Apr 5, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola (39) before their game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Mottola Deserved Better


 

Apr 5, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola (39) before their game against the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Mottola deserved better than this.  The Toronto Blue Jays hitting coach former hitting coach, as previously reported by many Jays media outlets, was credited with fixing the likes of Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, Brett Lawrie, and Anthony Gose.  I’m sure his next major project would have been fixing J.P. Arencibia now that the stresses of the season were over.  That project was not meant to be however since the Blue Jay front office let Mottola go yesterday evening.  His predecessor, 1st Base Coach Dwayne Murphy, also retired from the team yesterday.

So why Mottola?  Why did the former #5 overall pick in the 1992 draft get canned?  Perhaps we should start with the team stats for this past season and compare them to the previous years of Murphy.  The Jays must have gotten worse offensively right?  Last season, with the bats under Murphy’s control, the Jays managed to score 716 runs.  So it had to have been awful right?  To fire a guy that was once considered the hitting guru of the organization, it had to be downright… umm… offensive… or not… right?

712 runs scored.  A -4 run difference.  That’s it?  There has to be a justification for this though.  The Blue Jays quietly improved by 1 game this season.  As we all know, that’s still only good enough for last place in the AL East.  Sure, it’s expected that heads were going to roll, but Chad Mottola?  He’s the guy that gets canned?

So if it’s not the run differential, what else could it be?  The Jays offense was sort of inconsistent and streaky, especially with runners in scoring position.  Was it that?  With about 40 more opportunities to drive in runs in 2013 (1234 ABs vs 1195 ABs), the Jays hit 4 less HRs (39 vs 43), 3 more RBIs (463 vs 460), batted .006 lower (.254 vs .260), and had an OBP .007 lower (.332 vs .339).  These aren’t exactly stats worth firing a batting coach over.  Maybe the most telling stat is the 43 double plays Toronto hit into this season with RISP, compared to the 30 from last season.  Unfortunately, it didn’t matter what month it was this season, the Blue Jays were 7th worst in all of baseball at grounding into the double play, with 133 this season.  That’s up by 24 GIDPs last season.  Still, that’s not exactly a stat that will get you fired after one season.

If you look below, even the numbers, while not fantastic, do not justify for Mottola’s dismissal.  While the HRs and RBIs were slightly down, the BAs and OBPs were higher than they have been in the last three years.  Total Bases was up from last season.  After a rough April, which saw the Blue Jays hit .231, Toronto responded by hitting .257 the rest of the season.  The batting numbers may have been higher too if Jose Reyes didn’t miss 43% of the season and somebody else could have played catcher besides Arencibia.

Another stat that doesn’t justify Mottola’s firing is that the Ks were actually DOWN.  At one point, this team had one of the worst strike out rates in baseball.  For four consecutive months (April-July), Jays hitters brought their strikeout rate down (April 217, May 198, June 175, July 164).  It did go up in the remaining two months, but out of 15 AL teams, the Jays were 4th LEAST in total team strikeouts!  No, you did not read that wrong.  4TH… LEAST.

So let the numbers speak for themselves.  Check out below and you be the judge.  I think more of the Blue Jay world would agree with me that the Blue Jays fired the wrong coach (I’m referring to Pete Walker, but that’s for another time).  All I have to say about Mottola is 1 name:  Adam Lind.  There are several others, but Mottola making Lind relevant again is the most telling as to why Mottola should have never been fired yesterday.

Chad Mottola
2013

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
Rank in 15 AL teams 11 8 9 8 5 4 9 12 10 8 7 9 7
Non-Pitcher Totals 162 5515 709 1396 272 24 185 668 508 1116 .253 .318 .412 .730 2271
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2013.
Dwayne Murphy
2012
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
Rank in 14 AL teams 12 7 11 12 10 5 9 5 11 13 8 9 9
Non-Pitcher Totals 162 5468 714 1344 247 22 198 677 473 1243 .246 .310 .408 .718 2229
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2013.

2011

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
Rank in 14 AL teams 6 5 9 7 4 5 4 4 10 8 6 6 7
Non-Pitcher Totals 162 5537 742 1382 285 34 186 702 524 1174 .250 .317 .414 .732 2293
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2013.

2010

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
Rank in 14 AL teams 8 6 10 2 9 1 9 4 10 12 1 3 2
Non-Pitcher Totals 162 5477 754 1362 318 21 257 731 470 1154 .249 .313 .455 .768 2493
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/8/2013.

 

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  • brad

    I’m not sure he deserved to be fired but there were big portions of the season that the offense under performed. Compared to last year they had better numbers but with the offense they have there’s no way they should be bottom half of the AL in every category that matters. I get there were injuries but that’s a part of the game and shouldn’t be an excuse for what was a below average offense.

    Credit him with resurgences from Rasmus and Lind(though a lot of that was simply not playing Lind against lefties), some signs of life from Lawrie and with EE, Bautista, Reyes and Rajai Davis performing as normal. But what about JP’s increase in incompetence(one of the worst offensive seasons in history)? What happened to the .270 hitting Izturis or the .265 hitting Bonifacio(who returned in KC)?

    2 players got better, 3 players got worse and the rest stayed about the same. Grounds for firing? Probably not. Is it heart breaking that he isn’t going to be the hitting coach next year? Again, probably not.

    • Justin Jay

      Well to be fair, Izturis’ career .270 avg is misleading. He’s been below that in 3 of the last 4 years and he is on the decline.

      Lind against RHP from 2011 to 2013: .236 (2011), .276 (2012), .309 (2013). His 2012 number is high because he batted .301 in the 2nd Half, after his work with Mottola.

