Some questions rolling in now that the candidates for hitting coaches have been made public. Specifically, the question of do hitting coaches matter. This might be something of a controversial point, but I’ll say that in the grand scheme of things, they really don’t.
Hitting is not like pitching in the sense that bad mechanics can lead to serious injury and ruin your career. A pitching coach who can make minor changes to a pitchers delivery can manage to increase his effectiveness and longevity by a few hundred precent. Rick Peterson may have been one of the most important parts of the A’s success by not only helping The Big Three develop, but keeping them healthy enough to take the hill every 5 days. Bryan Price is an extremely important part of the Mariners staff, and I was glad to see him get rewarded with another multiyear contract.
Hitting coaches, on the other hand, don’t carry the same weight of responsibility. The involvement they have in a players ability to stay healthy is far less, and it is easier to perform well with a minor mechanical flaw at the plate than it is on the mound. Certainly, there are good hitting coaches (Lee Elia, Jeff Pentland, Dave Magadan) and bad hitting coaches (Mickey Hatcher, for one), but their impact is far less important than their pitching counterparts.
So, whether the M’s hire Chili Davis, Hal McRae, or one of Bob Melvin’s cronies, the most important key to their success will be their ability to gain the players respect and help instill a philosophy that goes along with what the rest of the staff is teaching. Lamar Johnson wasn’t a good fit here, but he wasn’t the reason the M’s offense went in the tank. Maybe a better hitting coach could have helped Ben Davis, but I’m not going to let Big Ben off the hook that quickly. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter who the M’s hire as a hitting coach, as long as he fits in with the team and gains the players respect. Edgar Martinez really doesn’t need someone telling him how to hit, anyways.