Fair warning was given on this, but new White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto will not be handing out miniature run-expectancy matrices for everyone to put in their wallet.
He doesn’t believe in getting on base above all, and accordingly, doesn’t believe in taking a walk just because it’s there and adds to the possibility of more runs in the inning.
And if that wasn’t clear from the research Jim dug up in the link above, Manto was on 670 AM the Score’s “Mully and Hanley Show” to hammer it home.
“Do we want Adam Dunn taking a ball (when it is) off the plate with a man on third and the infield back and you got (Justin) Verlander throwing and he walks him? I don’t know,” Manto said.
“What happens is that you set up the double play. If you (hit) into a double play, you get out of the inning. We give high five for taking the walk, but we have arguably the most prolific left-handed hitter in the game at the plate. He can drive that run in.”
Ignoring the literal interpretation of “Jeff Manto wants Adam Dunn to chase out of the zone against Justin Verlander”, which is admittedly, uh, confounding, Manto is talking about situational hitting.
Specifically, he’s discussing plating sure runs–single runs–which is not exactly something the White Sox were un-terrible at in 2011. The Rays were the only AL squad more inept at scoring runners from 3rd with less than 2 outs. White Sox batters being aware of circumstantial responsibilities wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Things get into more reprehensible territory when Manto stresses contact over any other results for the Chicago Weak Contact All-Stars (Sox were dead last in baseball in batting average with balls in play in 2011), and shuns increased run expectancy out of fear of the worst possible result.
Perhaps Manto is just reiterating typical hitting coach aggression talk, and preaching that his guys should be attacking rather than passive. It’s likely you could get similar bizarre example scenarios from hitting coaches across the league in the name of the larger good of confident, assertive hitters.
But you’ll hear the same thing from pitching coaches and pitchers too, “Attack the hitters”, or even “just throw strikes”. As sure as Ron Washington is breathing, players are pitched around, but to suggest that control problems are the ploy of duplicitous, entrapping pitchers doesn’t compute. Everyone forces the issue, on both sides.
More than anything, if runners on 1st and 3rd registers to the White Sox as a double-play trap, and not a big inning opportunity, then it’s not being very aggressive at all. “The pitcher’s in trouble, not you”, is also a mantra for a reason.
If there’s a ray of hope to be had, it comes a few minutes earlier in the interview:
“The beautiful thing about being a hitting coach is that at any time if it’s 12 guys on the team or 13 guys on the team, is that you have 13 different approaches, and that’s a blast working with that. From Beckham to Dunn, we’re looking for different pitches in different counts depending on who’s hitting and who’s pitching.”
Manto isn’t installing a universal doctrine–other than grindiness, I suppose–he’s a consultant, working on a case-by-case basis. Because he’s the hitting coach, and if he were responsible for revamping the team’s offense in his own image, the White Sox wouldn’t have just cheaped out and promoted the roving Minor League hitting instructor for the job.
Or at least I’d like to hope.