Pat over at Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke? links us to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profile of Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth. In case you haven't been paying attention (and why would you? The Pirates stink) McLouth is having a pretty darn good start to his season, leading all major league center fielders in OPS and tater tots. Most importantly, he's being patient at the plate, a quality he's embodied since playing wiffle ball with his paw at the age of four:
"Nate would take pitches," the elder McLouth said. "Honestly, if he didn't like what I threw, he wouldn't even budge." This might best explain why nobody, not Nate McLouth's family, not his high school coach, not any of his professional instructors, including those currently with the Pirates, can lay claim to that patient, sweet-swinging style that has made him one of the more compelling story lines early in this Major League Baseball season. As Pirates hitting coach Don Long put it, "That approach he has, that's not something you teach."
Sounds like you're not doing your goddamned job, Don! Shouldn't you be trying to teach the hitters to take some consarned pitches every now and then and LEARN how to wait for the best pitch to hit? You're the HITTING COACH, not the "sit back and let the players' natural abilities take over" coach. Did my calculus teacher in high school say "That ability to integrate functions he has, that's not something you teach"? No, he didn't.
Take, for example, Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell. He used to hack away at every pitch he saw, striking out a total of 162 times against just 70 walks in 2001. Fast forward to 2007 where he struck out 120 times while collecting a whopping 114 walks, while raising his OPS+ from 110 to 127. In 2001, he saw 4.03 pitches per plate appearance; in 2007, he saw 4.22. Somebody had to teach him to take some pitches.
Maybe the Pirates should just hire Nate McLouth's pop and give every player those big red bats for a day or two.