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Friday, August 08, 2014

Mike Schmidt: Today’s hitters don’t want much help

One of the most telling stories was shared by George. He said when he was hitting instructor last year, there were two indoor cages, and he would be in one flipping balls and the assistant coach in the other. The young Royals hitters were lined up to hit in the cage with the assistant, and none to hit in George’s cage.

I find that hard to believe, but at the same time know why. George, one of the greatest hitters ever, was there to coach, to offer his expertise, to suggest mechanics that might make a young hitter better.

The other coach was there to coach as well, but not with a sense of urgency — rather, more by telling the hitters what they wanted to hear. George eventually quit because he felt he was wasting everyone’s time in a failing effort to connect with them.

There could have been other issues going on behind the scenes. Maybe his cage-side manner was uncomfortable, maybe he was too quick to criticize, perhaps his stature made them uncomfortable. But I got much the same report from all the HOF guys, which confirmed my personal experiences over the last 10 years that young hitters resist coaching, especially from the great ones.

They listen out of respect, but don’t hear.

Maybe they were terrified he’d tell them about the Bellagio?

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 08, 2014 at 11:26 AM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: charlie lau, in my day, mike schmidt, phillies, royals, ted williams, walt hriniak

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   1. bookbook Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:25 PM (#4767281)
"Kids today..." Is this Mike Schmidt's Pliny the Younger moment?
   2. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:27 PM (#4767284)
Today's hitters don't even wait around for the pictures to come back.
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:33 PM (#4767294)
Hunter Pence listens to his hitting coach.
   4. TJ Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:43 PM (#4767312)
" I don't have time to listen to Old Man Schmidts' ramblings! I've got tweets to send, blogs to write, endorsement products to pitch, and still make the time to hook up with some groupies. Besides, what can some old geezer who never made more than $2.5 million in a season tell me about hitting, anyway?"
   5. McCoy Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:52 PM (#4767326)
History is full of the younger generation not wanting to listen to the older generation and the older generation not knowing or wanting to know how to talk to the younger generation. This isn't a recent development and unique to this generation of hitters.
   6. Moeball Posted: August 08, 2014 at 03:56 PM (#4767336)
Tony Gwynn talked on several occasions about his difficulties with this as well when coaching at San Diego State. He said that you would think kids would want to get some hitting advice from a guy with a .338 lifetime batting average but, um, no. A lot of his players didn't seem to think he had much to share with them.

   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 08, 2014 at 04:06 PM (#4767351)

History is full of the younger generation not wanting to listen to the older generation and the older generation not knowing or wanting to know how to talk to the younger generation. This isn't a recent development and unique to this generation of hitters.


WRONG. This is totally unique and the fault of
the free-love 60s
Watergate and Vietnam in the 70s
video games and smack in the 80s
grunge rock and Marilyn Manson in the 90s
the internet in the 00s
Facebook, the Kardashians, and Obummer.
   8. BDC Posted: August 08, 2014 at 04:40 PM (#4767393)
Mike Schmidt went into a terrible slump in 1978 and in the off-season must have converted to Chris Trubyism or started taking some dubious substances, because in defiance of the aging curve he proceeded to have the greatest second half of any career before Barry Bonds's. Therefore we can date the corrupt bargain that undermined Western Civilization to … 1979.
   9. jacjacatk Posted: August 08, 2014 at 04:59 PM (#4767407)
A brief spin around the web will provide ample evidence that a lot of really good MLB hitters (and pitchers too, to be fair) have literally no idea how to teach anyone how they did what they did. I can't speak to what Brett attempted to teach, but there's plenty of pictorial evidence of him used to teach really poor swing mechanics. And I have personal experience with several ex-pros who teach similarly terrible mechanics to people who pay for the privilege. Caveat emptor on that front.

