This year, McCatty has overseen the best pitching staff in the National League. In regard to his role, McCatty called himself, “a glorified pitch counter.” Most any coach would have succeeded with the Nationals’ talented stable of arms simply by following the advice McCatty’s friend Al Kaline, the Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer, gave him this spring: “I’ve see them pitch. Don’t screw it up.”
The Nationals’ staff has thrived under McCatty’s steady, soft hand. He keeps them relaxed with his constant humor and keeps them rolling with careful observations. He lets pitchers find what works best for them, and when he disagrees he gives an unfiltered, often explicit opinion. He is, most of all, a character.
“Deep down, he’s a big teddy bear,” reliever Craig Stammen said. “He’s been really good for this staff. There’s a lot of guys with good stuff, and they’re able to handle it on their own. Success is sometimes determined by a little something here and a little something there. The mental side of the game is a big part of that, and he does a really good job with that.”
McCatty aims to make pitching as simple as he can: Throw strikes. Pitch to your strength rather than a scouting report. Find out what works for you. He pitched one year with lightning in his arm and nearly won a Cy Young Award. He pitched for four more seasons with a bone chip in his biceps and figured out a way to hold on. By reinventing himself, he came to believe all pitchers must learn themselves.
“Instead of trying to do what other people wanted me to do, I did what I did, what I knew would work best for me,” McCatty said. “That’s what I try to get these guys to do. I’m not going to sit there and call the game for them. If I tell you to do certain things in certain situations that aren’t your strength, I’m putting you in a box.”
“I’ve never heard him talk mechanics to anybody,” reliever Sean Burnett said. “I know in our meetings and stuff, it’s kind of, ‘Do what you do.’ If you’re going to get beat, get beat with your best pitch.”