I have to say, if I’m Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, I’m probably not all 100% pleased with the latest development regarding the coaching staff.
See, for the last couple of seasons, Las Vegas 51’s batting coach Chad Mottola had been brought up from AAA in September to help with the Blue Jays hitting department. With what we now know as the Great Injury-Induced Roster Merge of ’12 between the Blue Jays and their minor-league affiliates essentially having filled with big league club with not-quite-ready for prime time players like Adeiny Hechavarria, Moises Sierra and Anthony Gose, Mottola’s services were ever more emphasized this season. So much so, perhaps, that he may even stick around in the bigs next year.
Having a pair of pitching coaches in for a big-league team is not a common thing, but it’s not too unusual either. The St. Louis Cardinals have a 2-man system with an associated batting coach, and their top-5 run-producing offense is just fine. John Farrell seems to like the idea of implementing that change in Toronto, pointing out that Murphy and Mottola “have a relationship already from the Major League to the Triple-A staff, Spring Training involvement and the familiarity with one another.” That said, it’s not as though the Blue Jays offense, under the guidance of Murphy, has been in the dumps until the baseball gods decided to sent everybody to the DL for vacation this summer.
The Blue Jays were coming off a couple of top-10 offensive seasons before ’12, finishing 9th in runs scored in ’10 (4th in OPS), and 6th in ’11 (9th in OPS). They also led the league in homers in ’10, finishing 5th in ’11 – remember who the team had on those rosters? Before the shitstorm of injuries befell the team this season around the break, they were a top-5 run-producing offense (3rd before the All Star break, actually), and was running 6th in OPS and 2nd with homers, buoyed by the emergence of Edwin Encarnacion. How much more could another hitting coach add?
Enough, apparently. For all the Blue Jays’ run scoring prowess via the long ball, one of the most prominent criticisms of what Murphy has done with the offense is that the team just doesn’t get on base very well otherwise. Even as the team was leading the league in homers in ’10, they were having trouble scoring runs with means that didn’t involve hitting the bejesus out of the ball, finishing 27th in AVG and 28th in OBP. Things haven’t been so bad in those categories in ’11 and ’12 (the Blue Jays were 17th in AVG and 15th in OBP before the break, 24th and 25th now), but there’s still some major disparity in the relationship between how well the team were producing runs and how well they were actually hitting.
Maybe that’s the upside that Mottola can bring to the team when Farrell talks about having a pair of hitting coaches next year, with each of them having their “individual strengths”, and adding an extra element to Murphy’s ability to get guys to homer in Toronto probably can’t hurt too much; there’s always the concern that the attempt the bring balance to the Blue Jays’ mostly all-or-nothing offense could lead to conflicting messages to batters, I suppose.
Then again, a few more walks probably couldn’t hurt the team either.