The Giants are not hitting baseballs as well as they would like. Have you noticed this? Seems like something you might have noticed. They have 16 hits in 161 at-bats in September. If they had twice as many hits, they would be hitting .199 for September, and you say things like, "Man, this lineup stinks right now."
They do not have twice as many hits.
It’s not just the batting average, though. It’s the lack of situational hitting that’s killed them in the second half, along with an utter lack of power. Really, the only thing the Giants are doing well right now is avoiding strikeouts. Big, fat help that’s been.
And when this happens, why, it’s pretty obvious what to do: fire the hitting coach. Let your thoughts be heard, whether on the internet or via your phone, because everyone is really interested in what you have to think, and you’re probably right in thinking that you alone can solve this mess. But before you advocate for Hensley Meulens to be fired, please answer this one, simple question:
What is Hensley Meulens doing wrong?
Answer in the form of an essay question (50 pts.), and please note that "the Giants aren’t hitting right now" isn’t an acceptable response. Also note that "the Giants can’t hit home runs" also isn’t an acceptable response. Use specific examples.
Buster Posey is struggling right now, for instance. If you want Meulens to be fired, your job is to answer what he’s done to cause this or what he hasn’t done to prevent it. Be detailed. Use their one-on-one conversations when possible.
Okay, then move on to Brandon Belt. Bobby Evans was on stage at Pitch Talks last week, and he mentioned "adjustments that we still want (Belt) to make," and it got a chuckle from the audience, which I don’t think was what he intended. But, again, the burden of proof would shift back to the pro-Meulens camp once you specify exactly what Meulens could be doing differently to help Belt. Possibly by specifically detailing how Chili Davis’ advice would be a vast, measurable improvement.
Perhaps you could go for the big picture and catalog all of Meulens’ stupid advice that leads to the Giants hitting better without runners on base, which is a problem that could totally be fixed with better advice. Probably. Note that the Marlins aren’t doing so hot with RISP either, so keep that Barry Bonds arrow in your quiver for now.
And while you’re getting all that together, I’ll present my case that Meulens probably isn’t someone who should be ditched after every extended slump. It’s a simple case, and it goes like this: Giants hitters sure seem to exceed expectations a lot.
Meulens was hired before the 2010 season, and since then, the Giants have received unexpectedly important contributions from the following hitters:
- Brandon Crawford
- Angel Pagan
- Gregor Blanco
- Aubrey Huff
- Andres Torres
- Joe Panik
- Matt Duffy
- Marco Scutaro
- Juan Uribe
- Cody Ross
- Pat Burrell
- Melky Cabrera
- Michael Morse
- Jarrett Parker
There are others who are borderline cases, too. Now, a lot of those players also scuffled for extended periods. Some of them, like Huff, scuffled their way right out of the league. But I’m more interested in their unexpected contributions. If there’s a signature name up there, it’s Crawford, who was supposed to be Brendan Ryan, if we were lucky. He wasn’t supposed to hit 20 homers and win a Silver Slugger. Back in 2011, I legitimately would have predicted Brandon Belt stealing 50 bases before I predicted 20 homers for Crawford.
How much credit does Meulens get for that? Dunno. Just like I don’t know how much credit he gets for Joe Panik turning from a B- prospect into an All-Star. Just like I don’t know how many demerits he got for Matt Duffy’s slump this year, after getting the credits for his breakout last year.
It’s only fair to use bullet points for the other side, too. Let’s list the players who were spectacularly awful under Meulens’ watch.
- MIGUEL TEJADA
- AARON ROWAND
- ORLANDO CABRERA
- CASEY M
Wait, wait, wait, wait. You can’t just list the duds the front office acquired and imply the hitting coach is to blame. You have to list the players who failed with the Giants and then went on to succeed with another team. That would be at least a sliver of evidence that Meulens might be at fault. You can’t point to Tejada as a failure specific to the Giants’ hitting coach if no one else was able to fix him, either.
So the players who struggled with the Giants and then went on to find success elsewhere:
- Adam Duvall
- Brett Pill
That’s it. That’s the list. Look at every Giants player who’s taken an at-bat since 2010, minus the pitchers. The list runs 83 deep. Of those, 68 aren’t with the Giants anymore. Not one of them went somewhere else and found more success in the majors, with the exception of Duvall, who had 77 plate appearances with the team. He probably doesn’t count, considering he never really had a shot with the Giants. And Pill’s success is coming in Korea, which makes it hard to evaluate in a context like this. He might not have improved so much as the quality of competition suited him better.
Nate Schierholtz went elsewhere and didn’t do much. Same goes for Joaquin Arias and Nori Aoki. Brandon Hicks isn’t in the majors right now. Several players on the list couldn’t find jobs and retired.
This isn’t to say that Meulens is a hitting god, or that he’s beyond criticism. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t wonder if his approach is the opposite of what the 2016 Giants need. These are all valid questions. When a team doesn’t hit, it’s smart to be skeptical and critical.
But I’ll let the team figure the specifics out. They’re the ones who have more than a passing knowledge of what he’s doing, the suggestions he is or isn’t making. They’re the ones who can evaluate the approaches he’s foisting on struggling hitters. And considering how they stuck by Meulens in 2011, when it was very easy to make him a scapegoat, I’ll guess that they’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt during the dry spells.
We’ve talked about this here in the past, you know.
In defense of Hensley Meulens, embattled hitting coach
Huh. And the date on that?
Aug 14, 2014
Makes perfect sense. Toward the end of the Giants’ 2014 slump, there was a very vocal contingent of Giants fans calling for Meulens’ head. Their evidence was this: The Giants weren’t hitting. That’s as far as their proof extended, and it ignored all the goodwill he had built up on the previous seasons.
The 2014 Giants got better.
And in the following season, just about the only good thing they could do well was string hits together. At this time last year, no one was clamoring for Meulens to get fired. I honestly thought he was going to get hired away as a manager instead.
So whenever your favorite team struggles offensively, here’s a handy guide on how to react.
DO: Wonder if there’s something the hitting coach is or isn’t doing that would help the situation. Hope that the team is evaluating the hitting coach with a keen eye and the appropriate amount of skepticism.
DON’T: Scream "fire the hitting coach!" over and over and over again, as if the position is filled with battery-powered warlocks who can make magic happen until their batteries run out.
I get it. This isn’t a lot of fun right now. The Giants hitters keep screwing up. I, for one, would like it better if they didn’t screw up. But this is a pet peeve of mine. There’s nothing that puts knee-jerk ignorance on display more than "FIRE (coach)" opinions in the middle of a rough stretch.
We didn’t get a lot of them last year for Dave Righetti, remember. He’s ascended beyond those kinds of knee-jerk reactions, and for good reason. I don’t know if Meulens is on that tier yet, or if he’ll ever get there. But I’m pretty sure he deserves a heckuva lot more respect than he’s getting in the second half.