Coming off a disappointing 74-88 season, the Blue Jays are making some changes to their coaching staff.
The team announced this evening that hitting coach Chad Mottola and first base coach Dwayne Murphy will not be back next season. Murphy, who has been with the team since 2008 and also served as hitting coach from 2010-2012, is retiring as a major league coach.
Mottola was a first-time hitting coach in 2013 under John Gibbons. The Blue Jays finished eighth in the AL with 712 runs scored and ninth with a .729 OPS, which isn’t too far off from where they were last season. Ultimately, injuries and underperformance in the starting rotation were the biggest factors for them being unable to meet the billing as preseason favorites.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.