Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On hitting coaches

Miguel Cabrera homrs Sunday in Fenway Park.
It has long been said that you can't teach hitting. A player either has the hand-eye coordination to hit or he doesn't. The most a hitting coach can do is refine the talent.

Yet major league teams today are increasing adding assistant hitting coaches. The Twins are said to be discussing internally adding a seventh coach to the staff and rearranging duties; it seems likely from this outside view that somebody will be joining Tom Brunansky as an assistant hitting instructor.

I just came across this Wall Street Journal piece from earlier this month about Miguel Cabrera and how he fits — or doesn't fit — into the various theories of hitting.

My favorite paragraph from the story, which comes after describing some unique things Cabrera does:

Batting coaches generally strangle such habits early on. "You know what Ted Williams would have done with this guy?" said Toby Harrah, an assistant batting coach with the Tigers who played for Williams when he managed the Washington Senators in 1971. "He would have left him alone."

It's worth reading not so much for what Cabrera does — he is, as the piece explains, a unique beast — as for the background on hitting coaching, approaches and techniques.

There's enough variance in ideas and theories that I wonder if the organizational habit of telling players This is how we do it is misplaced. Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe, to pick two Twins who have played for no other organization, are very different hitters, and it seems unlikely that they would benefit from the same instructional emphasis.

Calling somebody an "assistant hitting coach" implies that the "hitting coach" has the authority and the responsibility. Maybe it has to be that way; there is clearly a risk of confusing a player with contradictory advice and instruction. But I doubt anybody knows enough about hitting to make any one approach mandatory.

1 comment:

  1. Kind of reminds me of Kent Hrbek.....smoke cigarettes and bowl in the off season, hit 30 HR's the next season. Natural ability is God's greatest gift, especially as an athlete!