Boulanger wants Orioles minor leaguers to have productive team at-bats

When Mike Boulanger was hired yesterday as the Orioles minor league hitting coordinator, he was reunited with executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter.

From 2000-2002 Boulanger was a minor league manager for Boston when Duquette was the Red Sox GM and he later served as Triple-A hitting coach and manager for Showalter when Buck managed at Texas. He had a record of 497-496 in nine seasons with Minnesota and Boston as a minor league manager, taking three teams to the postseason. Boulanger spent the past five seasons as the Texas Rangers minor league hitting coordinator.

"We want a structure (in the Orioles minors) where, from the Dominican and rookie ball through Triple-A, we have the same philosophy and hitting terminology and the same drills. We want to all be on the same page so when a player moves from one affiliate to another they will be doing the same drills with the same terminology," Boulanger said.

The Orioles minor league players will become familiar with the term "productive team plate appearance." Boulanger tracked them in Texas to encourage the hitters to have productive at-bats that always are geared to help the team.

"Something we came up with in Texas, it kind of got us over the hump about three years ago. We came up with this productive team plate appearance. That is something we will track on a nightly basis by team and individual players," he said.

"We've found that winning teams average 17 or more productive team plate appearances per game. That can be an eight-pitch at bat or just moving a runner up. It could be a base hit, a walk or a sac bunt. When you start getting the whole club to buy into it, and you get 17 of those, your winning percentage is like 78 percent."

"PTPAs is something we will introduce in the minor leagues. It is something we can track and come up with at the end of the night. Think about it, with nine guys hitting, I want the team to have 17 so just about every hitter needs to get two. If the whole team buys into it and you get 17 a night, your winning percentage goes up.

"I truly believe that's a good way to track it. We started that about three years ago through the minors and at the major league level (with Texas). The emphasis is on just being one run better than the other team. When you are banging out a bunch a runs it doesn't (need to) show up. But when you are winning 4-2 and 3-2 it shows up big time.

"It is the only way I know of to put a true reading on a nightly basis, monthly basis, whatever, on each hitter and each team. At the end of the year, you get a pretty good snapshot of the guy's year and I never once said we are going to look at his batting average. That will always be there on the stat sheet."

Boulanger never played pro ball himself, but he was a batting coach at the University of Oklahoma for about 10 years starting in 1978 where one of his players then was current O's third base coach John Russell.

Now he joins the Orioles to oversee the O's minor league hitters. He said he will travel throughout the farm system all season and looks forward to learning more about the club's minor league hitting coaches in spring training.

Next week, I'll have more from an interview with Boulanger.

See you at FanFest: I look forward to seeing many fans tomorrow at FanFest. Please come up and say hi if you have a minute. I'll likely be around the main stage and the fan forums and sometimes also around the MASN booth. I will serve as host for the last fan forum of the day with Orioles' bloggers. See you then and check in here with MASNsports.com several times tomorrow for FanFest stories and updates.

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