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Mark McGwire: hitting coach

Feb 16, 2010, 10:30 AM EST

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an in depth article on Mark McGwire today. And — surprise! — it’s about Mark McGwire the hitting coach, not Mark McGwire the sideshow freak:

“I used to have a different swing for every type of pitch, like it was
this advanced game of pepper up there,” [Brendan] Ryan said while taking batting
practice with McGwire at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. “It’s
like in the minors, when I’d do these different impersonations of
hitters. I’d do Babe Ruth. I’d do Albert Pujols. … I’d have good
swings, but I didn’t know why, I didn’t know how it happened. “It’s like Mac has this scientific formula for what goes into a good
swing,” Ryan said, “and that’s what we’ve been working on. Knowing what
swing works”  . . .

. . . “This is not to take away from the other hitting coaches I’ve had, but
there is so much more instruction I’ve had from working with Mac,” said
[Skip] Schumaker. “I can’t imagine what it will be like to have him there,
right with us, all year. I feel kind of like an only child. I don’t
really want to share him.”

In some ways these types of things are the coaching equivalent of “best shape of his life” articles. Every year someone has been working with young players in the cage or the bullpen. Every new coach has articles written about his fresh approach or devotion to videotape or whatever.  I’m always kind of dubious of these things, especially when it comes to hitting coaches, because my pet theory on hitting coaches is that while they can do a lot of harm — see every Braves hitting coach since, I dunno, Clarence Jones — they don’t really do a heck of a lot of good relative to the praise they receive.

But McGwire is obviously a special case. For the steroids media circus, sure, but also because so many people assume that a big power hitter who struck out a lot can truly be an effective hitting coach.  Will he get the same hitting coach honeymoon others get if his guys start out raking? Will he get the same amount of blame others get when they slump? Will everything that happens with the Cardinals’ offense be seen through the McGwire-hyperbole-prism that was constructed a couple of months ago?

That may be the second most interesting question in Cardinal-land this season.

  1. Jonny5 - Feb 16, 2010 at 10:48 AM

    I don’t know….. I’d think a contact guy would be the best hitting coach.

  2. Dan - Feb 16, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    I feel that it’s not the TYPE of hitter the coach was, but how knowledgeable he is. I’m betting he’s not going to tell everyone, regardless of skill set, “Swing as hard as you can, and hit the ball in the air”. If he’s any good, he’ll help each hitter identify their strengths and utilize them. Give him a super speedy contact guy and I’ll bet money he tells him to hit the ball on the ground and run his butt off. He was a big guy, and to be a useful hitter he needed to hit the ball hard and in the air. I’m sure he knows that he can’t have EVERYONE hit like that, and he’s not going to try to make 13 Mark McGuires.

  3. Phil - Feb 16, 2010 at 11:03 AM

    I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a one-size-fits-all hitting coach, but if there were thet attributes that go into a career .394 OBP might be what I’d want to have.

  4. cliff - Feb 16, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    Craig,
    The Braves have had at least one good hitting coach in that span: Don Baylor. He seemed to help almost everybody. Even Chipper, as well trained as he was with a college baseball coach dad, benefited from Baylor (particularly in actual effect in improving his righthanded hitting and as admitted by Chipper at the time).
    Also, my gut instinct is the type of hitter who would make the best coach would be like Chipper or Don Baylor, or Gerge Brett. Some ability to draw walks, hit for average, and hit for power.

  5. Jonny5 - Feb 16, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    Yeah Mcguire had a nice OBP due to being walked as many times as he got a hit. It all adds up to value I guess. I don’t know, maybe he’ll do well as a coach, we will see.

  6. YANKEES1996 - Feb 16, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Mark McGwires’ hitting advice for players :
    1. Time your stride
    2. Keep your hands back
    3. Fight off good pitches for quality at bats
    4. Concentrate on the baseball at the point of release and identify the pitch by the type of spin.
    5. Remove the needle from your a$$ before batting practice…..

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