla by the San Diego Padres was a no-brainer

The hiring of Niebla appears to be what the doctor ordered for the Padres struggling pitching staff. He brings experience and knowledge to the Friars. Niebla spent 21 seasons with the Cleveland organization. Many in baseball credit him with being one of the architects of the Guardians outstanding minor league pitching development program.

The Padres hired a progressive pitching coach who has a proven track record of developing young pitchers. The most notable names associated with Niebla are Aaron Civale and Shane Beiber, with each rising to stardom under his guidance. And, just this past season, several top Guardians top pitching prospects took a huge step in their development. Triston McKenzie, James Karinchak, Logan Allen, Zach Plesac, J.C. Meija, and Eli Morgan each made significant contributions in the rotation when Civale and Beiber were sidelined with arm injuries.

Niebla’s philosophy goes beyond analytics and video sessions

Niebla’s expertise goes beyond analytics and video sessions as he gains a pitcher’s trust by recognizing what is working and what is not working for him. Together, they make the necessary adjustments to their approach and delivery on the mound. And who could argue with the results?

He embraces the philosophy of “attacking the strike zone.” What does that mean? Well, it is an approach to make the batter uncomfortable during his at-bat. The pitcher needs to put the batter at a disadvantage by getting ahead in the count at 0-2, then the pitcher can expand the strike zone with fastballs, changeups, or breaking balls. The goal is to force the batter to become more defensive at the plate.

However, Niebla does not want his pitchers to waste their best pitches out of the strike zone. Failing to throw strikes will allow the batter to recover and gain control of the count. At 3-2, the odds are against the pitcher as the hitter can become more aggressive in putting their best swing on a pitch.

Future looks bright for Padres

It is impossible not to be excited about the impact Niebla could have on the careers of Blake Snell, Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack, and McKenzie Gore because of his ability to get young pitchers to buy into the process. It will help them to maintain the confidence and sharpness needed to be successful each outing. His words will bridge the gap in keeping this group to remain positive despite all their past career struggles.

The Padres are in a quest to get their pitchers better prepared to compete in games. It will be Niebla’s job to have his staff be ready for any in-game situation. He will emphasize on them to be disciplined, but aggressive at attacking the strike zone.

Niebla has the resume and knowledge to make an impact for the Padres in 2022.