The Giants offense has been a disaster this year. They are, by every bit of evidence both traditional (R, R/G, AVG) and sabermetric (wRC+, OPS+, OBP, SLG), the worst offense in the majors; the outfield has been an unequivocal disaster, every infielder is underperforming at the plate, the bench has been unstoppable today at avoiding hits, and as a whole this team is hitting much worse than the atrocious 2011 Giants offense, which at the time was the worst Giants offense in a generation.
It’s time for the front office to address these issues, and the best way to do that is to fire hitting coach Hensley Meulens, thus creating the illusion of making big changes without actually fundamentally altering anything about the team.
It’s not that I want Meulens to go. After all, he was the hitting coach for all three World Series teams, he speaks like four hundred languages, and he is from all accounts very well respected around baseball. But he is also the team’s hitting coach, and 60% of the hitting coach’s job is to be fired when a team isn’t hitting well so that people around the organization can use terms like “change the culture” and “just needed to shake things up” without really doing either of those things.
The time has come for wholesale offensive changes in San Francisco. The problem is that wholesale changes are very hard to do in the middle of a season; they look suspiciously like giving up, which means the team makes less money, and it turns out that people who own businesses, when forced to choose between making an amount of money and making less money, tend to choose the former. So since the team has to do something, and that something cannot include getting rid of many of the players who have gotten the team into trouble, then the thing that is left is getting rid of some of the coaches.
So what’s a front office to do? Should they publicly admit their own very large part in the failures of this team? Should they cop to having assembled a group of sub-replacement level hitters who were flashes in the pan or past their prime? Should they confess that they made bad bets in the outfield, didn’t assemble enough depth behind the bad bets, and didn’t give anyone other than Gorkys Hernandez enough time to work their way out of slumps? Or should they implicitly blame it all on one guy and hope that the team gets hot for a little while and then they can look a little bit better?
“But,” some of you are asking, “Would it really be scapegoating?” After all, the literal job of a hitting coach is to make hitters good, and since the Giants hitters are unequivocally not good at the moment, it would seem that at some level, a change could be helpful. Royals Review actually looked at the question of firing their hitting coach about a month ago, and what they found was that while the firings do generally precede hitting improvements, the improvements mostly come from regression, so it probably doesn’t help a whole lot. Back in 2013, the Nationals fired their hitting coach and when the Washington Post asked the team about it, the hitters mostly took responsibility for that team’s poor performance and said that the new coach wasn’t likely to be substantially different from the old one. Grant talked about why firing Meulens would be a bad idea last year, and really not that much has changed since then.
So as a practical measure, no, getting rid of Hensley Meulens will not change anything for the better. As a way to provide cover to a front office that has assembled a collection of hitters incapable of hitting the broad side of a paper bag if they fell out of a boat, maybe it would help for a little while. As a way to appease KNBR callers, the most rational and far thinking of sports fans, it would lead to several days of celebration before the slumps continue and the callers think, “Hey, wait a minute.” So is it time to symbolically lay the sins of the offense on Hensley Meulens and send him off into the wilderness despite the complete lack of evidence that this will lead to any positive results? Well, the team as a whole isn’t good enough, and sometimes that can be enough reason, even if it’s really no reason at all.