In This Town, the Hitting Coach Wears a Red Shirt

According to Tom Krasovic at the U-T, Wally Joyner has resigned as hitting coach [h/t Sacrifice Bunt] of the San Diego Padres. In lieu of an explanation, Joyner offers this curious quote:

I came to the job hoping to put my experience and ideas to good use in teaching and coaching the Padres’ hitters, but it has become obvious to me in the past few months that the organization’s approach is different from mine.

First off, I suspect the approach is less of a problem right now than the results. Second, although the results haven’t been great, they haven’t been as bad as some folks seem to think. The pitching, of course, has been much worse.

That said, here is a disturbing trend:

2004: 110 OPS+
2005: 103
2006: 104
2007: 101
2008: 97

No, OPS+ isn’t the end-all and be-all of offensive metrics, but it’s good enough for government work. Hint: Higher is better.

Anyone want to hazard a guess as to who the hitting coach was back when the Padres were, um, hitting? Right, it was Dave Magadan, the guy we wanted out of town for some strange reason. (Magadan, you may have heard, has enjoyed a certain degree of success since leaving San Diego.)

Meanwhile the Padres go back to the business of finding a new hitting coach to replace the old one. Krasovic’s article mentions Jim Lefebvre as a possibility. I can’t help but think that Max Venable, who served as hitting coach for the Padres Triple-A affiliate in Portland this year and whose son, Will, has been playing center field for the big club this month, might also be in the mix.

Whoever gets the call, here’s hoping he survives the opening credits. My piece of advice: Avoid away missions.

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16 Responses »

  1. Bummer to see Wally go. He was always my favorite California Angel growing up. My opinion is a simple one: talent level was not the best. What could Wally do? I’m sure he tried. There was some successful stories this year, but this team doesn’t have Red Sox-like hitters. Good luck to whoever takes the fall next for sub par talent. Or maybe next year these hitters will blossom? Here’s to thinking positive. Good luck Wally.

  2. I’m not so disappointed in Joyner leaving as I am that they fired Magadan in the first place. We’ll be on our fourth hitting coach next season with probably the same pitching coach, even though the hitters outperformed the pitchers in 2004, 2005, and 2008 and tied them in 2006. That leads to some concern that perhaps the Padres themselves aren’t properly diagnosing their weaknesses.

  3. #1@Oside Jon: Your comment makes me realize that a measure of the hitting coach’s performance should not be OPS+ … but rather OPS+ relative to expected OPS+ … what did PECOTA project OPS+ to be, for example? It’s the FO job to provide the expected OPS+ … and then the hitting coach’s job to help the players perform at or above that level …

  4. “My experience in playing baseball at the major league level is that you cannot afford to not be ready for any pitch that you see. It might be the best pitch you see that night. I know how valuable that preparation was for me in my career. I wanted our hitters to be ready from pitch No. 1, and I think that was the difference.”

    From Wally’s comments in the UT it does not look like he was being forced out (although who knows) it seems more like he was more frustrated with the FO’s hitting philosophy and just felt like he was not the proper person for the job.

  5. OT … I’m as much of a Yankee-hater as anyone … but I found this “what should the Yankees do to get back to the post-season in 2009″ article to be of general interest …

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=8112

    Applicable to the Padres are these comments …

    – There are no viable center fielders on the free-agent market; the outfielders that are available are below-average defensively even on the corners and more middle-of-the-lineup types.

    – The Yankees’ failure to score enough runs to win, while allowing about as many runs as expected, is why the predicted off-season emphasis on acquiring pitching is misguided. (I think the Padres are just the opposite … hmmm, why do “we” always think “they” are wrong? ;-) )

    – The risks on the market are far too great to justify the costs. (Even the Yankees can think that???)

    – What they need is OBP up the middle. What they have are flawed players with immovable contracts and significant questions as to what they will produce in 2009, and a market that offers little in the way of solutions. (Again, even the Yankees can think that???)

  6. #5@LynchMob: I thought that column was totally stupid. Sheehan seems to think that the Yankees should operate like the rest of the teams — or that there is some payroll limit that they can’t go over. Since they are moving into a new stadium which at the least is going to double their revenues, I’m not sure they have a payroll limit.

    Every team should try to play off their strengths. Since the Yankees strength is that they can have a nearly unlimited payroll, they should utilize it. The Padres strengths are the ballpark and Towers’ ability to trade for underappreciated players on other teams and (except for this season) build a great bullpen on the cheap.

  7. “My experience in playing baseball at the major league level is that you cannot afford to not be ready for any pitch that you see. It might be the best pitch you see that night. I know how valuable that preparation was for me in my career. I wanted our hitters to be ready from pitch No. 1, and I think that was the difference.”

