Rick Short and Drew Hedman addressed the media today following their promotions as co-hitting coaches for the Diamondbacks following the firings of Darnell Coles and Eric Hinske. Both coaches gave deference to the coaches that preceded them and acknowledged the emotional components of such an organizational change, while at the same time embracing their opportunity. They both spoke about the collaborative nature of the process between the analytics R&D department, training staff, performance staff, video team, and coaches. Here are a few highlights from the interviews for me.
It’s a heckuva opportunity… I’ve been thrown into the fight. For me it’s an opportunity to hopefully make an impact. So much of what we do is based on relationships. It’s probably going to take some time to develop that.
While emphasizing that he believes in an individualized approach, he also said that the ”organizational philosophy is to drive up pitches, do damage, grind out at bats.”
He was asked who he had the most opportunity to work with in the past and he quite wisely answered Pavin Smith. Short was the hitting coach in Jackson in 2019. So I followed up by asking him about Pavin’s breakout inn 2019 and what lead to his improvements:
With Pavin, one of his strengths is he’s such a cerebral hitter. He can develop a plan, he can execute a plan. He’s kind of got a natural ability to do all of the intangible things. As far as [coaching him that year] It was very subtle, kind of guided him along the way, when he got off track just try to put him back on track. Not to say stay out of the way, but just let him do his thing because he does have so many strengths. Sometimes a hitter can have a lot of voices in his head. I just wanted to be the filter between all those voices and have him do his thing. That was kind of my style with him and it was by design.
What was the specific change that allowed him to start elevating the ball more with authority?
I’d say the one thing that I can think, it’s been a couple years now… he was a little bit rotational with is swing, his swing path would work across the zone. I think he’s done a really good job of ironing that out and staying through the zone a little bit more. He’s a threat to all fields. He’s a complete hitter and I think he’s only going to grow.
Hedman was previously 3rd in line behind Coles and Hinske. His role before today was the “Run Production Coordinator”. Torey made the comment yesterday in regards to Hedman that they needed some continuity and they had a game tonight. (Short just flew in late last night). In other words, they can’t fire EVERYBODY all at once. The way he described his role back in April of 2020 was like this:
A Run Production Coordinator has a lot of roles,” said Hedman. “There are a lot of different rocks to turn over to make sure we’re scoring as many runs as possible. I’m diving into analytics-based projects, working with Mike Fitzgerald and his R&D team. I’ll focus on our game-planning and advance scouting. Some days I might be on the field, or in the cages. The culture Darnell has created is extremely inclusive and collaborative. He makes sure we’re doing everything we can as a staff to get our guys everything they need.”
What changed for the team between April, when hitting numbers were good, and then May/June when they went cold:
“Just our level of execution. From game time our level of execution. I think our preparation has been strong. We have a lot of good information that we’re funneling to the hitters, but I think we need to make sure that we’re putting them in a position to succeed every night and execute come game time.”
How to achieve better execution of the game plan?
Hedman emphasized individualized approach with each player. But no real acknowledgment that the game plans may be lacking.
I think moving forward we have some opportunities to continue to develop our players. Shorty was on the minor league side for us for last couple of years and it’s player development. But it doesn’t stop once you reach the major league level. We have the opportunity to make sure every one of our major league players reaches their potential. I don’t think that stops just because it’s the major leagues.
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