Thursday, January 12, 2006

We Have Coaches

Welcome back, Mitchell Page! Page, who served as minor league hitting instructor, and who turned Marlon Byrd around (.282/ .344/ .482 after the All-Star Break), has been named the Nationals new hitting coach. Page, who had had some problems with alcohol, which led to his dismissal from the Cardinals, should be a huge improvement over Tom McCraw. The reason for optimism?
The Cards' management frequently talks about taking "tough at-bats," which is a pretty good indicator of the team's success at the plate. Despite yesterday's loss, for example, Tony La Russa said he admired his team's ability to be patient and to work the count against Clemens. Conversely, he reprimanded the Cards last week for swinging from the heels and taking poor at-bats against Jose Lima. You don't normally think of the Cardinals as a saber-friendly team, but it's the type of thing that La Russa and hitting coach Mitchell Page have harped on all year long.

We could certainly use more ABs like that.

Page's strategy doesn't mean be overly patient though. He wants hitters swinging at strikes, but in a controlled manner. Get a good pitch to hit, and rip it. He also seems to emphasize better control on two-strike counts -- going with the pitch and trying to put it in play. Phil Rogers wrote about this in more detail for ESPN.

The Nationals also named former manager Davey Lopes as their first base coach. Lopes, who was a prolific base stealer for the Dodgers in the '70s, will hopefully help the team take better approaches on the base paths. The Nats had far too many pickoffs. Lopes managed Milwaukee for three seasons with spectacularly bad results. If the Nats get off to a slow start, Davey might earn an interim tag.

The third base coach is Tony Beasley. Beasley has a sensational record of managing in the minors with the Pirates farm teams. In five seasons in the woeful Pirates system, he made the playoffs every year. Just 39 years old, he looks like he could have a bright future ahead of him. Beasley was recently hired as the Yankees roving minor league fielding instructor, but the call of the majors changed that. The Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star ran a profile on him a few weeks ago.

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