What do Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, Dan Uggla, Gaby Sanchez, and Josh Willingham all have in common? These five players finished the 2010 Major League Baseball (MLB) season in the top 60 of wOBA (an advanced on-base percentage-esque statistic). They also all spent significant time (at least two years) in the Florida Marlins organization between the years of 2005 and 2010 when Jim Presley, the new Orioles hitting coach, presided over the Florida Marlins bats.
At first glance, the hire of Jim Presley seems to be exactly what the Orioles hitters need. Presley is given credit with developing top, young prospects Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera. Former Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley did not seem capable of this and was blamed for the lack of offensive development of top prospects Matt Wieters and Adam Jones. However, a closer look at Presley’s history with the Marlins does not reveal such a bright picture. First, there is just as much anecdotal evidence of Presley failing to develop top prospects as there is evidence of Presley developing them. Former uber-prospect, now post-hype sleeper, Cameron Maybin struggled mightily with the Marlins posting an anemic .246/.313/.388 (BA/OBP/SLG) over three seasons under Presley’s direction. Maybin’s inability to perform recently earned him a trade to the San Diego Padres. Furthermore, Presley’s hitters seem to struggle in the very areas that are plaguing Adam Jones and Matt Wieters.
In 2010, Adam Jones severely regressed after his breakout 2009 MLB season. Jones’ regression was due to a severe lack of plate discipline. In 2010, Jones’ swung at a whopping 40.6% of pitches outside the strike zone. Jones’ 40.6% is juxtaposed to a major league average of swinging at 29.0% outside of the strike zone. Also, Jones swung and missed at pitches (regardless of location) at a rate more than 1.5 times (13.2%) the league average (8.0%). During his 6 seasons in Florida, Presley’s hitters struggled in the same areas as Jones did in 2010. The Marlins finished in the top 6 in swing and miss percentage every year Presley was in Florida. They also finished in the top half of the league in pitches swung at outside of the strike zone, in 5 of the 6 years Presley was hitting coach.
After a strong September in 2009, Matt Wieters also struggled in the 2010 MLB season. Wieters did not share Jones’ lack of plate discipline; instead Wieters struggled in 2010 due to an average GB/FB ratio. Scouts projected Wieters to be a power hitter who could also hit for an elite batting average. Instead, in 2010 Wieters posted a league average 1.20 GB/FB ratio. Wieters lack of speed exacerbated this issue. He could not turn many ground balls into hits with his legs. Unfortunately, during Presley’s years in Florida his hitters had a mixed bag of GB/FB results. In three recent seasons (2007-2009), Florida finished among the best in the league (top 10) in GB/FB. However, in Presley’s three other seasons, the Marlins hitters posted a GB/FB that was at, or worse than, the league average.
Overall, I am less concerned with Wieters development than Jones’, but I don’t think the hire of Presley is a good match for either hitter. Weiters swing can be tweaked to prevent him from rolling over as many pitches resulting in fewer groundballs, but Jones doesn’t have any approach at the plate. He regularly works himself in 0-2 counts where he has little chance of success. There is no reason to expect Jim Presley to address Jones’ issues. Their weaknesses overlap entirely. Ugh, why can’t we just promote Nick Markakis to player/hitting coach.
Check out part one of Ross Gore’s analysis of the Orioles coaching staff by the numbers where he looks at pitching coach Mark Connor.