The Cincinnati Reds have hired Jay Bell away from the Pirates to be their bench coach, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Sources: #Reds to hire #Pirates hitting coach Jay Bell as bench coach.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 12, 2013
Bell was the Pirates’ hitting coach in 2013, his first year on the job. I was going to mention how he seemed to have struggled on the job, but after looking at the numbers the Pirates showed some improvements in 2013. Here is a look at the 2012/2013 numbers.
Stat – 2012 Ranking / 2013 Ranking
OPS – 25th / 17th
wOBA – 25th / 16th
wRC+ – 26th / 13th
Some of that could have been due to Starling Marte being on the team the entire season. They also had Jordy Mercer at shortstop for half a year, which was an improvement over Clint Barmes for the entire 2012 season. There were some players who struggled, most notably Travis Snider, Garrett Jones, and Jose Tabata up until the last two months of the season.
It’s hard to quantify the value of a hitting coach. You can’t tell if the improvements from 2012 to 2013 were due to Bell, or due to the players. It’s easier to give credit to pitching coaches, because we hear more about certain adjustments that were made. Of course it’s also easy to see the impact of the pitching coaches since they’ve turned around so many struggling pitchers. That can’t just be a coincidence. I was ready to say that Bell isn’t really a loss, but the Pirates did improve under him. That said, I don’t think the loss of Bell would be the same as the loss of one of the pitching coaches, and it definitely isn’t as bad as potentially losing Ray Searage. The Pirates did improve in 2013, but they were still an average offense at best.
As for a replacement, Jeff Branson served as the assistant hitting coach. You would think he is the favorite for the job, but the Pirates might not necessarily go in that direction.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Evaluating the affect of a hitting coach is a step into the unknowable. I guess if another team wants Jay Bell that is a sign he has some value, although in a different role.
Tim, one quibble on the 2012, 2013 comparisons are you using the Non-pitcher numbers, because I found at least for wRC+ the Pirates went from 98 (19th) to 106 (10th) this year. The Pirates have historically terrible hitting/offensive pitchers. Again, it is an equivocation, effect is the same, the Pirates got better.
If we see Votto trying to bunt a runner to 3rd with no outs, then we will know that Bell has had an influence on the Reds’ approach to the game.
The Reds obviously subscribe to the “If you can’t beat ’em, steal from them” theory. Glad it’s Bell and not Searage. Maybe Bell can teach Votto to swing at more pitches outside the strike zone to avoid all of those awful walks. Though I guess with Dusty gone, that might not matter anymore.
Addition by subtraction.
Don’t forget Neal Walker under the heading “those who struggled.” As a starter, he is more important than the other three.
Love to try to get Charlie Manuel hailed as a hitting coach plus free agents might wanna come here for him
Russell Martin at catcher and a better bench helps those numbers too.
Really, Alvarez is the only key player who had a better year than last. Everybody else either stayed the same or regressed. Guys who are still on the up side of their careers and should be improving with more experieexperience.
Alvarez OPS dropped .016 with Bell. He more or less treaded water. While he hit more HR’s, his doubles really decreased and he became more all or nothing than he already was.
Agreed about Pedro, so the only players that did much better in 2013 than 2012 were Marte and 2 part timers, Tabata and Gaby. Yes, Jordy did better than Barmes, but that was only in half a season. And Martin was a huge upgrade at C and we got a month of Byrd. But it seems impossible that these mostly part time improvements would more than offset Jones’ freefall and Cutch regression back to merely superhuman status. It seems like it should be more of a wash, with maybe the slightest of improvments.
Did the league’s numbers take a significant step backwards this year to elevate the Bucs in the rankings?
What was more unexpected this week: That someone would want Llyod McClendon to be their manager or someone would steal Jay Bell from the Pirates?? The off-season is always full of bizarre things!!