With the recent news of the firing of former Brewers hitting coach Andy Haines, now we wait and wonder who the replacement will be.
The offense was the major downfall of this team in the late stages of the season and with the good chance of a similar roster next year, there will be an opportunity to make another run.
It’s very difficult to guess what front office personnel look for when hiring coaches like these. Here are four candidates outside of the Brewers organization that I believe would be a good hire.
1. Joe Dillon
The former Brewers utility man (07-08) may be a good option to make a return to Milwaukee as he was recently dismissed from his job as the hitting coach of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a bit of a surprise to learn of Dillon’s firing as the offensive ranks of the Phillies weren’t all that bad. Their offense ranked 18th in hits and 13th in runs per game at 4.53. He also was the hitting coach of the OPS leader in the majors in Bryce Harper.
Dillon’s best playing seasons in the MLB came in Milwaukee and he’d look to resurrect a unit that showed flashes of success but they couldn’t sustain it.
Manager Joe Girardi had high praise of Joe Dillon in the City of Brotherly Love saying, “I think Joe Dillon does a tremendous job in preparing our players in the cage for what they will see in the game. He has all these different drills that he does — velocity, breaking ball, he even throws all kinds of different pitches. So, I think Joe does a great job to prepare our guys.”
2. Marcus Thames
While Aaron Boone was retained by the Yankees, hitting coach Marcus Thames was let go at season’s end. Thames joined the Yankees coaching staff as an assistant hitting coach after the 2015 season and was then promoted to hitting coach after the 2017 season. The Yankees ranked 19th in the MLB in runs per game at 4.37 and tied for 8th in the MLB in home runs per game with 1.37.
It was a streaky Yankees lineup with plenty of big names up and down the order, but those players went cold when it mattered most. There was some controversy involving Thames in early June when he had to defend his coaching strategy by saying, “I know people think we’re just preaching hit home runs. That’s not what we’re preaching. We’re preaching, you get a ball in your zone, you hit it hard.” Many believe that was the beginning of the end for Thames in The Big Apple.
3. Peter Fatse
A former Brewers draft pick in 2009, Peter Fatse is currently the assistant hitting coach for the Boston Red Sox. A true lover of the game, Fatse never made it above Class-A ball in the Brewers system but he continued playing in independent leagues, next creating his own baseball academy called Advanced Performance Academy and finally making it back to the minor leagues as a hitting coordinator for the Twins.
The offensive success of the Red Sox make Fatse a prime candidate for a hitting coach position this offseason.
Apart from the success with Boston, Fatse is a true player’s coach. He created a celebration with players after quality at-bats that celebrated their efforts: a check mark written in the air. A simple, but effective gesture was welcomed greatly by Red Sox players.
Infielder Christian Arroyo had this to say about the hand motion, “As a hitter, you can go 0 for 4, but you can have four quality at-bats. How can you do that? You can do that by seeing a lot of pitches, by moving a guy over, by hitting a ball hard that just gets caught. So what it did is it just kind of took away from the results-based system of baseball and just let us have fun.”
4. Dustin Lind
Probably the most intriguing of the four options, is current Giants Director of Hitting and Assistant Hitting Coach Dustin Lind. The young Lind who was 31 when he was hired in 2019, is an analytically-driven coach who was part of a collaborative coaching approach put in place by Gabe Kapler in San Francisco.
Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski had this to say about Lind and his hitting coach companions, “The hitting coaches give you every detail of information that they know that you need. We talked about analytics earlier, but bringing in the human aspect [is something] they have done so well. Letting us let them know what we like to know. They got to the point where they don’t even need to ask us what information we want. They already know it ahead of time.”
The Giants were one of the most successful offensive teams in 2021 putting up quality numbers across the board: 2nd in the MLB in home runs at 1.47/game, 7th in runs per game at 4.87, 7th in hits per game at 8.33 and 4th in team slugging percentage at 0.437, all this despite what everyone expected to be a lackluster team on paper.
With the Giants having so many coaches on the bench, opposing teams have plenty to choose from in terms of candidates for promotions elsewhere. I would be shocked if David Stearns didn’t inquire about any of the San Francisco hitting coaches and most specifically, Dustin Lind.
Major League Baseball is a results-driven business and the results were not there for Andy Haines. He spent numerous hours trying to make tweaks and changes with guys and the results spoke for themselves. Now the question is do the Brewers want to look internally or outside of the organization for their new hitting coach? Only time will tell.