Roessler uses analytics as one tool to help Nats hitters get better

Pat Roessler was formerly the hitting coach for the Mets, most recently in 2018. He takes over as the assistant hitting coach for the Nationals this season.

His resume is stacked with stops as assistant baseball coach at Old Dominion University (1983-1988) to years in the big leagues. The University of Arizona product was a minor league hitting coach in the White Sox system from 1988 to 1994, the Expos hitting coordinator from 1995 to 1997 and the Pirates chain from 1998 to 1999. He coached with the Single-A Sarasota White Sox in 1989, the Double-A Birmingham Barons in 1990-1992 and Sarasota again in 1993.

Roessler, 60, was the Expos hitting coach in 2000 and 2001. After the 2001 season, he was named the Astros’ minor league hitting coordinator. Previously, Roessler worked as director of player development, field coordinator or hitting coordinator in the Yankees system for over a decade (2004-2014).

First base coach Bobby Henley was catching in the Expos organization when Roessler was the hitting coordinator. Roessler has known third base coach Chip Hale for years and has worked alongside Nats hitting coach Kevin Long while with the Mets. His new team has welcomed him in. That familiarity and established respect between these current coaches will help Roessler get acclimated to the Nats quickly.

Roessler lives in Northern Virginia and delighted in seeing the Nationals roll to their first World Series title last October.

“Last year, watching it from afar, watching this team come together after horrible start, and start jelling, it was pretty special to see,” Roessler said.

Roessler said he marveled at watching a young star like Juan Soto mix with a veteran like Howie Kendrick to move the Nats along in the playoffs.

“I am anxious to watch Soto on a daily basis and Howie Kendrick,” Roessler said on 106.7 The Fan at Nationals Winterfest. “A couple of weeks ago, I was digging into some analytics and making some notes and I think I wrote ‘Wow!” four or five times after each one of their comments. Howie Kendrick, he doesn’t miss anything.”

Nats-Helmet-in-Dugout-Sidebar.jpgThe Nats know it will be difficult to replace what Anthony Rendon brought to the table offensively. The third baseman connected for 34 homers and 126 RBIs for the Nats in 2019. But could players like Victor Robles or Trea Turner pick up that slack offensively as they continue to get better each season?

“I think you are absolutely right,” Roessler said. “Back in my time with the Expos, we had a guy named José Vidro, who took a couple of years in the big leagues before he finally blossomed and starting hitting home runs and driving the ball. I think it takes guys a couple of years to get their feet under them. I think it also gives them a couple of years to (realize), you know, I can hit here, I can play here. That confidence, and seeing the league a few times and getting comfortable with some of the pitchers, I think that really helps guys grow.”

It was interesting to ask Roessler about how he works with rookies or younger players versus the guys set in their ways. Is it tough to get a veteran hitter to change his approach if he gets into a rut hitting?

“I think with veterans, you’ve got a little longer track record with guys,” Roessler said. “You got some sports where found out that two years ago in tune and July you were really smoking hot. Let’s go back and look to see what you were doing. They also have a very good feel of what they feel like when they are going well and they can pinpoint things out a little bit better. But you’d be surprised how much open veteran guys are if you’ve got something for them. You just got to make sure you do your digging and you do your homework. And if you’ve got something for them they’ll ask.”

Analytics are a big part of baseball today. The Nats’ new assistant hitting coach sees the importance and effect analytics can have in helping a hitter see something they may not have realized about their game 10 to 20 years ago.

“The great deal thing is analytics is a tool to me it points you in the right direction,” Roessler said. “You find out that so-and-so hits fastballs well, hits sliders well, maybe struggles with the slow off-speed stuff. So you can tailor your work to attack that problem.

“We also used it when (Curtis) Granderson was with the Mets and he was so-called struggling. You look at his well-hit average is great, his exit velocity is the same, he is not chasing, he’s not missing. He just hasn’t had much luck. You can point to a two-week stretch numbers-wise to where you weren’t real good. But you were (actually) really pretty good, you just weren’t (getting a lot of hits). I think it is just a tool.”

Roessler said the players of today listen to advice based in analytics and are not shy to ask for help, whether it’s their first or fifteenth season in the bigs.

“I think we are getting through a generation now where they are used to hearing ... launch angle, and they are used to hearing exit velocity and they’ve been educated on chase rates and miss rates, things like that,” Roessler said. “So they’re starting to be more educated on that. They are more receptive to that. It’s a lot easier (now).

“You used to have to tell a guy, ‘Hey, you are swinging and missing a lot.’ ‘Oh, am I?’ Now you can look at a concrete number that says your miss rate is 38 percent and big league average is 30 percent. So it’s staring them in the face here, ‘Whoa, I’m below average!’ “

Roessler and Long will devise a plan on how to help Nats hitters if they run into a road block mentally. Then the coaches approach the hitter with that plan on how to get better. He says Long is good at fixing such issues.

“What I will do is dig in and look at numbers and look at analytics and I will talk to Kevin,” he said. “But it is then you got to have some arrows in your quiver, some gray hair to be able to say, ‘OK, this is the problem, how are we going to fix it?’. I think Kevin does a great job with that.”

It is an important distinction for a hitting coach like Roessler. His focus is not on how many hits each player gets, but how good his swing is.

“As hitting coaches, we don’t coach base hits,” Roessler said. “We are coaching on swinging at good pitches and barreling them up. And if we can do that, that’s good. That’s what we are trying to get done. The rest will even out in 162 (games).”

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