    What the heck does Wally mean by this? Is the front office telling the players to take certain pitches even if it’s a fastball right down the heart of the plate? I don’t see that happening at all. Can someone translate for me?

    Earlier this season, I saw nothing but a bunch of hackers, with the exception of Giles. I think they had 5 or 6 regulars on pace for 100+ K’s. However, Gerut was very impressive the second half of the season and Venable has been impressive the last few weeks. AGON is a legit middle of the order bat. Between those four, that’s a pretty good core of hitters going into 2009. It sure as hell beats what they started this season with.

    But it’s the protection right behind AGON that still concerns me. I think Headley could be that guy but let’s just hope he’s just getting all of these strikeouts out of his system his rookie season. At this rate, he’ll strikeout 150+ times easy as a full-time player in ’09.

    As much as I’m hoping they can somehow bring Milton Bradley back, I’m not as discouraged as I usually am with the offense going into the offseason. That might be because the pitching has so many holes and that will be my focus but I really do like the possibility of a top of the lineup with Venable-Giles-Gerut-AGON in ’09.

  8. I find the “other #’s” comparing Joyner to Magadan rather interesting: Mag pre 7/31/7 PA 4028 R 444 R% 11.02 H 870 BA 243 bb/pa 8.64% Slg 389. Joynr post 7/31/7 PA 2298 R 297 R% 12.92 H 538 BA 265 bb/pa 9.09 Slg 449. Basically, other than getting walks Mag’s team #’s were not close to Wallys last year. In fact if they would have kept Mag at that rate SD would have produced 44 less runs in the final 57 games. Yeah, I know Bradley etc. but I think this is still the most factual comparison I’ve seen. Of course I’ll bet p/pa went down post July 31.

  9. You know, the hitting wasn’t that bad this year. Or rather, once the Padres figured out their lineup, they hit fairly well. Not great, but they were in the 260-280 range. The glaring parts are up the middle – centerfield, shortstop and catcher.

    In other words, I don’t really blame Joyner for this season. Everything just fell apart at the beginning of the season and the Padres were never able to come back from that. Joyner had nothing to do with Edmonds being washed up, or with the bullpen, or with Khalil.

    Does anyone know the what the actual differences are between Joyner and the Padres organization?

  10. #9@Jim T: Shortstop and catcher have been brutal this year, but center field is our best offensive position relative to league. Hard to believe, I know.

  11. #7@JMAR: From what I’ve been told by various people in baseball (nobody in the Padres), some organizations will penalize players for breaking organizational philosophy. This could include things like swinging at a 3-0 count. Not taking a pitch to start an inning. Even striking out looking might hit you for a hundred bucks.

    So, yeah. If the organization’s rule is that you DO NOT swing at 3-0, and the batting coach is saying that you have to approach each pitch the same way regardless of count (something a lot of great hitters preach), then there might be problems.

  12. #11@Dex: I’d be absolutely shocked if any hitter, no matter how great, expresses a belief in always approaching each pitch the same way. If you’re down by three late in the game, anyone who swings 3-0 is a moron.

    The Padres publicly expressed hitting philosophy, which may be different than what they preach in private, is not “take pitches.” It’s “wait for your pitch.” You may not need to wait for pitch 2 if pitch 1 is there, but the team (publicly) wants you to be locked in on a pitch you can damage.

    I’d wager that Joyner is more of a situational hitting guy who would be happy to see Chase Headley roll a ground ball to second that moves a runner to third, whereas most in the front office would see that as about the sixth most desired outcome. At the major league level, a hitting coach might best serve the team by focusing on mechanical issues and leaving the philosophy to the development staff.

  13. #6@Schlom:

    While it will certainly increase, the Yankees’ revenue will not come close to doubling. Adiitionally, their expenses have increases dramatically. Or do you suppose there’s no debt-service on a shiny new ballpark?

  14. #12@Tom Waits: You’re totally right, Tom. I think the situation I was thinking of specifically was not changing your approach when behind in the count. In other words, if the approach is good at the start of an AB then it shouldn’t drastically change just because two strikes have been tallied.

    But yeah. Don’t swing at 3-0. :)

  15. #14@Dex: The “not changing your approach” part sounds more like the Padre front office strategy, though, and less like the Wally Joyner (or even Tony Gwynn) approach. I could be dead wrong, but the Padre offensive philosophy seems to be “take a healthy rip at a pitch you’re looking for.” Joyner strikes me as much more of a “hit to the situation” type. Advance the runner if the pitch can be pushed to the right side. Take a rip if the count is favorable. Put the ball in play and hope for the best if you’re down in the count. But that’s mostly from reading perhaps too deeply into his career line; his season high in strikeouts was only 71.

  16. Good post by DePo yesterday …

    http://itmightbedangerous.blogspot.com/2008/09/organizational-consistency.html

    … DePo comments on Joyner’s resignation.