Pittsburgh Pirates Hire Rick Eckstein As New Hitting Coach

CLEVELAND - JUNE 13: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals is consoled by batting coach Rick Eckstein #14 while sitting in the dugout after being pulled from the game against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND - JUNE 13: Stephen Strasburg #37 of the Washington Nationals is consoled by batting coach Rick Eckstein #14 while sitting in the dugout after being pulled from the game against the Cleveland Indians on June 13, 2010 at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates have a new hitting coach

After the Pittsburgh Pirates struggled offensively in both 2017 and 2018, it was obvious the team needed a change in coaching. Especially following the 2018 season in which a poor offense squandered a postseason quality pitching staff, and cost the Pirates a postseason berth.

This led to hitting coach Jeff Branson and assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey being fired on October 1st. On Friday, the Bucs hired their new hitting coach. A month and day after dismissing Branson and Livesey, the team announced the hiring of new hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

The 45-year-old Eckstein spent the past two seasons as the Minnesota Twins’ Minor League hitting coordinator. This came after spending the previous two seasons as the hitting coach at the University of Kentucky. Eckstein has also worked as a scout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and served as the Washington Nationals hitting coach for five seasons from 2009 – 2013.

When Eckstein was fired by the Nationals following the 2013 season, it caught then Nats’ manager Davey Johnson off guard. In fact, Johnson asked Washington GM Mike Rizzo to relieve him of his duties instead of Eckstein. Johnson called the decision “shocking” and said it was one of the most difficult days of his baseball career.

This reaction by Johnson speaks volumes about the coach and baseball mind that Eckstein is. Johnson is one of the most successful and respected managers in MLB history. So, having his stamp of approval says a lot.

Eckstein brings a player centered approach to coaching. As you can read here, he believes in allowing hitters to use their natural talents to dictate their approach at the plate. From their, Eckstein helps them work to perfect this approach.

Due to this, Eckstein is not a believer in a team having a set hitting style or philosophy. Furthermore, Eckstein is a pro-analytics coach. He uses the numbers to analyze hitting to help his players improve, however, he is not concerned with bogging his players’ minds down with these numbers. All of this is covered in the article linked above.

All of this sounds like a great breath of fresh air from Branson and Livesey.

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Eckstein is the older brother of former MLB shortstop, and 2006 World Series MVP, David Eckstein. It will be worthwhile watching if elder Eckstein looks to attempt to add his younger brother, who was a well respected player during his career, to the Pirates’ coaching staff.