      The numbers that mattered were low, they have been low, but they were improving. I think he deserved another season. More so than Pete Walker. But your points are very valid!

      • brad

        The numbers were improving but so did the roster. 7 points on the average, 4 points on the slugging and 8 on the OBP can almost be solely attributed to a half season of Reyes. Add in 30 more doubles, 13 fewer homers and 5 less runs and I don’t see anything that screams “the batting coach is helping”

        As far a Lind goes, point taken. No doubt Mottola deserves a lot of credit for the way Lind has “come back”(I still don’t buy that he is anything more than a platoon player) but a ton of his average increase came from sitting vs lefties…whom he should never be allowed to hit against.

        I disagree about Izturis though. When they picked him up(before any Jays hitting coach got their hands on him) he had only 1 time in his career played 100 games and hit under .275 and hadn’t had a sub .320 OBP in any season since he was 24. Even just looking at 2012 which was a)sub par for him and b) not yet a trend, he lost 20 points on the average and 32 on the OBP

        If it were me, Mottola would still be around and pete walker would be gone but I’m not too broken up about it

        • Justin Jay

          Izturis is a sub-par defensive player and Games Played might not be as good an indicator as ABs. 2007 he played in 23 more games, but had only 46 more ABs. That’s 20 pts. He would have needed to have gone 20-46 to rectify that. Unlikely. So then I looked at Games Started and from 2010-2013, he had 2 years over .275 with slightly more plate appearances than the 2 years where he was below .250. His career as a pinch hitter is atrocious, so just by leaving that out, from 2011, he’s been on a decline (.285 ’11, .277 ’12, .234 ’13… .248 in 2010). I will give you that his OBP remains relatively strong considering, but not enough to overcome his hindrance as a defender (negative dWAR in each of the last 3 years). The point is if the player is on decline, there’s only so much Mottola can do. The guys he did fix, produced… and Lind had more success this season against left-handed pitching than in the past… however, I agree that he get the David Ortiz treatment and ride pine while lefties are in the ball game

          Yea, there are better, more experienced hitting coaches out there than Mottola, which is reason enough to not be too upset… but I just don’t know how the Jays can justify KEEPING Walker, and then let go of Mottola.

          • brad

            You’re absolutely right but if you credit the hitting coach with players who get better(who could be on their own natural upswing) you also need to give some blame for those who get worse(who could be on the decline).

            What really gets me is that I think he was the second or third best coach on the staff(next to Hentgen and maybe Hale). he didn’t preside over the most lackluster component of the team and did what I deem a reasonably good job. Not the greatest hitting coach in the league but a bit above average with a lot of room to grow. He wasn’t great at preparing hitters mentally for an at bat but he was a magician with swing mechanics. All they needed was to bring in a manager who knows about hitting(not to sound like one of those people who say “bring Cito back” every five seconds…. but much like Cito) to help prepare players for ABs(and show the reasonably green hitting coach how to do so) and the offence would have been fine

          • Justin Jay

            I completely agree with the mentally unprepared ABs. It seems like there were periods where there was a game plan for ABs, but much like the offense, it was inconsistent. I think you may be onto something with the lack of mental preparation before ABs, which could explain some of the struggles. Honestly though, it looked like Bonifacio looked confused. It looked like JPA tried so many different things, it screwed him up before an AB.

            As far as manager goes, while I’m not sold on Gibbons, he was solid as a field general. As far as what his specialty is (like Farrell was pitching), I don’t really know. If it’s catching, that knowledge certainly didn’t benefit ANY of the guys the Jays used this season. Teams ran at will, especially against Dickey for obvious reasons. So a “hitter’s” coach, yea… I’m for that. But as you and I talked about… hitting wasn’t the MAJOR problem. Pete Walker still exists and I can’t fathom why.

            Izturis’ bat just looked slow to me and looking at Brooks Baseball, it actually says pitchers attacked him much more with offspeed pitches. As a hitter, I can only think of 2 reasons why a pitcher would do this. Either, the stats show he’s having difficulty picking up the pitch, or, because of a decrease in bat speed, he overcompensates, and is often way out in front of the pitch. The latter didn’t seem to be the case though according to the data. It looks like he’s having difficulty handling offspeed pitches. His Raw Pitch Count numbers combined with Whiff % shows he often gets out via offspeed pitches… and pitchers now throw 1 offspeed pitch for every 2 fastballs. That’s down from the almost 1:3 ratio he use to see, and that’s because he handled the fastball pretty well when he saw it. The data also shows that Izturis was out an awful lot via the groundball, which was induced through offspeed pitches.

          • brad

            Interesting stats on Izturis. I just don’t get how a guy can suddenly become incompetent at hitting the breaking ball. I don’t think his bat looked “slow” necissarily but he was late on a lot of fastballs and I wonder if he was overcompensating for that. It seemed like he was having trouble recognizing pitches quickly so he started his swing late and swung harder…. topping the ball a lot. His walks were down too which speaks to the mental approach. A smart hitter adjusts to the increase in breaking balls and finds a way to lay off and wait for(and recognize) the pitch he wants

          • Justin Jay

            It’s not really being incompetent as much as just not being able to pick it up right. A lack of confidence while struggling can screw up a hitter. When you struggle, you start to guess, in ways that may not even make sense. That could explain the inability to recognize pitches.

  • Punji Panicker

    Not sure how you using year to year stats with different players. The comparisons should be limited to current players on the team between the murphy Mottola era. A summary is useless.

    • Justin Jay

      The majority of the players are the same