Despite Tiger Town's wishes to the contrary, it appears that Lloyd McClendon will be coming back next season as the Detroit Tigers' hitting coach. (When the team's general manager calls the current hitting coach a "very good hitting coach," you have to like his chances of keeping that job.)
But when a name like long-time Texas Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo suddenly becomes available, it's natural to wonder if he could provide an upgrade.
With Jaramillo on staff, the Rangers regularly found themselves among the league leaders in numerous offensive categories. Players from other teams trained with him in the offseason. Batters such as Milton Bradley, Mark DeRosa, Mark Teixeira, and Josh Hamilton have excelled under Jaramillo's tutelage in recent years. Michael Young won a batting title working with him. And what about the MVP seasons from Juan Gonzalez, Pudge Rodriguez, and Alex Rodriguez that occurred while they played with the Rangers?
For a team like the Tigers, who struggled so badly to score runs this season, it seems like Jaramillo might have something to offer.
As it turns out, however, the Rangers may have let Jaramillo go for some of the same reasons for which McClendon has been criticized. Kurt Mensching covered this thoroughly at Mack Avenue Tigers earlier, and you should check out his post. But look at this information from Rangers beat writer Evan Grant and see if you notice any similarities:
The Rangers ranked seventh in runs scored in the AL in 2009, but ranked 11th of 14 teams in batting average (.260) and 12th in on-base percentage (.320). There were concerns about the team's approach, particularly how often the Rangers swung at first pitches and put themselves in unfavorable hitting counts. Though the Rangers ranked in the middle of the pack in pitches per plate appearance (7th at 3.86), they had the highest percentage of first-pitch swings in the AL (31.1) last season.
And after this season, Rangers manager Ron Washington expressed concern over his team's inconsistency with situational hitting. Texas finished 20th in the majors at driving in runners from scoring position. That was worse than the Tigers this year, folks. They finished 18th.
If you believe Tigers batters swung at the first pitch too often, if they frequently failed to work the count in their favor by taking pitches and waiting for the right one to hit, does this sound like much of a difference? Is that the change the Tigers need?
Another problem could be that Jaramillo is apparently looking to get paid. It's not clear how much he made last year with the Rangers, but Texas has paid a premium for its coaches in the past. Other teams, such as the Mets two years ago, were interested in hiring Jaramillo, and Texas presumably had to give him a contract competitive enough to keep him from leaving. (EDIT: According to Randy Galloway, Jaramillo's contract offer for next season was $545,000.)
Jim Leyland has a pretty tight crew with his coaching staff. Would bringing in an outside hire, one likely getting paid much more than the other coaches with a multi-year contract, go over well?
Should the Tigers at least talk to Jaramillo and see what he might have to say about the current lineup? Or would his approach ultimately result in more of the same for Tigers hitters?