Daily Notes: How Well Did MLB Hitting Coaches Hit as Players?

Table of Contents
Today’s edition of Daily Notes has no table of contents, it appears.

The Hitting Stats for the Hitting Coaches
The Miami Marlins named former Cardinal and Devil Ray and Mariner and Yankee Tino Martinez as their new hitting coach this offseason, shortly after the departure of Ozzie Guillen and his staff — including Guillen’s hitting coach, former major leaguer Eduardo Perez.

There’s nothing to suggest, so far as the author knows, that a player’s own personal hitting ability is a determinative factor in his ability to coach others well in that same art. That said, it’s also the case that Martinez was an above-average hitter over the course of his 16-year career.

“How, generally, have the league’s batting coaches performed as major leaguers?” the author, who constructs thoughts in full sentences, asked himself. The answer, one finds, is best presented in the form of a table, not unlike the one below.

Here, then, are the major-league stats for the 23 current hitting coaches with major-league experience:


Name Team PA BB% K% HR AVG OBP SLG BABIP wRC+ WAR
Mark McGwire Dodgers 7660 17.2% 20.8% 583 .263 .394 .588 .255 157 70.6
Chili Davis Athletics 9997 11.9% 17.0% 350 .274 .360 .451 .302 118 41.7
Don Baylor D-backs 9401 8.6% 11.4% 338 .260 .342 .436 .260 118 34.9
Dave Magadan Rangers 4963 14.5% 11.0% 42 .288 .390 .377 .319 117 27.1
Steve Henderson Phillies 3916 9.9% 17.3% 68 .280 .352 .413 .329 113 11.7
Tino Martinez Marlins 8044 9.7% 13.3% 339 .271 .344 .471 .274 111 33.0
Greg Walker Braves 3177 8.4% 16.4% 113 .260 .326 .449 .281 108 10.0
Greg Colbrunn Red Sox 3017 5.6% 14.7% 98 .289 .338 .460 .312 107 9.3
Tom Brunansky Twins 7169 10.7% 16.6% 271 .245 .327 .434 .259 105 27.0
Dante Bichette Rockies 6856 5.2% 15.7% 274 .299 .336 .499 .320 104 11.5
Phil Plantier Padres 2166 10.9% 22.0% 91 .243 .332 .439 .274 103 3.9
Brook Jacoby Reds 5027 8.7% 15.2% 120 .270 .334 .405 .299 103 19.8
Jay Bell Pirates 8525 10.0% 16.9% 195 .265 .343 .416 .304 102 40.4
Dave Hansen Mariners 2101 13.5% 15.8% 35 .260 .360 .369 .299 101 5.8
Jeff Manto White Sox 822 11.8% 22.1% 31 .230 .329 .415 .265 97 0.9
Lloyd McClendon Tigers 1375 10.4% 12.0% 35 .244 .325 .381 .254 96 1.0
Jim Eppard Angels 156 9.0% 13.5% 0 .281 .351 .317 .331 94 0.1
John Mabry Cardinals 3765 7.5% 19.0% 96 .263 .322 .405 .306 88 2.1
Jim Presley Orioles 3818 5.5% 22.5% 135 .247 .290 .420 .286 88 4.8
Hensley Meulens Giants 549 7.7% 30.1% 15 .220 .288 .353 .295 77 -1.4
Chad Mottola Blue Jays 137 7.3% 20.4% 4 .200 .263 .344 .223 54 -1.0
Ty Van Burkleo Indians 44 13.6% 22.7% 1 .132 .250 .289 .148 49 0.1
Dave Hudgens Athletics 7 0.0% 42.9% 0 .143 .143 .143 .250 -24 -0.1
Averages 4030 9.5% 18.7% 141 .249 .323 .403 .280 95 15.4

Notes
• Absent from this list are the seven coaches who never played in the majors. They are as follows, presented in no particular order: John Mallee (Astros), Jack Maloof (Royals), Kevin Long (Yankees), Derek Shelton (Rays), James Rowson (Cubs), Johnny Narron (Brewers), Rick Eckstein (Nationals).

