Everyone here has already heard that Robert Van Scoyoc, a 32 year-old punk who has really never played baseball beyond college (and was never very good there) is the Dodgers Hitting Coach for 2019. Aaron Bates is the Assistant Hitting Coach… and by the way, he has never coached… except in the minor leagues.
If you add Robert Van Scoyoc (RVS) and Aaron Bates (AB) ages together, you will be pretty close to the age of former hitting coach, Turner Ward, who was
encouragedallowed to leave the Dodgers after 2018. Just so we are clear, the Dodgers had an “old school” hitting coach that they traded in for a new ago duo of young whippersnappers. Is that about right?
Well, not quite… because this groundswell has has been brewing since JD Martinez turned into a superstar with the help of Robert Van Scoyoc. Van Scoyoc interned under Craig Wallenbrock, who might have been named the hitting coach except for the fact that he is in his mid-70’s. RVS was the next best choice since he was the anointed one to succeed Wallenbrock.
Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock extolled the importance of launch angle before it became en vogue throughout the industry. RVS preached keeping swing paths through the strike zone as long as possible and lifting the ball in the air, most of Major League Baseball teams copied during the 2018 season.
Let’s get one thing straight: This is far from an exact science and as much as I would like it, I doubt that RVS can turn Kike Hernandez into JD Martinez, no matter how much I would like that. well… maybe he can… I’ll give him a chance.
Let’s agree to agree on one thing: Things are a changing in baseball. Salaries are changing, contracts are changing, ideas are changing, rules are changing and hitting is changing along with theories and tactics. They are all changing BIG TIME! If you don’t like it, stick around… this is not the final product.
It’s truly evolution and it is not a huge leap… it is elementary evolution and it’s still happening. It’s a work in progress. So, what can the Dodgers expect? Well, this is huge leap. Hiring a hitting coach who has ZERO MLB experience is a huge risk. I have watched Andrew Friedman for quite some time now and he is not apt to make dope fiend moves.
“But he signed McCarthy, Anderson and Kazmir”. Do yu get that he didn’t sign Cueto, Price, Greinke and others and lock in the Dodgers to some bad contracts which become boat anchors? He talks calculated risks, but risks you can still succeed with should they fail. This is another risk for a couple of reasons: (1) Will it actually work? and (2) Will the players buy in? I’ll answer the first one first:
Will the Players Buy in?
I think many already have. They have because they trust Andrew Friedman. They have because they have seen how Wallenford and RVS’s program has worked for others. I don’t know if they all will buy in because not every hitter buys in to a hitting coaches teachings. I do know that Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Austin Barnes, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo have been working with him in the past or currently.
This is not some radical change which involves doing something counter-intuitive and is easily explainable. It really evokes the Ted Williams theory of hitting among other things. To me, it sounds like sound science. There’s rational thought behind it and we have seen the results with several players. It doesn’t involve more strikeouts, rather it creates less strikeouts, which is something Andrew Friedman wants to improve upon.
I could see it taking a while to implement, which is why some players are already putting it to use. I do worry that Spring Training may not be enough time, but that fear is not based upon anything scientific,,,, just fear itself, which is something not to fear.
Will it Actually Work?
The fact that it already has worked with some should give us a clue. I think it will work differently with different types of hitters. Maybe Justin Turner already incorporates some of RVS’s tactics, but if he doesn’t, I think they would be very resistant to trying to change his hitting plane.
I think the biggest change RVS will bring is helping the players keep their swing path in the strike zone longer and cutting down their swing with two strikes. They will also work on bunting away from the shift. I believe you will see a dramatic drop in strikeouts, much like the one Houston experienced between 2016 to 2017, when they went from one of the worst strikeout teams to THE BEST in the AL – I mean that they were the hardest team to strikeout in 2017 after being one of the easiest in 2016.
Under Turner Ward, the Dodgers could never attain the consistency they needed. They scored runs in bunches and then didn’t score for long periods. I think that just cutting down on their swings with two strikes will resolve some of that as well as bunting away from the shift.
I believe the Dodgers will score more runs with a better consistency, strikeout fewer times and overall have a better and more watchable product on the field. I also believe that Andrew Friedman wants to see fewer platoons and Doc will see to that. Overall, I think 2019 will be a good season, but if the boys can wrap their heads around Robert Van Socyoc’s methods quickly, it could be one for the ages.