Last week, the Giants released a three-part series on their YouTube channel featuring their new bench coach, Kai Correa. All things considered, that series might be the most we see of him in 2020.
Back in December, we took a look at his background to figure out why the Giants elevated, essentially, a fundamentals and infield coach to a major league manager’s primary lieutenant. Here was an interview he gave while serving as the infield coach for Cleveland’s AZL team:
Major League Baseball is El Dorado. It’s the Golden City. And so, if you want to go to El Dorado, it makes sense that you surround young guys with guys who’ve been to El Dorado. “Hey, tell me about how clean the streets are. Tell me how much gold there is. And jewelry. And the spoils. So, those stories, and their little anecdotes are what help guide a young guy get to that city.
But as player development has evolved and as organizations become forward-thinking, they’ve realized that they needed a merger of the content and the numbers and the science and those stories. Both are incredibly valuable. So those guys [on a typical major league staff], collectively, were really, really experienced and good at navigating that journey to El Dorado, right? And having those one-on-one interactions and putting their arm around a guy or kicking a guy in the butt, and providing small anecdotes and small details; and my roll was to add and assist in kind of programmatic, systematic development programs for the youngest guys — the guys who are most comparable in age to the levels I’ve coached at to establish good routines.
Bench coaches are essentially information hubs, with scouting data and player feedback flowing from the front office and the clubhouse to the coaching staff — and vice versa. They need to be well-versed in all facets of the game and a team’s personnel. They’re the manager’s second in command.
The “modern” bench coach has a lot more data to manage and receives a lot more input from the front office than those of the past — or maybe not. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the institutional memory of major league organizations. What I can say is that Correa looks like an athlete but talks like a “quant”, which is exactly what the people who are quants and don’t look like athletes desperately need in order to convey their messages and best practices to the organizations.
Analytics can only coach up the assets to create surplus value if they’re clearly communicated and instructed. The medium is the message, and Kai Correa might be the perfect avatar for a modern front office.
But that’s the cynical side. The fun side of all this — and our unfortunate quarantine situation — is that the Giants have given away a valuable commodity: data. From the comfort of our own shelters, we can learn — while sheltering in place — how to field like major league second basemen. Do you think you can pick up on this Hand Activation drill faster than Austin Slater?
Correa’s communicaton skills are apparent very quickly. He’s very detailed in what he says, and he says a lot. Perhaps too much, but all in the interest of leaving nothing out and nothing to chance. He repeats a lot of phrases but constantly adds new ones into the mix, too. I can recognize a kindred spirit — an oversharer or constant communicator. Data by volume. Quality for sure, but much more quantity.
Slater, one thing I’m noticing with you: you’re having a hard time seeing that decision between one and two. So, one way to think about is the trajectory, right? You’re going to mirror the trajectory of the ball. So, if you see it high, then you’ve got to reach out to go one. If you see it low, then you know you can get it at two.
I’m going to take the five remaining dollars in my bank account and bet that no Giant bench coach prior to the calendar year 2020 had ever used the word “trajectory” while running an infield instruct.
Here he is drilling on foot work and how important it is to quickly setup double play turns. He conveys a lot of information in a short amount of time because he talks so fast. Sometimes we forget how much of a motor these pro athletes tend to have, and for as leisurely paced as the game might be, for three hours a night, guys are living in each moment like it’s the first blast of a sugar rush.
The final part of the series prepares you (and Chris Shaw and Austin Slater and Darin Ruf) to replace Brandon Belt at first base.
It’s hard to know how much of the constant fire hose of information blasted by Correa at the players will actually stick, but the drills do seem setup to provide constant nonverbal reinforcement of the ideas espoused.
If you practice these drills for the month of April, I’m confident you will be able to take the field for the San Francisco Giants whenever it’s safe to go outside again.