Posted at 11:17 AM on July 8, 2005
by David Zingler
Mastery of the strike zone is the most difficult skill for most hitters to develop. It rarely comes easily, especially to the raw youngsters fast-tracked to the majors, who usually learn it on the fly. It is essential however, to fielding a consistently potent line-up. Why then have the Twins, who are often touted as a model organization, seemingly neglected this important concept?
It would be unfair to cite the newer group of players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Lew Ford or even Michael Cuddyer as examples because they are still developing. So Iíll turn instead to the established group of regulars that played at least from 2001 through last season with the club.
Outfielders Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones have shown frighteningly little improvement when it comes to managing the strike zone. In 1999, Hunterís first full season, he drew 26 walks and struck out 72 times, or coaxed .36 walks for every strikeout. Last season he went 40/101 or .39. His career best, .47 (50/106), came in 2003. Jones meanwhile, went .27 (26/72) in 1999, also his first season, and .34 (40/117) in 2004. His career best was .42 (39/92) in 2001.
Then thereís everybodyís favorite double play duo, Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas. Like Hunter and Jones, Guzman broke into the big leagues in 1999 and drew 22 walks against 90 strikeouts or .24. Last year, thankfully his final with the Twins, Guzzie managed .47 (30/64), a career high. From 2000-03 he went .46, .27, .22 and .38. Rivas meanwhile, began his career in 2001 and coaxed 40 walks against 99 strikeouts or .40. Since then heís gone .37, .46 and .25.
The two other regulars during that era, Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz fared far better. In Koskieís Twins career, he went .55, .74, .58, .57, .68 and .48. Dougie Baseball managed .84, .73, 1.08 and 1.0 from 1999-2004, excluding the 2000 season which he spent at Triple A and with the Olympic team. Mientkiewicz and Koskieís consistently solid numbers show that they entered the big leagues as more patient, polished hitters.
I am not going to pretend to know what a major league batting coach does on a day-to-day basis, but it I do think it is fair to say that Scott Ullger bears a significant part of the responsibility for the development (or lack thereof) of the teamsí hitters. Ullger, who hit .190 in a cup of coffee with the Twins in 1983 Ė- his only big league experience, has been the teams batting coach since 1998 and has thus overseen the stunted growth of the before-mentioned players.
Maybe heís giving sound advice but the players wonít listen, maybe the players arenít capable of grasping the concept or maybe heís just not a good coach. So, at best his message isnít getting through and at worst, heís incompetent. Either way, it seems like time for a change.
I completely agree. Seemingly every Twins prospect who comes up fails to live up to expectations. Maybe this is the result of overvaluing prospects, but I have been frustrated with the lack of a breakout offensive season by any player under Ullger.
Yes, there have been several fringe players who have come up and filled in admirably (ie, Luis Rodriguez and Glenn Williams this year, Ojeda and Tiffee last year, but I'm referring to the prospects that have been poised for stardom or at least starting roles).
Maybe the Twins can hire Eddie Murrary. The Indians offense turned around and soon as they dumped him.
But, seriously, how do teams ever find the perfect hitting coach. It's amazing how often they're .250 lifetime hitters (Rick Burleson). Makes one believe that hitting coach is just another word for "crony."
And let's not forget alleged genius Tom Kelly here. He's the guy that got on David Ortiz's case for trying to hit homers when he obviously was meant to be a singles hitter, according to TK.
I hear the "replace Ullger" discussion frequently. I really have no idea if he's a good hitting caoch or not. But I would think if he was a bad hitting coach, players that leave the Twins would get better after they leave.
The only player that I can think of that is better after leaving is Ortiz (and he was pretty good when he was here and healthy). Mientkiewicz, Guzman, Kielty, Mohr, Koskie, Offerman, Blake, etc. Of all the players that have left the Twins in the past few years, most are hitting worse than they did here, and only one is really notably better. And who knows if Ortiz might have made that same improvement here.
If Ullger screws up hitters, he screws them up for good, because no one seems to be able to fix them after they leave.
what i want to do is that i want to play pro baseball i've been plaing it from young