The influence of a hitting coach on Major League hitters is difficult to measure. At least it is for us at RumBunter. With Jay Bell heading to Cincy to be the Reds bench coach, the Pirates have an opening to fill. The hitting coach that we would hire to replace Jay Bell would be Mike Pagliarulo.
Of course, that would be a difficult selection because Jeff Branson was the assistant hitting coach with the Bucs. Branson was replaced at Triple-A Indianapolis last season by Pags.
The big question is the Triple-A job more important than the backup Major League hitting coach? We think it is. Especially the way Pags thinks about the game of baseball (all below.)
Branson’s resume includes the following from the Indians website:
"Under Branson’s guidance, Matt Hague led the International League in hits with 165 in 2011 … In 2010, Indians outfielder Brandon Moss became the first Indians’ batter since 1978 to lead his league in RBI with 96 … Indians hitters in 2010 led the Pirates system in home runs with 118 as well as walks at 544 … In 2009 the Indians hit a franchise-record 119 home runs"
In looking at the performance of the Indianapolis hitters under Pagliarulo in 2013, the OPS, slugging and homeruns increased from 2012. (All without Starling Marte and no true super prospects for most of the season.) The OPS increased five points, the slugging percentage four points, and the homers increased by 14. Tony Sanchez hit ten bombs before heading to the big leagues. Andrew Lambo hit 18 homers for Indy before he spent the majority of the late season with the pennant chasing Bucs.
Before last season, we had heard of Pagliarulo, but didn’t realize he would be so interesting, we mean really damn interesting…. here is what we dug up when the Bucs announced him as the new hire for Indy.
Pagliarulo played third base in the 80’s and 90’s. He was a sixth round pick in the 1981 draft. Pags made it to the bigs in 1984 and spent five years with the Yankees, hitting some serious bombs in fact leading the team with 32 in 1987.
The third baseman spent some time with the Padres and won a World Series championship with the Twins in 1991.
When the strike shortened the 1994 season, Pagliarulo played for the Seibu Lions in the Japan. He signed with the Rangers and retired after the 1995 season with 134 big league bombs.
After baseball, Pagliarulo opened BaseLine Group which included BaseLine Report where he wrote interesting blog posts like this one which was an open letter to the Devil Rays.
So just how did Mike Pagliarulo come into the picture? That’s where it gets interesting.
One of ‘Pags’ associates at Baseline Group was Bill Livesey–yeh, you might recall that name. Livesey was hired as a Senior Advisor to the General Manager for Bob Nuttings’ Buccos. Livesey was called an old (emphasis was mine) school super scout.
Can Pagliarulo provide some expertise in player evaluation as he discussed in this incredibly interesting BP interview:
"All I know is that the weakest aspect of major league baseball is player evaluation. That is clear by the millions of lost dollars within the industry each year"
We watched Pags do some work during Spring Training this year. It was amazing to see. He is into the game, big time. We watched for twenty minutes while he tried to fix Clint Robinson. Yeh, this was a difficult task.
In the two days before this picture was taken, Robinson had struck-out four times. Robinson’s body language was really bad, but it was interesting to see watch the coach build him up. Of course, right on script, Robinson went out and had himself a day at the plate. (Those were rare in 2013 ST for him)
Here is the bottom line:
The Triple-A job is going to be an important one, so the Bucs may choose to keep Pags in place.
They could promote the Double-A coach to Triple-A and bump Pags to the assistant job.
If we were making the decision, we like Pagliarulo for the following reasons.
1. Personality while instructing. No way I can describe it here, but when you get an opportunity, check it out. Very cool stuff to see.
2. Success in 2013 as a new voice while generating improvements with current players that are important to the Pirates future success. I’m speaking about controllable players like Lambo and Sanchez specifically.
3. Proven history as a player in the show. For some reason, we buy into this as being important for a ball coach.
4. He’s an intense coach with the ability to command a batting cage like Clint Hurdle commands a room as shown in the bad picture we took below.
So there’s our decision making process, who do you want for the job?