Fans love to talk about a hitting coach’s philosophy. Does he preach patience and working the count? Does he want his hitters to be aggressive and come to the plate in full attack mode? Does it vary depending on the situation and the hitter?
Does he prefer Ginger or Mary Ann? (Put me down for Mary Ann.)
I never got around to the last one during yesterday’s phone conversation with new hitting coach Jim Presley. I figured it might make a bad first impression.
Presley said his philosophy is about “more than just approach.”
“There are so many variables to it concerning the offensive end of it,” he said. “It’s all about scoring runs. There are two or three different things I look at when trying to teach. I know with Buck (Showalter), you’ve got to be a good situational-hitting ballclub. My big thing is you’re going to take what they give you as far as situational-hitting, and then get those two-out base hits. Instead of scoring two or three runs, you’ve scored five or six because you’re getting two-out hits with men on base.
“Then you go into a hitting approach. I hate to talk about it a lot because somebody could read it and say, ‘There’s what they’re teaching guys over there,’ but I don’t believe in waiting on the three-run homer. I know especially in the American League, it’s a little more prevalent than the National League, but you sit and wait on the three-run homer and suddenly you’re 3-7 in your last 10 games while waiting on it.
“It’s a bunch of different things. The strikeout 200 times a year, that’s kind of what we’re trying to eliminate. The more times you put the ball in play with two strikes, the better.”
Does Presley have to adapt to each hitter or does he use the same approach no matter the individual?
“I’ve always said hitting is the most difficult thing to do in baseball and probably the most over-coached aspect of the game,” he said. “To me, I’d rather make things as simple as I can as far as what I’m trying to teach the guys. But every hitter I know, they all have a different swing, they all have a different stance, and you have to adapt to those guys individually. But we should all be thinking the same way.
“If you’ve got a right-handed hitter up there and a runner on second base with no outs, everyone in that dugout should know exactly what we’re trying to do. And if there’s a runner on third and one out and the infield comes in, we should all know. But the mechanics are all individual.”
Presley became familiar with many of the Orioles’ hitters during his days with the Florida Marlins. The teams met in interleague play and on a regular basis in spring training.
“I know (Robert) Andino the best because he was over there with Florida,” Presley said. “I’ve seen Nick (Markakis), (Ty) Wigginton, (Brian) Roberts. The (Matt) Wieters kid, I haven’t seen him as much as I would have liked, but I did see him in spring training. I know the (Adam) Jones kid is some kind of player. Izzy (Cesar Izturis) I’ve seen play in the National League a lot and he’s a really, really good shortstop.
“I know Andy (MacPhail) was wanting to try to get some personnel, get a player or two and make us better offensively. He’ll work on that the next 10 days. And the (Josh) Bell kid, I didn’t see him. That’s the only one I didn’t really see. I’ve seen (Felix) Pie and I really liked him.”
So how did this team not win 90 games this year?