clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Friday Notes

I'm still in Japan, but the internet situation has gone from worse to bad. 

Sister blog South Side Sox has its own reasons to wonder about the value of hitting coaches—in this case, of standing pat following Alex Rios's disastrous first year in Chicago. I'm not extremely familiar with the situation, but the case against Greg Walker seems to be the case against Hal McRae and, to be fair, most hitting coaches who find the welcome wagon revoked: in the face of a systemic offensive collapse, he... continued to be Greg Walker. The blog entry's in reaction to another blog entry, this one from the Sun-Times

Walker, a self-admitted "organizational guy because the White Sox are my family,'' once again came under fire by the fans this season, especially in the second half when Carlos Quentin came back from injury looking lost at the plate, Jermaine Dye went into a second-half rut and the Alex Rios experiment seemed to blow up in the entire club's face.

Forgotten in that mess was A.J. Pierzynski putting together a career year, rookie Gordon Beckham being rescued from an 0-for-13 big-league start, Paul Konerko back to being Paul Konerko, the rebirth of Scott Podsednik, as well as the emergence of Chris Getz.

In these paragraphs, if nothing else, we have a list of things for which we can potentially blame and praise hitting coaches: the veteran collapse (Rick Ankiel? Mark DeRosa?), the botched return from injury (Mark DeRosa?), the second-half rut (Mark DeRosa?), the failed experiment (Mark DeRosa? Khalil Greene?)—and then, on the other side, the late-period career year, an 0-13 stint, a return to form, the emergence of a utility guy. 

What this shows, for me, is that if we can't have a truly analytical approach to analyzing hitting coaches, we must at least have a reason for placing the blame. Did A.J. Pierzynski change his approach? (No.) Did Gordon Beckham really totter on the brink of disaster before improving to 1-14? 

The best coaches, or at least the best-tenured coaches, aren't "organizational guys." They have a philosophy, or an approach, that—even if it can't be separated from the undulations of talent and luck in a satisfying way—can be observed. That Mark McGwire worked on his own with hitters, and has been credited with both successful and unsuccessful tinkering, is promising to me. 


Over at the Post-Dispatch blog they're doing the post-mortem on Rick Ankiel. Bernie Miklasz: 

Easily one of the most overhyped Cardinals in franchise history. Just think of all of the money, time and patience invested in a guy who pitched 242 innings and had 1,044 at-bats at the big-league level since joining the Cardinals in 1999.

I don't know how, exactly, one can "overhype" what transpired between Rick Ankiel joining the Cardinals in 1999 and (almost certainly) leaving them in 2009. Overrated? As an outfielder, maybe. Over-discussed? The out-of-town announcers have to talk about something, I guess. But as a pitcher Rick Ankiel had the best season by a pitcher who couldn't drink since Doc Gooden, then he had a collapse that was so swift, immediate, and final as to make Doc Gooden blush. 

In 2004 he made a positive, hope-inspiring comeback, and in 2005 he realized he couldn't do it—then after a serious knee injury he not only made the majors as an outfielder but did it as a center fielder, one who could hit for power and throw out Wily Taveras flat-footed from the back of Coors Field. He had a brilliant start and a great first year and a miserable 2009, but I don't know that any moment of Rick Ankiel's career could be described as overhyped—it was, and is, simply filled with hype. He has, apparently unintentionally, and often to his detriment, followed the most hype-filled, movie-like career path of any baseball player ever. That he pitched so-many innings and had so-many at-bats seems irrelevant to me when discussing the story of Rick Ankiel, which went on most of the time when he was not on the field. 


It looks like Matt Holliday substitute #1 might be staying in Boston; Jason Bay's reportedly been offered four years, $60 million to stay in town. I don't think any player has been hurt more by the recent proliferation of PBP defensive metrics than Jason Bay, who's apparently been a -15 run disaster in left field for the last several years. I'm hard-pressed to believe that anybody is 15 runs worse than an average left fielder, even the proverbial rock-in-the-outfield, but pegging the length of the deal at four years seems like the best anybody's going to do on Jason Bay.

$15 million a year is market value for what he's done three years out of four, especially if you think that the plus-minus number of -17 runs in the last three years—as opposed to UZR's -44—is closer to his actual ability. Is that good enough for the Red Sox? Would that be good enough for the Cardinals?


For what it's worth, the World Series is broadcast without commercial breaks in Japan; after each inning the Japanese announcers kick back in and analyze, very thoroughly, whatever Hideki Matsui has done most recently. Also, everybody to whom I mention this blog asks what So Taguchi has been up to lately.