SAN FRANCISCO – Before the San Francisco Giants won 107 in Best In Baseball last year, ended the Los Angeles Dodgers’ eight-year run of the National League West title and looked like a Genius, a seemingly wild idea. He was the one who came. One year ago
What if, as manager Gabby Kepler asked his new boss, we expanded the coaching staff? Like, really expand it, to 13 total coaches? Kepler, who was given the seemingly impossible task of replacing Bruce Bauchi, explained his point of view, emphasizing the importance of having a strong student and teacher ratio at school. The smaller the class size, the more students will benefit.
“And I thought, well, this is not a grade school, this is the big leagues,” said Farhan Zaidi, president of Baseball Operations Giants.
But the more Kappler lobbied, the more he realized.
“It was really thinking outside the box because it wasn’t just one or two coaches going out of the ordinary,” Zaidi said. “Look, I had my doubts. I thought, ‘Do we have enough for all these people?’ But, it turns out, this was a really good analogy.
The Giants, in fact, pumped their staff up to 13 coaches (including a manager) for the 2020 season. Instead of one hitting and one pitching coach, they employed each of the three: a hitting coach, a director’s hitting / assistant hitting coach and an assistant hitting coach; And a pitching coach, a director pitching and an assistant pitching coach. They listed the traditional roles (bench coaches / infield coaches and first- and third-base coaches) and an unconventional one (quality assurance coaches). There was a bullpen / coaching coach, plus two assistant coaches, one of whom was Alyssa Nakkin, the first female coach in Major League Baseball.
For the majority of Bucci’s 13-year career, in which he piloted the Giants to three World Series championships in five seasons, he worked with players who had been the standard in baseball for decades: six coaches. They were the bench, hitting, pitching, first base, third base and bullpen. By 2019, his final season, Ghent had included an assistant hitting coach and, as a new replay rules, a “coach / video replay analyst.”
This may not seem all that long ago, but given the way the game has changed, it may have been the video cassette recorder before the digital age.
“It may be a little out of the box, but outside the box is inside the box,” said Larry Beer, president and chief executive of the Giants whose approval of the growing coaching budget will bring a tremendous return this past summer.
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Indeed, in an industry in which success produces copycats, 13 teams this year enlist the coaching staff in double digits. Cincinnati joins San Francisco with 13 coaches. The Phillies, Cubs and Diamondbacks are 12th in each. The Red Sox and Angels have 11.
“The teams are paying a lot of attention to the support they can provide to the players and recognizing that we have as many resources at our disposal as the organizations did 15 years ago,” said Chris Antonetti, Cleveland’s president of baseball operations. , Whose guardians are employees. Coach today.
The topic is not Kepler’s favorite, mostly because he is reluctant to be given the credit of an idea that is rooted in the game. Yes, he said, he probably has 13 coaches, but he would prefer people to indicate that it was his players who won 107 games.
Plus, for him, the idea of expanding the coaching staff is just common sense.
“You have a great group of players, and they all have different communication styles, they all have different backgrounds, they all come from different parts of the country and different parts of the world,” Kepler said. “Our goal was and is that everybody in our clubhouse can relate to anyone and to whom they can connect.”
The idea is to adjust the agenda to suit the needs of individual players and to ensure communication flows in two ways. When Brandon Belt, Darin Ruf and LaMonte Wade Jr. Picking up ground balls at first base, each may want to focus on different skills on a particular day. Maybe the short-stop Brandon Crawford wants a light workload, but Mauricio Dubon wants a more solid forearm. Pedro Guerrero’s new appointment gives the Giants a Spanish-speaking hitting coach, avoiding the need for a translator to serve their players in the dugout during the game.
An important philosophy is to allow players to become “co-pilots” in their careers, Ben and Infield Coach Kai Correa said, adding that the Giants want them to become “just as chefs as consumers” in their ongoing development.
“We spend a lot of time using our ears for someone else’s,” Korea said.
Only three coaches played in the majors – Andrew Bailey (pitching coach), Brian Bannister (director of pitching) and Anton Richardson (first base coach). Only five of the 13 were on the big league coaching staff. Kepler learned some of them during his four years as the Dodgers’ director of development for 2014-17. He knew of others, either because of fame or the peer-reviewed star reviews, and he made it a point to recruit them.
“It was a long-winded, first-time caller,” said JP Martins, assistant pitching coach who was hired last year after being the Chicago White Sox pitching coach of Eden Keats. “I focused on her career, her intensity and her commitment to fitness and nutrition were stories in the minor leagues.”
Martinez added that when Kepler administered in Philadelphia in 2018 and 2019, “the impression is that he was calling spreadsheets, and that’s one of the things that Bells and I strongly admired last year. Not too close to a matchup where. You do not watch the game and we do not pay attention to the web at Doug Out and what we are feeling from the players.
Martins came from a Minnesota organization, where the Twins connected old-school baseball men such as former managers Sam Pirlozzi and Mike Quaid to analyst experts such as Josh Kalk, the organization’s pitching guru.
“When I got here it was a perfect square between the two,” Martinez said. “It makes a lot of sense in this clubhouse.”
There are also plenty of faces for players to learn from, especially for newcomers.
“You go out with people for breakfast, lunch, coffee or something like that,” said right-hander Alex Cobb, who signed a two-year, $ 20 million free agent deal with the Giants this winter. “It’s not like speed history where you hit every single room and chat for a while.”
As for the Giants fighters, they not only have adapted – they have made progress.
Right-handed Anthony DeSclafani made a career year last summer, going 13-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 31 starts. He took advice from Martins on his curveball, consulted with Bannister about his change and slipped into the “Bulls releasing the mental side of everything.”
“They all had their own unique experience to offer, and it’s really cool,” DeSclafani said.
Belt, an expert entering his 12th season, said many players were skeptical of the first new system. “But literally somebody is there for you all the time,” he said, “and you don’t understand how much it means to you.
The MLB rules allow for one manager and eight coaches during a game in a dig-out (when the routes are extended in September, clubs are allowed on nine coaches). Giants coaches who are not in the Dug Out are kept in the clubhouse or behind the Dug Out in an indoor betting cage to assist where needed. Nakken, for example, ensures that potential punch-hitters know which competitors are heating up the pitchers. One of his other duties is to break the opponent’s groundball percentage, so the Giants can set up five-man infields at a reasonable time.
Overall, Kepler attributes the boys to a traffic director who ensures that the communication between coaches, and between coaches and players, is seamless.
“I do not feel too much pressure, other than that we want to be as prepared every day as possible,” said Nikkan, about her wonderful role as a woman. “So in that sense, it’s a responsibility to come in and do the job well.”
Prior to Spring Training in 2020, Kepler arranged for a two-day retreat, during which whole coaching staff visited places of interest around San Francisco – eating, talking – and bonding. This spring, the coaches attended the Bon Iver concert in Arizona.
As Korea said, this is a group that knows how to use their ears. Communication “is not something that has always been known as a force in baseball,” said outfielder Mike Isterzamski, “but knowing that gives people the peace of mind that they need to go out and succeed.