White Sox dismiss hitting coaches Todd Steverson and Greg Sparks

Rick Hahn was less direct than usual when asked about the future of the coaching staff during his last press conference of the regular season.

Today explains why.

The White Sox announced the dismissal of hitting coaches Todd Steverson and Greg Sparks. Steverson’s sounds like a firing (“agreed to part ways”), while Sparks just didn’t have his contract renewed, but the result is the same: The Sox will have their first new hitting coach(es) for the first time since 2014.

All other members of the coaching staff are expected to return.

The Steverson hiring was one of the few times the White Sox conducted an extensive external search, as the Sox hired him away from the Oakland Athletics in hopes that he could establish a top-down approach to developing hitters throughout the system, and maybe bringing over some of Oakland’s ability to draw walks.

Under Steverson’s tenure, the White Sox had individual success stories, and it’s a little odd to see him hit the bricks right after Tim Anderson won the batting title and Yoan Moncada finished third. The problem is that the breakout seasons — and you can include Avisaíl García’s All-Star season in 2017 — required maxed-out BABIPs, and few hitters in the lineup ever developed the offensive skills that stick to compensate. Steverson came into the organization preaching “selective aggression,” but the latter word overshadowed the former.

If you needed to sum up the case against Steverson in a table, here’s where the White Sox ranked in the American League in plate discipline and power during his tenure.

YearBB%K%ISO
201412th14th5th
201514th9thLast
201612th9th12th
201713th12th12th
201813thLast9th
2019Last14th14th


In Steverson’s defense, the White Sox bats were similarly flaccid during Jeff Manto’s time as hitting coach, as well as late in the Greg Walker era. The Sox probably aren’t good at identifying hitters who can reliably identify balls and strikes, giving hitting coaches little to work with.

That said, it’s worth plugging in a new coach at this point given the lack of organizational success just to see what happens. Scot Gregor identified Triple-A hitting coach Frank Menechino as the favorite, and while I’ve liked what I’ve heard from and about him, here’s hoping the Sox expand their search, even if Menechino is ultimately the guy they tab. Looking outside the organization wasn’t the problem here.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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dwjm3

I’d be more enthused if this headline read…White Sox decide to not retain Rick Hahn.

WBWSF

I’d be more enthused if the headline read… JR sells the White Sox. If he sold the team Hahn would be gone also.

Ted Mulvey

I understand the sentiment, believe me, but the Marlins seem like a good cautionary tale for those hoping ownership sells. You never know what or who you’ll get on the other side.

lil jimmy

I remember thinking the girlfriend had to go.
A month later, the new girlfriend was making rabbit stew when I got home….
Never saw my roommate again.
Moral to this story, Get the rent up front.

texag10

He left just because he doesn’t like rabbit? Good riddance.

Papa Giorgio

This is the most lil jimmy comment

As Cirensica

If the comparison choices are between the Marlins and the current White Sox, then we are kinda screwed.

asinwreck

Since Steverson’s charge included hitting instruction throughout the system, will the next MLB hitting coach also bring in new coaches in the minors?

This could be an opportunity to emulate the Dodgers and hire more analytically-informed hitting coaches. Maybe a Birmingham outfielder cracks a .700 OPS as a result.

karkovice squad

The Sox started down that road, and separated the MLB and MiLB roles more clearly, when they hired Lisle.

Along with just hiring different coaches, hopefully what they do is invest in building an actual development pipeline instead of what seems to be a bunch of different fiefdoms with their own lord.

soxfan4life

all im gonna say is…. ITS ABOUT FUCKING TIME FINALLY!!!! that is all

karkovice squad

It’s been… something…watching MLBTR post all the fired coach notices while Fangraphs has new analytics, database, and baseball R&D listings.

karkovice squad

…the real opportunity here is for the crazy entrepreneurial type to either set up a new facility or bring the high tech coaching infrastructure to an existing 1 in Chicago/the ‘burbs.

karkovice squad

Yeah but who wants to go to LaGrange? That’s practically Downers Grove.

lil jimmy

8 miles straight down Ogden.

TCBullfrog

Should I be worried that if they go with Menechino, they’re robbing Peter to pay Paul? I.E., is there going to be a void in Charlotte that they’ll have trouble filling?

ParisSox

No

texag10

Don’t you worry about filling Charlotte’s void

GoGoSoxFan

Well done ta.

Yolmer's gatorade

I’d like the Sox to incorporation more analytics throughout the organization, but I don’t know how you can hire a hitting coach without at least minor league baseball experience. It’s more having a couple of real data scientists on staff and incorporating their recommendations throughout the organization that seems worthwhile. The coaches still need to be former players to relate to the team I think and translate the data strategies into ballplayer talk.

karkovice squad

Pro experience is still more common than not but it’s not a necessity. Wallenbrock, who turned JD Martinez into JD Martinez, never played above college. Neither did Van Scoyoc, his former assistant, who is now the Dodgers’ hitting coach.

The Astros have been looking at guys who played college ball and got quantitative degrees. Their pitching coordinator, AAA pitching coach, AA pitching and hitting coaches, A+ pitching coach, and A hitting coach only played college ball.

The jargon and patter are the easy bits of knowledge to acquire. They’re also the cheapest forms of credibility.

Trooper Galactus

I swam competitively for almost 20 years, and some of the best swimming coaches I’d ever seen were never competitive swimmers themselves. They simply understood kinetics and technique and were able to apply that knowledge in a coaching environment. It’s not really any different for baseball at a base level, though I’m sure some players will be less receptive without the credentials of having been a former player.

Yolmer's gatorade

I’d watch out for Jim Thome though just thinking about the Sox. It would be a very White Sox move.

ParisSox

I really enjoyed this post. Then you go bringing me down.  We get so little good news, let’s appreciate this for a day before we are ultimately pounded back into submission / depression.  

texag10

It’d be a very Sox move I agree but, would it actually be a bad move? I honestly don’t know.

roke1960

If they go in-house, I would be ok with Thome or Big Frank. They both seem like great communicators and know a little bit about taking a walk and working the count.

Amar

It would have been a good move several years ago, so yes it would be a White Sox move to hire him now

egib52

I feel like there was an interview not to long ago and Jim said he didn’t think he wanted to get into coaching.

Trooper Galactus

It would be such a very White Sox thing indeed to say cutting down strikeouts is a primary goal then hiring a guy with over 2500 career strikeouts to be your hitting coach.

joseValentinsMustache

Is this saying Renteria won’t be fired?

joseValentinsMustache

I guess I was hoping beyond hope.