Chicago is the latest team to join the trend of multiple hitting coaches, as the Cubs have hired Rob Deer to assist primary hitting coach James Rowson. Deer has been a hitting instructor in the Padres’ farm system and was teammates with Cubs manager Dale Sveum on the Brewers.
News of hitting and pitching coaches being hired is inevitably met with jokes about how that person wasn’t very good as a player and Deer is an easy target for that type of thinking (if you don’t believe me, just search his name on Twitter). He hit .220 during an 11-year career, led the league in strikeouts four times, and was the poster boy for all-or-nothing hitters in the 1980s.
Of course, those jokes conveniently ignore the fact that a) very few Hall of Fame-caliber players go into coaching when they retire, and b) most of the best, longest-tenured coaches across baseball had underwhelming playing careers.
In other words, the fact that Rob Deer hit .220 and struck out a ton means next to nothing about his coaching ability. If anything, Deer’s playing career was longer and better than the majority of hitting and pitching coaches. He smacked 230 homers and posted a .766 OPS that was solidly above average.
The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.
Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).
Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.