The Mets Hitting Woes Are Systemic, And That’s What Needs Cohen’s Focus

Hitting Coaches can only do do much (NY Daily News)

Mets coach Hugh Quattlebaum is like the high school math teacher forced to teach long division when it should have been learned in 1st grade.

The Mets, like all teams, have a historical menu of coaches who, while not mandated, almost always find themselves with jobs that are considered essential to the success of their team.

The hitting coach is one of those most coveted positions, mainly because it gives him the authority to “coach” and make “suggestions” to all hitters on the team.

Now, before we get to the Mets, let’s acknowledge there is any number of hitting coaches who have at least a reputation for being among the best, including names we know, like Charlie Lau and Dave Magadan, and some like Kevin Wilson and Kevin Seizer, who are not as renown.

Mets: Is The Teacher Or The Student At Fault?

Let’s get to what matters, though, as far as the offensive woes of the Mets this season.

Mets boot Chili Davis (nydailynews.com)
Mets boot Chili Davis (nydailynews.com)

As most Mets fans know, the team moved earlier in the season, firing their hitting coach Chili Davis, bringing in Hugh Quattlebaum.

According to at least one report, Mets first-baseman Pete Alonso cried in front of his locker when he heard that Davis had been let go.

Now, what does that tell you?

Like, I’m sorry I cost you your job, Chili? Maybe, but there’s more to it than that. 

When A Student Is Ready A Teacher Will Appear

The art of teaching is the same, whether it be in a classroom or batting cage.

Approach by a teacher to his student is everything, and I’ll give you that. But if a teacher comes in with a positive, I can help you if you let me, and the student recoils, the relationship is fractured.

Mets Hitting Coach Hugh Quattlebaum in there to help
Mets Hitting Coach Hugh Quattlebaum in there to help

The same is true with Mets players, most of whom have enjoyed success since their days in Little League and on up the professional ladder doing what they do.

By instinct, many are set in their ways, believing that they got themselves to the big leagues, and they’ll figure out a way to stay there, but thank you very much.

A Mets or any other hitting coach, like a teacher, soon realizes that more than half of the students assigned to his class are not coming to school.

In that light, we never hear about the number of Mets players, who they are, or who are willing to expose themselves to Quattlebaum.

Mets: The Problem Is Organizational, Steve

And if the players electing not to come to school are the same ones “underproducing,” to use Steve Cohen’s word, then that is a management issue to deal with – not the Mets’ hitting coach – whose time and energy is best devoted to those who want to make themselves better.

Bring in Ted Williams or Stan Musial as the Mets’ hitting coach; it wouldn’t matter – except for a few like Alonso, who seemingly developed a special relationship with Chili Davis.

In contrast, I scoured the internet to find a story about a Mets’ player raving about Hugh Quattlebaum, and you guessed it, there are none.

Does that mean Quattlebaum is not qualified as a hitting coach? Maybe, but more likely is that he has been unable to resonate with his students to the point where they say – “Okay, tell me what I need to do” to get better – and pass this freakin’ Physics test tomorrow.

To be overdramatic, but to make the point – the relationship between teacher and student is sacred, and no one can explain why it works when it does (work).

Mets: Dig Deeper Than The Roster, Steve

So, while it’s likely Steve Cohen will “clean house” on the Mets coaching staff during the offseason, even up to Luis Rojas, the answer to the Mets’ woes as a team remains within the players themselves.

Mets: It's Organizational, Steve. Fix it.
Mets: It’s Organizational, Steve. Fix it.

No manager or coach will make them better or worse than they are.

This, in turn, brings us to the only logical conclusion, which says only a rehaul of the team’s personnel can make the Mets a better team.

Solely in hitting coaches, in the last ten years, the Mets have made their way through Dave Hudgens, Luis Natera, Kevin Long, Tom Slater, Pat Roessler, and Chili Davis before Quattlebaum.

Meanwhile, here the Mets are today with a litany of woeful offensive stats that show they still need to either “hit the books” or dig within themselves to turn this thing around.

Mets team owner Steve Cohen says on Twitter he “can’t imagine how professional ballplayers can be so unproductive,” but he isn’t in the Mets lineup tonight in Los Angeles.

I wouldn’t recommend that Hugh Quattlebaum extend his lease on the apartment he rents, nor would it be a good idea for the next Mets’ hitting coach to sign a long-term lease.

For hitting coaches in the major leagues, it may be a way of life, but for the Mets, it’s incumbent on those who remain after the expected purge that’s on the way this offseason; it’s time to take a deep breath.

Teaching Long Division To A High School Senior

But before we go, there’s one underlying point that needs to be made about the Mets organization, and it’s this.

Mets teaching long division at the big-league level
Mets teaching long division at the big-league level

You shouldn’t need to teach a High School senior how to do long division, and if you do, you are wasting that teacher’s time.

In the same way, the Mets hitting coach should not need to teach skills like bunting, situational hitting, whether it be a ground ball to the opposite side to move a runner along or how to get enough lift on a ball to drive a fly into the outfield with a runner on third and one out.

Like long division, these skills should be taught and learned in elementary school, not high school.

Moreover, the Mets culture needs to surround the principle that says no one gets promoted to Triple-A until these and other skills are mastered.

Easier said than done, of course, because much like in our public schools, today, it’s almost impossible to fail a student and easier to simply send them on their way, where they will need but lack those skills later.

In large ways, this is the situation the Mets are dealing with today. No amount of film-watching or hitting in the cage will magically develop the skills the team lacks to score more runs, but the Mets have to start somewhere, and there’s no place better I can think of than at the Single-A and Double-A levels.

Mets: Putting A Finger in The Dyke

In the meantime, the Mets can put a finger in the dyke by acquiring only players who have these skills already from here on in. This, for example, is why the Yankees pursued DJ LeMahieu so vigorously during the offseason.

It’s also why, for example, Trevor Story is a better bet than Javier Baez, and Nick Castellanos is a better one than Michael Conforto.

Hugh Quattlebaum is only a tool, not the answer…

Here’s What Readers Are Saying…

Dennis Francis Sobiech Remember Smith, McNeil, Conforto, Alonzo, Nimmo, Nido all came from our draft and our minor league system, could that be where our problem lies You nailed it.

LG Garcia Sometimes as a coach you have to simplify the lesson. With all the analytics in baseball, I believe that some players are just not good enough to play the analytics game. Simplify the hitting approach, Look fastball and adjust to the soft stuff, Look in zones( in, out, up, down). Short to the ball. ( compact swing) Less aggressive swing with two strikes. stay longer in the zone, less launch angle. Hit against the shift. Basically what baseball players were before analytics, and launch angles.

David N Stein Our Acting GM risked the entire season by firing an established hitting coach and bringing in some cronies under the guise of analytics. Analytics don’t swing a bat. He needs to go. It was a foolhardy risk.

Closing Published Comments and Final Thoughts

Lot of “Likes” but few comments, so we’ll close this one out.

The most salient point, though, came from David.

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Steve Contursi
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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.