Wednesday, June 20, 2007

1987 Topps #512

I've always wondered just how much a good hitting coach can contribute to a winning team. On one hand of the spectrum, you have Charlie Lau, who wrote The Art of Hitting .300 and is often credited for turning George Brett and Harold Baines into the hitters they eventually became. On the other hand, you have guys like Jim Rice who, according to Scott Hatteberg in Moneyball, couldn't understand why no one could hit the way he did. The best hitting coaches (according to Scott again), are the ones who used to suck because they don't try to make you hit the way they did.

Will calls it "intense nerdery" and while I don't disagree, I'm finding all the before and after split screens and YouTube videos of Coco Crisp's new hitting stance on the Sons of Sam Horn message boards fascinating to no end. The changes are a bit subtle but still obvious to the naked eye; he's standing taller and his stance is less open than it was. Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan tells us that:
He's standing a little taller. A little less stride. And getting the feeling like he's above the ball instead of like landing with that front leg bent. Just trying to get him taller, both ways. If he's not going to load, at least keep him where he holds his position instead of leaning toward the baseball. You don't want to swing around your body. If you get all spread out, with your legs and the weight of your upper body, you swing around it, which slows up your bat and you hit a lot of balls weakly. It gets him in a better position where he can generate some bat speed.
Since June 15th (when the adjustment was reported in, Coco has been on a tear, going 11-20 with 3 home runs as of blog time, adding more than 80 points to his OPS. Combined with his fantastic defense in center field and cheap contract, I can't decide if all this makes Coco less expendable or more tradeable. Or maybe all of this means nothing and it's just a mirage from smacking around National League pitching for a few days.

Though Dave Magadan's lack of power prevented him from being the star the Topps oh-so-boldly predicted 20 years ago, his high on-base percentage and batting average made him one of the better bench players in the league. That may only seem like damning with faint praise but it wasn't too long ago that Kevin Youkilis was not only being compared to Magadan, but it was meant as a compliment.

Oh, hey, did you know that Dave is also Sweet Lou Pinella's cousin? I didn't.

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