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BCB Mailbag 46: Evaluating a hitting coach

Answering the burning questions from you, the reader.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Good morning friends, and happy weekend! Brad and I (along with Vineet Barot, formerly of the DoU and BPMKE podcasts) met Marlins Man last night:

So now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get to your questions:

joeybal56 asks:

Is Braun done?

Ryan Braun isn’t the MVP-caliber bat that he once was anymore, and it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll get back to that form. But it’s certainly not unreasonable to think that he still has some days left as a productive hitter. It’s true that his hard contact rate is down and his strikeout and walk rates have trended in the wrong direction this season, but he’s hitting line drives at a near career-high rate and yet has only a .250 BABIP so far this season. His days of regularly posting .320+ batting averages on balls in play may be over, but I still think there’s probably some bad luck involved in his current career-low mark. As the BABIP regresses upward towards the mean, so too should Braun’s 78 wRC+.

roguejim asks:

How do you know if you have a good hitting coach?

People seem to think Derek Johnson is a good pitching coach, at least in part by how well our staff is performing. Is it possible that Darnell Coles isn’t a great hitting coach? How do you evaluate his performance?

The evaluation of a hitting coach has always seemed a bit nebulous to me, so I did a little research and found this study from Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus in 2013. I highly recommend reading the whole post, but here his conclusions from the end of the article:

  • Just like with pitching coaches, hitting coaches can have a very big impact on a team, and at a very small cost. Even if the results I’m finding here are twice as big as they really are, the best hitting coach can be worth two wins. Not bad.
  • Hitting coaches appear to have much more effect on whether or not hitters take a more aggressive or more passive approach at the plate than teaching them actual pitch selectivity.
  • Hitting coaches also seem to be divided into those who teach hitters to put the ball into play and those who encourage a three-true-outcomes approach, although which one of the three true outcomes the hitter will see more of is something of a crapshoot.

Uncle Father Oscar asks:

Am I supposed to start playing Fortnite?

Or am I too far behind the curve that I’ll get pwned in every game?

I think at this point, it’s probably too late for folks like you and I who haven’t started playing Fortnite. I’m about 20 years behind on video games; my boy and I are working our way through “Mysteries of the Sith”, the expansion pack to the 1997 Star Wars classic “Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II.”

Mitch Slapped asks:

When will the crew cut their losses on Boone Logan?

Probably not anytime soon. I doubt this front office would invest $2.5 mil into a player, and then cut bait after 25 batters faced and 4.2 innings pitched. His velocity is fine, and I’m sure the org wants to give him more time to get himself back into the swing of things after missing the first six weeks of the season. I wouldn’t expect anything to happen with Boone before the beginning of July, assuming he continues to struggle to prevent runs.

Lerch&Brouhard asks:

Five of the Brewers top 30 MLB prospects have played on the big team?

Who will be next to get that MLB debut? Or will it be someone not on the top 30 list?

Five of the Brewers’ current top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline have indeed suited up for the big league team this year: Brett Phillips (5), Freddy Peralta (9), Adrian Houser (12), Jorge Lopez (22), and Jacob Nottingham (25). Brandon Woodruff and Taylor Williams were also on that top-30 list to begin the season but have since graduated from prospect-eligible status. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, I have little doubt that Mauricio Dubon (10) would have already joined this group of players too, but now he’ll have to wait until next season. I think it’s highly probable that we see the highly anticipated debut of Corbin Burnes (2) sometime this summer as a rotational reserve, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see guys like Nick Ramirez, Jon Perrin, or Bowdien Derby come up and get some innings in the bullpen. We may also see some further infield depth, depending on how the Brewers want to handle those positions going forward; Dylan Moore and Nate Orf would be the guys to keep an eye on there. It’s probably less likely we see an outfielder that isn’t already on the 40 man roster, but hey. Maybe this is finally the year Kyle Wren gets his shot, and Tyrone Taylor is having sort of a decent bounceback campaign in Colorado Springs.

Logan Schaefer’s Lumber Yard asks:

If the Brewers are in first place in July, would you trade a package featuring Orlando Arcia to Baltimore for Manny Machado?

I know Machado is only a rental, but the Cubs traded Gleyber Torres to the NYY in 2016 just to get Aroldis Chapman, also a rental.

Which other players / prospects do you think would need to be included?

I would be willing to consider a package like that, absolutely. From what I understand, the org sees Dubon as a possible long-term solution at shortstop, and it’s worth keeping in mind that he is a player Stearns and company went out and got in a trade while Arcia is a player that the front office inherited from the previous regime. With Tyler Saladino in the fold, the org could probably use him and find another stopgap-type player to cover short at the start of next season until Dubon is deemed ready.

Arcia is an amazing defender, but unless he makes a major change to his approach at the plate I think we saw his offensive ceiling last season, and that was still a below-average hitter for his position. If he can get back close to that level of production, which is a pretty big question, he’s a solid ~3 win shortstop with another four years of club control remaining after 2018 (or possibly five years, if for some reason he spends 2+ months in the minors on his current optional assignment). Machado would be a huge upgrade at the position for the rest of the season over what Arcia has brought to this point, but the fact that he’s a rental complicates matters. I wouldn’t be willing to add a ton more to the package using Arcia as the centerpiece, maybe a pitching prospect or two since the org is pretty deep in arms. I’m not exactly sure that an offer like that gets a deal done, since there will undoubtedly be plenty of interest in Machado this summer. But Stearns isn’t one to get into bidding wars, and he’s certainly not the type of GM who will give up a huge package of players for a rental. The value going both ways would have to make sense.

drezdn asks:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Doing the same things I am now: fixing floor machines, getting paid to write about the Brewers, and being a doting husband and dad. Hopefully a less stressed dad with kids that will be ages 12, 9, and 6 instead of 7, 4, and 1. But I think I’ve settled into a pretty good groove with my life, and I’m happy where I’m at.

Thanks for all the great questions this time around, everyone! Here’s hoping the Brewers can keep up their best-team-in-the-National-League pace until at least the next time we chat!

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs