After letting both hitting coach Jeff Branson and assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey go, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set to begin their interview process.
The Pirates let go Jeff Branson earlier this offseason after five years as the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the search for who to replace him is underway. The first name to surface was an obvious candidate in Red Sox assistant hitting coach Andy Barkett. Enrique Rojas of ESPN has reported that both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers are going to interview Barkett for their opening:
Barkett served as an assistant minor league hitting coordinator in 2016 and was the club’s Triple-A manager in 2017 before Alex Cora and the Red Sox hired the now 44-year-old as their assistant hitting coach. The front office has familiarity with the players, but so do some of the younger hitters that have been called up either last year or are on the cusp.
But, in today’s age of “launch angle” and hitting for power, there might be some concern over that, and that’s something Branson struggled with. Simply, launch angle describes contact and not the swing, it’s a measurement of where the ball comes off the bat. To get to that point, it’s about the attack angle, the way the swing creates loft. It’s commonly talked about, mainly in “the players bat path is flat” or something similar, but getting an optimal attack angle is about the swing and an optimal launch angle is about the contact itself. Similar language as the years go by, just different terms.
Why this might be a concern, is because not only did Branson struggle with it, apparently so does Barkett. Alex Stumpf found this quote when discussing potential replacements, Chris Smith of MassLive quoted Barkett saying,
"” think Alex was looking for a diverse coaching staff; guys who have a way with people,” Barkett said. “I can’t give you a dissertation on launch angle and exit velocity. My strengths would be more relationships.”"
But relationships matter, there is an importance there. He might not know how to describe launch angle and exit velocity, but knowing what a player’s goal is might allow Barkett to help communicate a way to generate a more optimal attack angle, or bat path. Or, perhaps, Barkett learned from the Red Sox hitting coach, as Smith continued to write,
"“Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers, meanwhile, could give a dissertation on launch angle and exit velocity.”"
Barkett has likely learned some things over his year as an assistant hitting coach with the Sox that could be valuable as the top hitting coach, if not the Pirates could always look to find a more analytically driven assistant. For now, Barkett is the first name mentioned around the opening, and given his past with the organization, it makes sense.