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Assistant Hitting Coach

The White Sox last week became the latest team to add an assistant hitting coach, hiring Harold Baines (who was the first-base coach last season) to assist Jeff Manto. This is a growing trend:

Mike Aldrete took the job with the Cardinals in 2008 and last year gave way to John Mabry, who recently was promoted to the top job when Mark McGwire left for the Dodgers. St. Louis is searching for Mabry’s replacement, while Los Angeles hired John Valentin to help McGwire after previously using Jeff Pentland and Dave Hansen in that role.

The Royals and Phillies each added a pair of hitting coaches this offseason, as Andre David will assist Jack Maloof in Kansas City and Wally Joyner will back up Steve Henderson in Philadelphia. The Padres made the move last offseason, hiring Alonzo Powell to work with Phil Plantier.

Both teams in this year’s World Series also had assistants, who now have official titles. The Giants moved Joe Lefebvre into the role during the 2011 season, and the Tigers did the same with Toby Harrah this year.

Besides the White Sox, the Cubs and Rangers have carried an assistant hitting coach at times in the past few years. And while the position hasn’t always stuck, its trend line clearly is headed upward…

The three clubs that added assistant hitting coaches before this past season — the Braves, Giants and Padres — all made significant gains over 2011 in runs scored and OPS, while jumping at least two spots in the National League rankings in both categories.

Am I silly not to be convinced by that rigorous analysis? Not that I want to make an argument that assistant hitting coaches are a bad idea, but surely the fact that three clubs that added assistant hitting coaches all made gains in two cherry-picked categories, with a sample size of one season, isn’t actual statistically-relevant evidence of anything, is it?

Also, the mere addition of an assistant hitting coach would seem to be far, far, far less important than the question of who it is, and how good they are at coaching hitting.