What Mickey Hatcher Really Does
If your sole source of information was the uninformed posts on various fan boards, you’d think that all Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher does is tell his batters to swing — excuse me, “hack” — at every single pitch, no matter how bad it is.
Thank goodness for the Fourth Estate, which more often than not does its homework and tries to inform those who wish to learn.
Angels beat writer Matt Hurst of the Riverside Press-Enterprise published an article today about slumping Shea Hillenbrand. He wrote that Hatcher discovered a flaw in Shea’s mechanics:
Hatcher went through dozens of tapes, going as far back as 2001 when Hillenbrand was with Boston, to find the flaw in his stride that Hillenbrand described as "in my setup, I wasn’t balanced."
That has led to a situation where "at times he’s defensive and at times he’s swinging at pitchers’ pitches and getting himself out," Scioscia said.
That’s what a major league hitting coach does. He’s not the same as your Little League coach who put the ball on a tee and told you to swing at it. Minor league players are taught to be their own hitting coaches, to understand their mechanics and know how to correct them. That’s so when they get to the big leagues, they know what to look for when they hit a slump and can work with the hitting coach to detect the flaw and correct it.
Major league batters are not told what pitches to swing at (unless a play is on, e.g. a hit-and-run); instead, they go to the plate looking for a particular pitch they know they can drive. That’s why you’ll sometimes see a batter take a fastball down the middle for a called third strike, because he was looking for something else.
Yet no matter how often I say this, I read people calling for "Mickey Hacker" to be fired because they’ve convinced themselves he orders the batters to swing at bad pitches.
Thankfully, the Angels have people in charge who know better.