• The averages are simple averages — that is, not weighted by plate appearances.

• By this method, it appears as though 14 present hitting coaches were above-average major-league hitters. Nine more were below average. Seven more, as noted above, didn’t play at the major-league level.

Mark McGwire was decidedly the best hitter of the league’s current hitting coaches — or, certainly the most productive one.

• A full list of all coaches is available at Baseball Reference. A FanGraphs leaderboard of all the hitting coaches’ offensive numbers is available here.



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B
Guest
B
3 years 7 months ago

Are you able to match these up with any sustained player breakouts during their tenures?

Cus
Guest
Cus
3 years 7 months ago

This pops into my head all the time when I’m watching games and the commentator goes, “(insert Padres player) has been working with hitting coach Phil Plantier to improve his (insert reason why said Padres player look terrible at the plate).” Ummm, what knowledge of hitting exactly does Phil Plantier have to offer? If anything, he’s advising the young Pads on how to best avoid fulfilling their potential.

DonChrysler
Member
DonChrysler
3 years 7 months ago

Think Dave Hudgens is supposed to be listed as the Mets’ hitting coach

Allan Brownridge
Guest
Allan Brownridge
3 years 7 months ago

I’ve always felt you don’t need to be “able to do it” to teach it. Some coaches on this list are phenominal at their job – even if their physical pitfuls didn’t allow them to become star hitters at the major league level.

For the same reason – I disagree that Golf professionals must maintain a certain handicap to maintain that status and teach others how to golf. It’s stupid. You think when Jack’s 70 he wouldn’t be able to teach people what they should be doing?

On the flipside – I suspect there are many superstar baseball players or golfers or hockey players who wouldn’t be able to teach people the first thing about succeeding. Some superstars have no idea what or why they do what they do and rely soley on their god given athletic ability.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
3 years 7 months ago

First and foremost.. You have to be able to teach. Alot of the personalities that stars generally have, really dont translate into good teaching. Talentwise, would you want to learn to shoot a basketball from MJ? Sure.. but, as a person, not a chance.

Tomcat
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Tomcat
3 years 7 months ago

In Moneyball Hatterberg mentions clashing with Jim Rice as a hitting coach in Boston. How Rice who was a see it/hit it player would challenge Hatteberg for not being more aggressive, despite the fact that their skill set was so different.

Cidron
Member
Cidron
3 years 7 months ago

Those who “can” do.. Those who “can’t”, teach. Wonder if that adage holds true for hitting coaches (teachers). Guess this article is trying to address that.

Dauber
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Dauber
3 years 7 months ago

Relaying information and facilitating skill development to others is in itself a separate skill from possessing those skills and knowledge yourself. That can-do/can’t-teach adage has never been true, which is why so many are skilled/knowledgable yet horrible teachers. Aren’t we above adages here?

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

Mildly interesting, but trivial for the reasons you mentioned.
Ted Williams was the best batter I can remember serving as a hitting coach. If I recall correctly, which is always dubious, he was not good at it.

chanelclemente
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chanelclemente
3 years 7 months ago

There is an anecdote involving Williams tutoring Bobby Doerr. Williams kept telling Doerr to increase his bat speed and he’d go to the cage a show Doerr how to wait on a pitch. Doerr finally told Williams that probably no one had his bat speed, he, Doerr, sure didn’t have any more, unless could Ted lend him some.

jwb
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jwb
3 years 7 months ago

I don’t go back far enough to remember Williams as a Red Sox hitting coach. When he took over the Senators, players with skillsets as disparate as Mike Epstein and Ed Brinkman had career years. Coincidence or correlation? I dunno. Frank Howard doubled his walk rate, with I think would be correlation.

dcs
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dcs
3 years 7 months ago

The most impressive name on that list, in terms of having a great plate approach when he played, is Dave Magadan. That’s the guy I would want as my hitting coach.

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