In a series of moves that may be surprising considering the success the team saw on the field, the Brewers are making a number of changes to their coaching staff.
Per Tom Haudricourt and Adam McCalvy, hitting coach Darnell Coles has resigned and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell will not have has contract renewed. The team is also moving on from head athletic trainer Dan Wright. Assistant hitting coach Jason Lane may still return, but will be allowed to look for work elsewhere.
#Brewers announce coaching changes: Hitting coach Darnell Coles has resigned and bullpen coach Lee Tunnell was not renewed. Head athletic trainer Dan Wright also not renewed. Asst. hitting coach Jason Lane will be candidate to replace Coles but can explore other opportunities.— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 25, 2018
Brewers staff changes: Hitting coach Darnell Coles has resigned and the team opted not to renew the contracts of bullpen coach Lee Tunnell and head athletic trainer Dan Wright. The rest of the coaching and medical staff will return.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) October 25, 2018
Tunnell has served as the Brewers’ bullpen coach since July 2012, when he got the job in an interim role. He’s being replaced despite the Brewers’ bullpen ranking among the best in the game, finishing 4th in the majors in WAR, 5th in ERA, 3rd in K/9 and 3rd in K%.
Coles is moving on after overseeing a generally productive but still frustratingly inconsistent offense. Coles had served as the team’s hitting coach for the past four years. The team struggled mightily against left-handed pitching this year, and consistently had problems with strikeouts and an inability to consistently get on base for much of his tenure -- all culminating with the team getting shut out 12 times during the 2018 season.
Despite that, it does not appear this was a quit-or-you’re-fired situation. Rather, Coles said he wanted to move on:
#Brewers GM David Stearns said Darnell Coles indicated he wanted to pursue other challenges.— Tom (@Haudricourt) October 25, 2018
Wright has been a longtime member of the Brewers’ athletic training staff, having been with the team in some capacity since 2001.
It’s worth noting that all three were holdovers from before David Stearns and Craig Counsell took over, so this may be a case of the organization wanting to get more of “their guys” on the coaching staff.
Specifically when it comes to Coles, there will be a fair amount of relief for some fans, but it’s worth remembering that getting a new hitting coach does not always guarantee the new approach will be better. The Cubs fired Chili Davis as their hitting coach after just one season after seeing their power production fall off drastically in 2018.