Friday, April 20, 2007

Generally, I am of the opinion that a coaching staff can only do so much with the roster they have. It is the general managers job to acquire a variety of different type of hitters, not too many of the same type of player as is the case with Bill Stoneman.

"We had guys who liked to swing then too, but you had Tim and you had Troy who would foul off a lot of pitches," Garret Anderson said in today's Orange County Register. "And if they didn't get the pitch they were looking for, they'd spit on it and take their walk."

While it wasn't specifically said by Anderson, the implication was, the Angels haven't replaced Glaus or Salmon with similar on-base/power hitting type of players. This is a fault of Bill Stoneman, there is no question he has let the team down (with an honorable mention to Juan Rivera's broken leg). However, at the end of the day, you have to play the cards you're dealt. As the cliche goes, "if you have lemons, make lemonade".

This all said. Something has got to give when it comes to the Angels batting instructor Mickey Hatcher. Bashing Hatcher has become a favorite past-time for Angel fans over the past few seasons. Some of this is just fans venting and taking it out on a target. However, there has been a disturbing tend developing.

Offensively, the Angels have struggled mightily since the 2005 season. But overall, since 2002, the Angels team OPS (on-base + slugging), has hovered in the mid 700's. Peaking at .773 during the 2004 season when the roster featured Jose Guillen and Troy Glaus.

Fans see the Angels go up to the plate swinging at everything. The team does not take it's walks nor do they work the count. The Elias Sports Bureau say the Angels have seen only 3.94 pitches per at-bat during the first 15 games of the 2007 season. Fans see this as a problem, especially when they watch the Angels arch-rivals Oakland Athletics taking pitches, working counts and hitting the well timed 3-run homerun.

Unfortunately, the person in charge of the Angels hitting doesn't see that as a bad thing.

"More selective?" Hatcher said. "Everybody comes to me and says, 'Why aren't you more selective? You guys are too aggressive.' Do you see how many pitches we take for strikes? We take a lot of strikes. We're 0-and-1, 0-and-2 a lot of times. A lot of times. That's the frustrating part."

"We've got to get in there and be ready to compete, and when you get your pitch, be ready to hit it. We can't be up there in situations where we take a pitch to hit the next pitch. We've got to get in there and start competing."

Essentially, Hatcher is saying the Angels are not hitting well because the opposing pitcher is throwing strikes. Isn't that the pitchers job? To throw strikes and get outs? The Angels problem isn't that they aren't aggressive enough, it's that they are too aggressive. Since 2005 the Angels hitters have been doing a fabulous job of making the pitchers job easier. How many first pitch pop ups or double-plays do the fans have to see before these comments become nothing but rhetoric?

Which brings me to my point. By no means is this an attack on Hatcher's work ethic or respect in the clubhouse. From all accounts, the players love him and nobody feels worse about their performance than Mickey. This is all fine and good, but is it a reason to keep him around? The question is how long can the same group of hitters listen to the same person everyday until it's in one ear out the other. It is time for a new voice in the clubhouse.

The best choice would have been to make this move last winter, with the promotion of former Angels roving hitting instructor Ty Van Burkleo who is now the hitting coach for the rival A's. The relationships he had built up with the young hitters in the system would be beneficial now that Howie Kendrick, Mike Napoli and Casey Kotchman are here to stay with Brandon Wood on the way. Since Ty is unavailable, the promotion of Salt Lake City hitting instructor Jim Eppard would work just as well.

Hatcher has been the team's hitting instructor since Mike Scioscia's first season in 2000. They are old friends from their Dodger days. Hatcher's removal would be hard for the Skipper.
It's been hard on the clubhouse to lose Troy Percival, Darin Erstad, Adam Kennedy and Troy Glaus. Isn't it time Mike Scioscia and Bill Stoneman make another hard decision and let go of Hatcher. Things have changed since 2002 and what worked yesterday isn't working today.
Love to hear what you think!


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