Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Cubs today signed former Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo to a three-year, $2.4 million deal. The contract makes Jaramillo the highest-paid coach in baseball, though free agent pitching coach Dave Duncan has a good chance to eclipse that.
I touted the possible signing of Jaramillo less than one week ago, so what's changed? It's mostly just one giant negative that jumped out at me: the Rangers finished 12th in the AL in OBP last season, and outside the top five in four of the previous five seasons. I am a huge proponent of OBP, and while I haven't read any quotes from Jaramillo regarding his thoughts on it, it doesn't seem to have been a focus for Rangers hitters while he served as hitting coach.
Jaramillo had been with the Rangers for 15 seasons, and in many other important ways, he had a great deal of success. According to the Tribune, the Rangers scored 800 runs or more in 13 straight seasons under Jaramillo, the longest streak in the majors since the Yankees accomplished it in 17 straight seasons from 1926-42. And no matter how much I value OBP, I recognize that scoring runs is ultimately what matters.
He is a good communicator, a disciplinarian, and a veteran of the game. He was the Astros hitting coach for four years in the early '90s and was one of the final two candidates in the Mets' 2004 managerial search (Willie Randolph got the job).
Here's the stat the impresses me the most: From 1996 through 2004, the Rangers ranked in the top five in the American League in batting average, runs scored, slugging percentage, home runs, and hits (per Wikipedia). But it pains me to notice that on-base percentage is nowhere to be seen on that list.
But look, there's no plethora of evidence that Cubs' former hitting coach Gerald Perry was a huge sabermatrician dedicated to the idea of getting on base, but the Cubs led the NL in that category in 2008. Then, still under Perry early in 2009, the Cubs couldn't draw a walk if you spotted 'em a 3-0 count.
Hitting coaches (and pitching coaches) get too much credit when things go well, and not enough credit when things go south. Given Jaramillo's solid reputation and generally positive results in Texas, it still seems like a good day for the Cubs. But I have to admit, I'm not at all happy to learn that the Rangers' offensive success over the last decade-and-a-half did not include a proclivity to getting on base.