Hitting coaches never get the credit they deserve. When the team is struggling offensively, the hitting coach is the first one to lose his job. When a team’s bats catch on fire and carry the load for an entire season, the players are the ones who are praised. People believe that hitting coaches are just motivators and therapists. They are never appreciated for the teaching aspect of their job.
In the case of the Chicago White Sox‘ early-season hitting success, much of the recognition should go to their hitting coach Todd Steverson.
Take a glance at the offensive team leaders in baseball, and one will see the White Sox at the top of the list in most categories. The team ranks third in all of baseball in average, fourth in homers, second in RBI, and fifth in OBP. Individual hitters are seeing the ball well for the first time in a while.
Tyler Flowers, a known offensive liability, is hitting to all fields according to his spray chart. The catcher is actually leading the league in batting average (.359) entering Thursday. He is seeing more pitches and has lowered his hands from the position they were at before this season, two recommendations made by Steverson. Alexei Ramirez, who has a history for starting out the season in a slump, is hitting at a historic rate. He set the franchise record with 40 hits in the month of April. Unlike previous seasons, Ramirez is waiting back on pitches and not flaying his hands when extending his swing, two recommendations made by Steverson.
There are countless other examples of Steverson’s teachings. Skepticism of Jose Abreu‘s transition to baseball in the states was quieted after he produced the best April by any April in history. Since entering the country, Abreu has learned from Steverson, among others, not to load with as much aggression while beginning his swing. The Cuban slugger is also not chasing as many pitches in the dirt as expected.
Speaking about chasing balls in the dirt, Dayan Viciedo has stopped swinging at clear pitches out of the zone, which has resulted in his OBP of .406 while only striking out 14 times in 96 plate appearances. Those stats, along with the fact that he already has 10 walks, shows the patience Viciedo has been lacking throughout the early part of his career.
These are just the players who have made the most notable improvements since last season. Under Steverson’s guidance, the White Sox lineup is stacked from top to bottom. Having a potent offense is key when a pitching rotation is banged up and the bullpen is held together by superglue. If the bats can continue to stay hot, there is no telling how long the Sox can contend.