Friday, November 9, 2012

New trends in the dugout, Part II

Wally Joyner, who hit .289 in a
16-year career, will be an
assistant hitting coach for the
Philadelphia Phillies next year.
Major league teams are permitted up to six full-time uniformed coaches. The limit appears to be motivated by the fact that the uniformed coaches are eligible for and piling up pension eligibility.

Less obvious to many of us on the outside is what exactly these coaches do. Since the sixth coach became the norm back in late 1990s, most teams have identified a coach as the "bench coach." Pitching coach, hitting coach, third base coach, first base coach, bullpen coach, bench coach.

The duties of two are obvious in the title; the bullpen coach, I suspect, is largely there in order to have an authority figure hanging out with the relief corps; the base coaches generally have other duties than waving at baserunners, but they can differ from team to team. (I assume that's why the Twins last month identified the new duties of Scott Ullger and Joe Vavra as outfield/baserunning instruction and infield instruction, respectively.)

And the bench coach? His duties are even more vague.

This fall, a number of teams have turned to identifying a coach not as bench coach but as "assistant hitting coach."

  • The Kansas City Royals, having fired hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, hired Jack Maloof as hitting coach and Andre David (who played for the Twins in 1984 and '86) as assistant hitting coach.
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers hired Mark McGuire as hitting coach and John Valentin as his assistant.
  • The Boston Red Sox haven't hired any hitting coach for 2013, but they intend to have two.
  • The Philadelphia Phillies have Steve Henderson and Wally Joyner as his assistant.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays were at least considering such a move. (This link is particularly useful for detailing a rationale for two hitting coaches.)
The Twins aren't following this trend -- officially. Terry Steinbach is listed as catching instructor/bench coach.  But they do have two former hitting coaches on their staff in Ullger and Vavra, and new hitting coach Tom Brunansky has suggested that Vavra, who held the job last season, will be helpful to him.

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