by Holly Horning

It’s the easiest thing in the world to do……..

When your team can’t hit, just blame the hitting coach.

In some cases, it’s justified but recent articles show that the hitting coach position is the riskiest and hardest one to keep in baseball.  On average, a hitting coach lasts just over 2 years.

Only 2 coaches have kept their jobs for 5 years.  Only 6 teams – Astros, Blue Jays, Braves, Dodgers, Rays and Giants – have a lead hitting coach who has been with their team for more than 2 years.

All you have to do is look at the stats.  In one year – from 2021 to 2022, 17 out of 30 teams changed their hitting coaches.  This coming year, 10 teams will have new coaches, including the Tigers.

So why the change?

Like many things, there are multiple factors involved.

The game itself has changed significantly. Analytics now play into how skills are taught and the expectations by Front Offices require coaches to achieve certain levels of accomplishment.

Pitching coaches now are given huge amounts of data about opposing teams and suggestions about how they should teach attack angles and exit velocities. Their workload in preparing for games has dramatically increased. Some have survived the influx of new data while others haven’t.  It has became an “adapt or die” situation for each one.

But also, pitchers have become significantly better in how hard they throw and how much they have beefed up their own pitching arsenals.

Teams are embracing pitching labs.  Here is a short summary of what one offers in case you are unfamiliar with them:


So now pitchers are coming into organizations where they are expected to get better – and nastier.  Biomechanics are being used to alter deliveries (see Verlander, Justin after he moved to the Astros) and increase velocity.  This has all resulted in pitchers throwing more breaking balls and averaging 94 MPH across MLB in 2022.

It’s also why MLB hitters last year averaged a .243 BA which is the lowest since 1968.

A. J. Hinch put it best when he said that pitching is controllable but hitting is reactionary.

All of this means the life of the pitching coach has gotten noticeably harder.

Which is why the Tigers now have 3 hitting coaches, all with different specialties and backgrounds in analytics and biomechanics.  Only new school hitting coaches can survive today’s game.  And having 3 of them is partially a result of how much data they have to go through.  Their workload has tripled.

Their job is to counter today’s pitching dominance.  And they now focus on studying the physics of hitting and the anatomy of swings instead of teaching an athletic skill.

This is why each team now has to have at least one member of the hitting staff who is a “movement specialist.”

And it’s why Scott Coolbaugh and Mike Hessman are no longer in Detroit, although Hessman is back in Toledo.  (It is reported that Hessman is very tech savvy and pro-active about using analytics and studying data.)  Avila hires, neither one had a background in biomechanics.

Yes, they had a hand in the Tigers having the worst offensive year in 2022 but they are not the only ones to blame.  The former Front Office, true to form, made outdated hires. 

Since 2018, the Tigers led most of baseball in having the worst offensive stats.  They had Lloyd McClendon (3 years) and Joe Vavra (1 year) as their hitting coaches.  Neither had any updated hitting skills.  More than a couple national journalists questioned why the Tigers would hire and keep coaches like McClendon who were teaching outdated hitting techniques that no other team was embracing.

Ironically, those who are now the most successful as hitting coaches, never played the game professionally.  They specialized in the sciences to learn their craft.

They are also much younger, averaging 42 years of age – down from 53.  This coming season, 19 of the new coaches will be in their 30’s.

McClendon and Vavra were in their 60’s.  The last one, Coolbaugh, is in his 50’s.  Today, the Tigers’ 3 hitting coaches are 28, mid-30’s and early 40’s.

So what else has changed?

Hitters are now welcoming more coaching from both inside and outside their organizations.  Private hitting instructors are now welcomed and even encouraged by teams.

But despite all of these changes, hitting remains an uphill battle throughout MLB.  Average runs per game still went down last year to 4.28 runs, averaging 8.16 hits per game.

What does this means for the Tigers?

They have finally updated their hitting coaches who certainly have their work cut out for them.

So many Tigers under-performed at the plate last year which is being seen within the baseball world as not being simply off-years for them but more as a result of outdated coaching.  Those players went into last year not having the best and most updated information about how to address the increasing nastiness of opposing pitchers.

But as with everything, changes will not be immediate.  It takes time for each hitting coach to know and understand each hitter.  Data needs to be assembled and studied. Video that shows every twitch of a hitter’s swing and body motion has to be broken down and studied.  Coaches and players need to get in the box and work at tweaking mechanics.  And improvement is never linear – there will always be struggles and a roller coaster of regression and success.

Coaches also have to learn how a hitter best learns and how to motivate them into making changes.

And those changes don’t come immediately.  Lots of practice cements good habits.

Expect the Tigers to perform better at the plate this year.  But don’t expect huge changes right off the bat.(Bad pun alert.)  That will take time.

