With the departure of Marcus Thames and P.J. Pilittere, the Yankees find themselves in need of a new hitting coach. One would assume that the decision over not renewing the two coaches’ contracts must have been due to the failure of the team’s offense this season outside of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. Those two will hit no matter who is at the coaching helm.
Since this is a results-based industry, Thames and Pilittere had to go. But that requires us to ask the question: Who is next? And what will the future coach bring to the table that those two did not? The former coaches left much to be desired when it came to putting skilled players such Gleyber Torres, Gary Sánchez, and Joey Gallo in a position to succeed.
None of those three players have superstar-level talent in my eyes. They all have the capabilities to be very productive though. In order to get the most out of those types of players though, I believe that a coaching staff needs to give a player the proper tools to get above 50th-percentile outcomes. Obviously, we don’t know the exact dynamic of it all, but whatever Thames and Pilittere did for those three players did not translate to on the field production for an extended period. For Sánchez and Torres in particular, it’s been a couple years since we last saw them post quality seasons.
With that in mind, is it possible for Brian Cashman to find somebody who understands how to best communicate with this handful of crucial offensive players? The word “communicate” is pivotal here. All hitting coaches have different ideas about different players. While it’s very well possible that the former coaches had the right diagnoses of the struggling Yankees, whatever they said clearly did not click with the players.
So what is the solution then? I can’t say that I know for sure myself, but one thing that all hitters love is a coach who listens to them. What do Gallo, Torres, and Sánchez think the problem has been? A hitting coach should never give the answer; rather, they should lead the player towards it. The best version of a hitter is one who knows themselves better than anybody else.
Gallo has an extremely lofty swing. Does he think that is a key issue for his extended slumps? Or is it something else? Together, a hitting coach and player can ask the right questions to get there, but the coach always needs factual evidence to back it up. That’s where analytics come into play. A hitter whose ideas of himself are statistically incorrect must know. The coach’s job is to fill in those holes!
Sánchez has had a multitude of issues. From the outside looking in, he needs a coach who will put all the confidence in him to go back to the hitter he once was. But what exactly was that hitter? A coach needs to let Gary know what he was doing when he had success for an extended period of time. He has several strengths. Remind him of them and work little by little to get them back.
And for Torres? Well, he may have figured it out towards season’s end regardless. Any potential coach must give him the keys to be aggressive. One flaw that plagued Gary and Gleyber was an awful approach. I know that a coach can’t go up to the plate and make swing decisions for a hitter, but there needs to be a concrete plan at play. Thames may have done this, but again, the style of communication did not result in production.
I know. It’s super easy to say all of this behind a computer. But during my experience as a player, coaches who listened and played towards my strengths were always the ones that helped the most. As John argued shortly before the Yankees dismissed Thames, I think whatever Brian Cashman decides to do with the next hitting coach will be a hitting parallel to the man leading the pitchers, Matt Blake. He could be a coach with plenty of experience at several levels who uses analytics and data to back up a suggestion. The decision is probably coming soon, but we will have to wait awhile for the results.