On top of that, I'm not sure why you'd expect anyone at the MLB level to be inclined to fix anything they actually thought was working, regardless of the authority involved. If you're coaching at that level not only are you going to have to actually know what you're doing, you're going to have to be exceedingly diplomatic in communicating with people who are being paid millions of dollars to do what you're there to help them with. Under those circumstances, it's not really that surprising that superstars would make bad teachers.
   10. Matt Welch Posted: August 08, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4767418)
Of all those considered to be great hitting coaches, who was actually the best hitter? (Rod Carew has a rep as a good hitting coach, but a look at his record doesn't bear that out, unless you pin all of Salmon/Anderson/Edmonds development on him.)
   11. geonose Posted: August 08, 2014 at 05:11 PM (#4767420)
This is all well and good except for one thing: Brett has said that he was the "mental" hitting instructor and Pedro Grifol was the "mechanical" hitting instructor. He also made it very clear to Dayton Moore before he was hired, then publicly during his duration as coach and in the aftermath that he was there to teach attitude and that he wasn't much for teaching mechanics.
   12. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: August 08, 2014 at 05:18 PM (#4767436)
Just because Brett was a great hitter doesn't make him a great hitting coach as others have noted.

The other thing is that while it's easy to say "oh, George Brett was great" how many players on the Royals saw him play? They only have four position players over 30 on the roster this year and the rest would have been 7 years old or younger when Brett retired.
   13. dlf Posted: August 08, 2014 at 05:24 PM (#4767445)
Of all those considered to be great hitting coaches, who was actually the best hitter?


Ted Williams is said to have done a great job with a lot of hitters during his stint as Manager of the Senators.
   14. valuearbitrageur Posted: August 08, 2014 at 05:36 PM (#4767458)
Ted Williams is said to have done a great job with a lot of hitters during his stint as Manager of the Senators.


He should have written that book.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: August 08, 2014 at 05:48 PM (#4767465)
I don't think it's the superstar thing. McGwire had reasonable success as a hitting coach, supposedly the kids in Colorado and Cleveland listened to Giambi and he's not even a hitting coach. It's probably got at least as much to do with familiarity and who's going to be around tomorrow -- who do you want to impress, your boss or the consultant?

And let's be honest -- Brett didn't get this gig because of his track record as a good coach. He got the gig because he's a famous Royal (and was a great hitter).

I wonder if the same happens on the pitching side. I'd imagine the greater strategic aspect of pitching and that most of the advice would mainly be just trading war stories would lead to better communication between generations.
   16. JE (Jason) Posted: August 08, 2014 at 06:05 PM (#4767483)
They listen out of respect, but don’t hear.

Isn't it the other way around? We hear sounds but listen to speakers, for example.
   17. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: August 08, 2014 at 06:09 PM (#4767486)
The young hitters were just afraid Brett would start talking to them about about the last time he pooped his pants.
   18. Al Kaline Trio Posted: August 08, 2014 at 06:42 PM (#4767497)
They listen out of respect, but don’t hear.

Isn't it the other way around? We hear sounds but listen to speakers, for example.


Hearing vs Listening
   19. BDC Posted: August 08, 2014 at 07:12 PM (#4767517)
Harry Walker was a batting champion and a legitimately good hitter, if not for all that long.

Brett washed out of the role, but at least I got to see him once in the Royals dugout staring across the way at Nolan Ryan beside the Rangers'. They may have been figureheads but I'd rather see Hall of Fame figureheads than anonymities.
   20. toratoratora Posted: August 08, 2014 at 09:34 PM (#4767584)
He wasn't a straight hitting coach (Don't think they had them then)but when he was a manager Ty Cobb's team sure could hit.
Couldn't pitch that well, but man, could they hit.
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: August 08, 2014 at 09:41 PM (#4767586)
I don't think it's the superstar thing. McGwire had reasonable success as a hitting coach, supposedly the kids in Colorado and Cleveland listened to Giambi and he's not even a hitting coach. It's probably got at least as much to do with familiarity and who's going to be around tomorrow -- who do you want to impress, your boss or the consultant?


With McGwire there was a learning curve, he knew what he wanted to say, he remembered coaching helping him tremendously, but his first year or two, there was criticism levied against him, that he was a token job because of his friendship with TLR, and that he was hurting the team. It wasn't until after he left that there was a groundswell of how good he is. (which is being used to bag on Mabry, more than promote the quality of McGwire)
   22. Moeball Posted: August 08, 2014 at 09:44 PM (#4767587)
He wasn't a straight hitting coach (Don't think they had them then)but when he was a manager Ty Cobb's team sure could hit.
Couldn't pitch that well, but man, could they hit.


