Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rick Eckstein, The Most Interesting Man in Washington

Hadn't blogged in a while. Part of it was lacking a computer and part of it was not having any good thoughts but here goes my thoughts on the Nationals hitting coach, Rick Eckstein and if he should stay or go.

The Nationals offense has not been good at all this year, and the past week, it has gone even colder. I'm not sure how much of that is Rick's fault though. The Nationals have scored 265 runs, have an On Base % of .304 and a Slugging % of .387, all below the MLB average. Some of that is the rash of injuries. Opening day starters Wilson Ramos, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth have spent time on the disabled list and Michael Morse, who would've been a starter for opening day if it wasn't for an injury, has only played 22 games.

Good stuff has happened under Eckstein too. 19 Year old Bryce Harper rarely looks his age when facing Major League pitching. Ryan Zimmerman won a Silver Slugger and had a 30 game hitting streak. Adam Dunn slugged 76 homers and Josh Willingham hit 40 homers and batted .263 in their 2 years here. Michael Morse hit .303 with 31 homers last year. Before his injury, Jayson Werth was playing like the Jayson Werth of old, and not the stressed out model the Nationals didn't know what to do with last year. The pitchers actually look like decent hitters.

I wanted to try and remove injuries from the situation and judge Rick Eckstein by a jury of his peers. Eckstein's first full season as the National's hitting coach was in 2009. Six other hitting coaches have been with their team as long as Eckstein (Kevin Long, Yankees;Dave Magadan, Red Sox; Brook Jacoby, Reds; Kevin Seitzer, Royals; Lloyd McClendon, Tigers; Joe Vavra, Twins). Three others have been hitting coaches since 2009 but with multiple teams (Greg Walker, White Sox and Braves; Derek Shelton, Braves and Rays; Don Baylor, Rockies and Diamondbacks). Amongst all of those coaches, Eckstein ranks last in Batting Average, On Base %, Slugging %, OPS and runs.

I did the research with an open mind. Even though the Nationals offense had been slumping, I was pro Eckstein because of all the injuries that have happened. Now that I took a step back and looked at the data, he should be let go at the end of the season. I know some of this data is "misleading" because when you can buy the best players, coaching makes a negligible difference (you know who I'm talking about). But when the Royals are hitting better than you, that's a problem. Twenty-three teams have changed their hitting coach during Rick Eckstein's tenure. The Nationals gave him a fair chance, here's to a new hitting coach in 2013.