And certainly don’t call for the hitting coaches’ heads after 1 year.

Don’t see your comment? Comments are limited to a maximum of 3 sentences. Please make sure to check out the other rules for posting under the link at the top of the page in order for your comments to be published.

Why should you follow Totally Tigers https://twitter.com/totallytigersbb on Twitter?

  • We tweet out breaking news before it’s published in the sports pages. The best news from the best sources.
  • Want more than 1 Totally Tigers fix every day? How about throughout the day?

18 thoughts on “TAKING A HIT

  1. It’s important to know your “enemy”. That means a successful hitting coach must know what pitching coaches are teaching pitchers so hitters can be taught how to counterattack. Of course nothing will work if players aren’t athletic enough and receptive and willing to change.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great article (Y) and that’s the recipe: Pitching coaches willl study opposing batters and lean to their pitchers while hitting coaches will study opposing pithers and lean to their hitters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • With practically every team investing so much in the very latest in data collection, analysis, and coaching, I wonder how any team will be able to develop a significant competetive advantage in these areas.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Redeemed70 – I don’t think the game has gotten that much more complicated, it’s just that the people in charge are over-analyzing everything, and its messing with players’ heads. I don’t believe these guys (like the entire Tiger’s 2022 lineup) who have been playing their whole lives suddenly forgot how to hit all at the same time, or that the pitching has gotten that much better.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The state of pitching versus the state of hitting has been a struggle for both sides. In the 60s the pitchers were so much in control that the mound was lowered and here we are in 23 and putting on a pitch clock which will be harder for pitchers to adapt. Recently, we took away their sticky stuff and the one batter reliever, all in an effort to level the playing field.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Level the playing field indeed, Naldo. Maybe that’s the answer to pitching dominance – eliminate the mound. I can just see the inventors of the game sitting around and someone says “Hey, let’s put the pitcher on a little hill just for fun” .


  4. Good coaching and teaching is also about forming relationships. If I am a veteran player who has received loads of input throughout my career, I will have to have trust in those providing the latest suggestions with the latest data. That takes time as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I believe we are ripe for seeing more classic spray hitters who can choke up on the bat and “hit em where they ain’t”. I don’t know that anyone is emphasizing that as a way to adapt.

    Liked by 4 people

    • golions – That would be awesome. The problem is that when you get a guy like Harold Castro who could do that all day long, the analytics folks will say he “swings at pitches out of the strike zone” or “he doesn’t hit for enough power for his position in the field” or some other nonsense. He will then never be more than a part time utility guy. Particularly if someone like Hinch is managing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi, All – I will play devil’s advocate here. Harold never got any bites for an MLB contract. He just signed a 1 year minor league contract. Could it be that every analytics department of all 30 teams is wrong? Or is it more likely that he was one of the best hitters on baseball’s worst offensive team but still not MLB caliber? Isn’t this more of a statement about the absolute lack of talent on the Tigers rather than putting the blame on the rest of baseball? – Holly

        Liked by 4 people

        • That Harold hasn’t gotten a contract is a fine point Holly, and I think it strengthens my argument against analytics. Regarding him being the best hitter on a horrible offensive team, that should indicate his stats are even more impressive as he had no protection in the lineup. There is no reason for him not to be on a roster.

          Liked by 2 people

  6. A great analysis as usual Holly, thank you. I can’t stop thinking about your AJ statement, ‘pitching is controllable but hitting is reactionary’; or maybe, pitching has become assertive and hitting has become defensive? Oh my gosh, our offense is now our defense 🤦‍♂️! No wonder Al and the guys couldn’t keep up 😉.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I agree with Pondo’s take about MLB overanalyzing everything to, IMO, the game’s detriment. Criticize me for “not getting with the times” but MLB has screwed up the great game. It’s not football, and it doesn’t need to apologize for that.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Read in one of the locals that Tork & whomever was working with him this winter went back to video of his swings at ASU and found that his approach had changed because some batting coach on the Tigers told him he needed to change his approach & saw how well that worked out. Said he was going back to the same approach he used @ ASU. Hope this years results show it

    Liked by 3 people

    • There was a similar story that appeared about Alex Faedo. After Faedo was drafted, the previous Tigers pitching coaches changed his natural arm slot to prevent injury. Five years and two surgeries later, the Tigers new pitching coaches are having him return to the 3/4 arm slot delivery he used during his amateur career. I hope Faedo achieves success as well.


  9. While I’ve never seen any studies re the background of hitting coaches, it’s been my observation that the vast majority of MLB hitting coaches had mediocre, at best, personal batting statistics when they played professionally. Never understood that!


Comments are closed.