Let’s talk about the St. Louis Cardinals’ offense – or lack thereof. I ran across a very interesting newspaper article just this morning that dug into whether the team’s power has decreased because of John Mabry, and it got the juices flowing. I started wrestling with my thoughts. Mabry’s a great hitting coach. In 2005, I had a chance to work with him when he was still a player. He taught me more about taking good at-bats in the big leagues than anybody else who was on that team.
Now, have a look at Mark McGwire. He’s a player that I grew up around. He’s also a player that I used to fly out and see in the offseason. He’s one of the best hitting coaches that I’ve ever worked with. John Mabry? Great hitter, but the most home runs he ever hit during the course of a season was 13.
McGwire had seasons in which he slammed 70 home runs, over 60 home runs, over 40 home runs. He’s a legitimate home-run hitter; the 583 career bombs prove it. How could he not be better at teaching someone how to hit a home run? Every time he went up there, he had the perfect approach to get the right pitch and muscle it out of the ballpark. Sure, Mabry hit .300 before. But is there a real difference between these two hitting coaches, even though they say they’re on the same page? I did a little research and probed stats so that you can make your own decision on who’s the better hitting coach.
Let’s pit 2012, McGwire’s last year, vs. 2013, Mabry’s first season on the job. I picked out a few hitters: Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, David Freese and Carlos Beltran. In 2012, Molina came out with the most home runs he has ever hit, popping 22 of them with McGwire as his coach. The next year, when Mabry took over, Molina slipped to 12. Holliday ripped 27 home runs in 2012. 2013 brought only 22. Craig went out there and belted 22 home runs in 2012, only to drop to 13 last year. Freese banged 20 before falling to nine. Finally, Beltran went from hitting 30-plus jacks for the first time since 2007 to barely scraping 20.
Holy smokes. Sense a theme here? The numbers don’t lie: McGwire did have more of an impact in terms of teaching these players how to hit home runs. There’s nothing wrong with what John Mabry does. He has a good approach, and he teaches these hitters how to have a good approach. Last year, they were driving in runs like no team in baseball has ever done. They got a guy in scoring position, and they came through with that big hit. They were really good at driving the ball the other way.
If you’re wondering why this team is not hitting home runs, though, there’s nothing wrong with looking at the fact that McGwire – one of the best home-run hitters in history – is no longer your hitting coach. He taught these guys how to look for the right pitch, up in the zone or out over the plate, which they could drive with authority. Everyone believed in him. He was strong mentally, and got you prepared to drive one out of the yard.
Make your own decision. But if I have to pick between the two, the choice is clear. I’ve got to go with Mark McGwire. After all, who better to trust if you’re trying to learn how to hit homers?