Jul 29, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach Johnny Narron (37) during batting practice prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
I’ve had a question rattling around in my brain since the regular season ended, and it became clear to me that at the very least Johnny Narron would be fired as the Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach: Do hitting coaches even matter?
The smart money coming into the offseason, given that the Brewers collapse was nearly entirely about the offense, was that Narron was the only sure-thing on the coaching staff as far as firing was concerned, everybody else was up in the air.
Dale Sveum was the last hitting coach before Narron. In 2011, in Sveum’s last season, the Brewers scored 721 runs and had a 102 team OPS+. In 2012, the first season under Narron, the team scored 776 runs and had a 101 team OPS+.
In both seasons Ryan Braun was the team’s best player but the lineup turnover between the two seasons means that any direct comparison is largely irrelevant.
The truth is I don’t know any way to quantify if hitting coaches really do matter, but I suspect that if they do, their value is pretty low.
As Grant Brisbee is fond of saying:
"I have no idea how to evaluate hitting coaches, and you don’t either."
According to @BrewerNation, Brewers assistant General Manager Gord Ash and advisor Craig Counsell will be interviewing three coaches today for their vacancies in the hitting and first base coaching holes.
Segura had a miserable season at the plate. His .246/.239/.326 line wasn’t even close to his 2013 line of .294/.329/.423. His batting average and on-base percentage were actually career lows, even when in include all his minor league seasons as well and his slugging percentage was nearly so as well.
Gennett was pretty good in the first half, belting out a .309/.346/.482 batting line, but he fell off a cliff in the second half, posting a Segura-like .253/.273/.348 line.
With Rickie Weeks likely out the door, the Brewers will need Gennett to sustains his first half numbers for the entire season, and he’ll have to improve his woeful minor league numbers against left-handed pitching, a situation he’s been able to avoid in the majors so far.
Still though, the question remains: does it actually matter? What bothers me is I don’t know.