After Brad Ausmus was named the 37th manager of the Detroit Tigers in early November, some Tigers fans engaged in wishful thinking and wondered if Ausmus might bring in either Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell — both of whom are Houston Astros legends — to be the Tigers’ new hitting coach.
Biggio and Bagwell were, of course, teammates of Ausmus in Houston and made up two-thirds of “The Killer B’s” which anchored the very formidable Astros’ lineups of the late 90s and early 2000s. However, bringing Bagwell or Biggio to the Motor City just wasn’t in the cards, but hiring another former teammate of Ausmus did happen to be in the cards. Wally Joyner, Ausmus’ former teammate with the San Diego Padres, was named the Tigers’ new hitting coach on Nov. 18, and many believe that the Tigers’ hitters are now in great hands.
For starters, Joyner knew how to hit himself and that always looks good on a hitting coach’s resume. Joyner is a lifetime .289 hitter who hit 204 home runs and had 2,060 hits. He hit over .300 in four different seasons, hit more than 20 home runs three different times, and drove in 100 runs twice. Nothing against Lloyd McClendon, the Tigers’ previous hitting coach who is now the manager of the Seattle Mariners, but Joyner had a lot more success at the big league level than he did.
Being a good hitter does not always correlate to being a good hitting coach, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. In fairness to McClendon, the Tigers did have the highest team batting average in MLB last year.
Joyner was the Padres’ hitting coach from July of 2007 to September of 2008 and spent last season as an assistant hitting coach for the Philadelphia Phillies where he had a tremendous impact on the young Domonic Brown. Brown, a left handed swinger who had never hit more than five home runs in a season prior to 2013, blasted 27 long balls last year and gave Joyner a large chunk of the credit for his success.
Certain Tigers such as Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are not going to need much help. But there are plenty of other Tigers hitters who are desperate for Joyner’s assistance, and he could help them in the same way he helped Brown. Next year at this time, people could very easily be talking about how instrumental Joyner was to helping Austin Jackson, Andy Dirks, and Alex Avila get back on track and how big of a role he played in helping the rookie Nick Castellanos get off to a good start.