Aside from being the brother of current bench coach, Jerry Narron, Johnny has a pretty impressive resume as a coach and hitting instructor. Replacing Dale Sveum will not be easy, but I think Narron could be an upgrade. Arguably his biggest accomplishment, is the resurgence of Josh Hamilton, or as he is known in my home, “The Natural”. Narron spent the past few seasons as the assistant hitting coach of the Texas Rangers and acountabili-buddy to Hamilton. In my opinion, the Rangers have been the best offensive team in baseball over the last two seasons. It would be naive of me to think that Narron had no influence on the success of that team. I can not wait to see what he will bring to this lineup.
Now Johnny never played in the big leagues, but he did spend a few years in the minors with both the Yankees and White Sox. That should not bother anyone, because very rarely do ex-players turn into successful coaches. There will always be exceptions to that rule, but most successful coaches have, at the very least, spent their entire adult lives in the game. Johnny fits into that second category. In fact, the Narron family has had 9 different members involved in major league baseball (in one capacity or another). The guy understands the game and know what it takes to win.
In 2003, 2004, and 2006 Narron was the hitting coach and manager of our Rookie ball team, the Helena Brewers. So, he already has some familiarity with several of the players on the Brewers roster today. That will help him in the clubhouse and within the organization. It also explains why this was a pretty easy hire for Roenicke and company.
The big question is, who will he be able to help the most? I think the answer is…everyone.
The Texas Rangers scored 855 runs last season. That is a staggering number. By comparison, the Brewers scored 721 and still made it to the NLCS and ranked as one of the top offenses in the NL. In 2011, the Rangers had a team batting average of .283 and an OBP of .340!!! That means that 1 out of every 3 Rangers batters reached base. To me, that is the difference between an elite team and a good team. The Brewers were not that far off in OBP, at .325, but they were 22 points lower in batting average (.261). Could Narron be the final piece of the puzzle? I think it is entirely possible that Narron could turn the Brewers into an elite team in 2012.
Losing Prince Fielder is going to hurt our teams power numbers, we are all aware of that. Last season the Brewers hit 185 home runs as a team, I expect that number to go down, but that does not mean that the run production can not improve. If Johnny and his brother can work together and help the team be more disciplined with runners in scoring position, I will guarantee you that by the time we are through the month of July, Prince Fielder will be a distant memory. The 2011 Brewers were terrible with runners in scoring position. You know it, and I know it.
No one on this roster is so good that they do not need to work on their swing, as well as maximizing each and every plate appearance. Even Ryan Braun could use some extra help. Last season, this team was full of first-pitch swingers and I am really hoping that Narron will correct that. However, Yuniesky Betancourt‘s departure will immediately increase the teams stats on first pitch hacks. In Particular, I am interested to see Narron work with Carlos Gomez, Mat Gamel, and Jonathan Lucroy.
If nothing else, I think we will see a more disciplined team at the plate. This is a quote from Narron after he was hired:
"I want our offense to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. We’re going to be aggressive in the strike zone, we’re going to move runners when necessary, we’re going to be able to get runners in. We want to be mentally tough when we have two strikes. We want to put pressure on the pitcher. We’re also going to stress quality, team plate appearances. That’s something that we’re really going to focus on, and that encompasses baseball instincts and baseball awareness. Beyond that, I try to keep things as simple as possible."
As with most things coaches say, this sounds amazing in theory. If Johnny can make this a reality, I think the 2012 Brewers will repeat as NL Central Champs.
Over the past few weeks, I have repeatedly said that my biggest focus this spring will be Aoki, but maybe I need to re-think that. If Johnny Narron can get this offense to produce runs, without the aid of long-balls, the team will win and win and win. This pitching staff will only need 5 or6 runs each game to get a W. At times last season, it was feast or famine on run production and in the NLCS that was our eventual undoing. If Narron can find this team some middle ground, we could be unstoppable.
After looking over this entire team, I have come to the conclusion that Narron is the key. Sveum was a terrific coach, but maybe this particular group of guys need something different. Let’s see how this unfolds….