The Giants have decided to make some changes on their coach staff. Hitting coach Joe Lefebvre and first base / hitting coach Willie Upshaw will not return to their coaching roles in 2008. Dave Righetti, Mark Gardner, Ron Wotus, Bill Hayes, and Tim Flannery will all return next year. Lefebvre became the hitting coach in 2003 and carried that position until 2007.
Here’s how the Giants ranked in BA, OBP, SLG, and Runs as a team under Joe from 2003-2007
YEAR BA OBP SLG RUNS 2003 6th 5th 5th 6th 2004 4th 1st 5th 2nd 2005 7th 16th 13th 15th 2006 13th 15th 11th 11th 2007 14th 14th 16th 15th
Keep in mind, that these rankings are based only for the National League, they run from 1-16.
The Giants had a good year at the plate in 2003 and 2004. They made the playoffs in 2003 and just missed the playoffs by 2 games in the heart-breaking 2004. Maybe offense does matter? The loss of Bonds in 2005 obviously was a huge blow to the offense. Does one man make an offense? In Bonds’ case, he made a lot of it. The Giants fell from 1st in OBP to dead last in 2005. That’s an amazing drop in production for a team. They also fell 8 spots in slugging and 13 spots in runs scored. After the Bonds-less 2005, things only got worse. The team still had a lousy offense in 2006 and 2007 was rock bottom. In 2007, only the Washington Nationals scored less runs than the Giants.
I’ve never subscribed to the thought that a hitting coach or a pitching coach, can turn dirt into gold. You’ve got some guys like Dave Duncan of the Cardinals who’ve made a name for themselves by doing quite well with reclamation projects, but on the whole, the Dave Duncan’s of the world are few and far between. I’m pretty sure that if you gave Tedd Williams a year to work with Pedro Feliz, he’d still swing at bad breaking balls. It’s just the way it is, by the time most players get to the major leagues, they have developed habits that aren’t going to go away. Neifi Perez is always going to be a lousy hitter no matter who he works with. I think if theres a time when a hitting coach/pitching coach can really make a difference, it’s very early in the players career.
It might seem unfair to criticize Joe for the Giants terrible hitting. Most likely, these guys were finished products by the time they ever got to the big club and there probably wasn’t much Joe could do. But, at the same time, I have this nagging voice in the back of my head that tells me that Joe Lefebvre wasn’t a great coach. I can’t recall which game it was this year, but it was in the 7th inning and the Giants were getting completely shutdown. They had scored 0 runs and even worse, the other pitcher had only thrown maybe 70 pitches at most by the 7th. It was clear the Giants were over-aggressive, taking big first swings, making quick outs, and not really making the pitcher work. I can’t remember which pitcher it was, but I do recall that it wasn’t Brandon Webb, Jake Peavey, or the ghost of Cy Young. In other words, he was hittable. The Giants have this knack for turning Generic AAA pitcher into Roger Clemens. During the game they had some of the coaching staff mic’d up and at one point Krukow has a live in-game interview with Joe Lefebvre in the dugout, while the Giants were hitting. He asks Joe something along the lines of “What adjustments do the hitters need to make?” and Joe, AT&T headset and all, turns to the camera, and slowly says “I think we need to be more aggressive.” I was hoping he would say “We need to be more selective, patient, we need to wait on our pitch, and make a good swing” Instead, it was “HACK AWAY FELLAS!” which made me wonder if this was a hitting philosophy for Lefebvre?
I believe the over-aggressive approach was a part of Lefebvre’s hitting philosophy. The Giants were trying to attack first and not work the count. From the team stats above, they finished 16th, 15th, and 14th in team OBP over the last three years. And two of those years include a near .500 OBP from Barry Bonds in the mix.
Some quotes from the Chron about the coaching changes:
The Giants said Lefebvre will be offered another position. So will Willie Upshaw, who was dismissed after one year on manager Bruce Bochy’s staff. Upshaw was the first-base coach, but really was a second hitting coach.
I’m hoping the new position is garlic fry vendor.
And here’s my favorite quote from the article:
Durham, reached via e-mail, expressed surprise by the dismissals and said, “I liked both guys and I think they did the best of their ability to help me try and get out of my funk. The last month, it finally started working. … Ultimately, it’s up to the player to go out and put what you’ve learned to work. I am sad for both of those guys. They did their best.”
Yes, Ray, the last month in which you hit (.178/.196/.244) was a real breakthrough. Maybe he was talking about August (.123/.289/.192). So, that’s what a 192 slugging percentage looks like.
The Chron states that possible candidates to replace Lefebvre could be:
Sabean said he will consider in-house and outside candidates to fill the slots. Logical candidates for hitting coach include Jim Bowie, the Giants’ Triple-A hitting coach; Padres minor-league hitting coordinator Tony Muser and onetime A’s first baseman Mike Epstein, who is out of organized ball but long has had Bochy’s ear on hitting.
The Arizona Fall League kicked off yesterday with the Scottsdale Scorpions playing their first game. A couple of Giants found their way into the 4-3 loss.
- Nate Schierholtz – 2/4 with 2 2B’s, 1 RBI, and 1 R.
- Eugenio Velez – Velez played second base and went 0/4 with a K. The Giants intend to get Velez plenty of playing time at second base during the AFL. It would make it easier for him to make it on with the big club.
- Dan Ortmeier – Ort played CF and went 0/2 with 2 K’s. He’ll also see time at first base.
- Scott Munter – Munter, who knows why he’s even in the AFL, pitched a clean inning. Allowing no hits, runs, walks, or strike outs. He was credited with a hold.
- Brian Anderson – 1IP, 0H, 0R, 1K