I was just going to say that Harry Heilmann, who would go on to have a pretty good HOF career of his own, said the turning point in his career as a hitter and all the subsequent success was pretty much all due to Cobb's tutelage.

Indians batting champ Lew Fonseca (1929)also said he received much help from Cobb that really made a difference.

For that matter, Casey Stengel, he of the goofy sayings but shrewd tactician nonetheless, died with a pretty substantial estate, much of it in Texas/Oklahoma oil-type real estate that he purchased several years earlier on recommendations from...Ty Cobb.

It's funny that for as big an a**hole as Cobb was, he actually was apparently a pretty good teacher of hitting and finance.
   23. kthejoker Posted: August 08, 2014 at 10:44 PM (#4767598)
I don't know what credit he deserves, but Ted Kluszewski was the hitting coach for The Big Red Machine and a minor league hitting instructor for the Reds through the 80s and they produced a ton of good hitting talent.
   24. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: August 08, 2014 at 11:05 PM (#4767603)
Johnny Sain was a hellavu pitching coach
   25.     Hey Gurl Posted: August 09, 2014 at 12:57 AM (#4767620)
Therefore we can date the corrupt bargain that undermined Western Civilization to … 1979


Yeah, I always hated that song.
   26. DFA Posted: August 09, 2014 at 02:35 AM (#4767630)
I wonder how saber metrics would measure the efficacy of pitching/hitting coaches?
   27. BDC Posted: August 09, 2014 at 09:38 AM (#4767662)
he actually was apparently a pretty good teacher

Stan Musial used to tell how, when he was a young star, Cobb advised him for health reasons to take either cream or sugar in his coffee but not both. I can't remember which one Musial picked, but it clearly didn't hurt him any.
   28. Baseballs Most Beloved Figure Posted: August 09, 2014 at 12:50 PM (#4767705)
Ted Williams is said to have done a great job with a lot of hitters during his stint as Manager of the Senators.
Yeah, they say that but who did develop as a hitter in his 4 years as manager? Toby Harrah and maybe Mike Epstein...maybe. Also his 1972 Texas Rangers squad is arguably the worst hitting team in MLB history. .217/.290/.290 as a team.
   29. The District Attorney Posted: August 09, 2014 at 01:15 PM (#4767713)
The 1968 Senators, under Jim Lemon, had an OPS+ of 92. The '69 Senators, under Teddy, were at 103 with almost the same players. The only major lineup change was shortstop Ed Brinkman, who was a pathetic 65 career OPS+ hitter... but not for Ted, where he put up 89 and 80 in their two seasons together.

I won't deny that no one would remember that 45 years later if the manager's name were Joe Shlabotnik instead of Ted Williams. But, it's something.

Hell, many hitters have credited The Science of Hitting with helping them. You would think someone capable of explaining a physical act in a book would, if anything, be even more capable of explaining that physical act in person.
   30. Matt Welch Posted: August 09, 2014 at 02:02 PM (#4767728)
I wonder how saber metrics would measure the efficacy of pitching/hitting coaches?

It's not "saber metrics" per se, but when I tried to get a handle on Rod Carew's tenure, I just found as many hitters I could who had a BC (Before Carew), DC (During Carew), and AC (After), then just looked at how they hit. The results were surprisingly gruesome.

It's also probably fair to see how/if young hitters developed on a coach's watch, and if their learning curves were particularly unusual.
   31. McCoy Posted: August 09, 2014 at 02:51 PM (#4767743)
And the 1970's Senators were at 92. '71 at 86 and '72 at 77. The '73 Rangers under Herzog and then Martin were at 95.
   32. Bruce Markusen Posted: August 09, 2014 at 10:02 PM (#4767874)
Williams had very little talent to work with in Washington and Texas; that he extracted as much as he did from those Senators hitters, even in the short term, is remarkable.

Williams had a tangible and significant multi-year impact on Harrah, Epstein, and Frank Howard. If Williams had been able to get to Howard earlier, Hondo might have had Harmon Killebrew's career.

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