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Jeff Pentland Speaks

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And at some length, too. I don't recall Don Baylor ever doing this. Anyway, one of the winter's most forgotten additions sat down with Doug Miller for a brief chat, answering a few questions about personal philosophy, Jeremy Reed, and Ichiro's total awesomeness. The most interesting part is probably what he has to say about Adrian Beltre, though. When asked about Beltre's down season, Pentland replied:

It's mostly confidence. From a technical standpoint, you look at last year's tape and compare it to year he had with Dodgers, and there's not a lot of outstanding problems. He's close technically, with maybe a little tinkering or refining needed here and there. To me, it was impressive to watch him on tape, so obviously, he still has that ability. We have to make sure he feels like he's one of the best hitters in the game every day he comes to the park, because he is one of the best. I've coached a few big stars, and their standards are much higher than the average hitters in the game. We've got to do a better job of getting runners on base for him. He plays an important role, and he can't do it if he's getting up there with nobody on base. I know he can hit and that he's confident he can hit, because he's done it.

So, the main points:

  1. Beltre has little confidence.
  2. His swing mechanics didn't really change between 2004 and 2005.
  3. He's one of the best hitters in baseball.
  4. He'd perform better if he came to the plate with men on base more often.
  5. He's confident that he can hit.
Okay, so right off the bat we have #1 and #5 cancelling each other out, which is a little weird. #2 we know to be true, because enough people have compared tape and arrived at the same conclusion that we can probably treat it as fact. #3 is kind of a reach, since even though Beltre was friggin' amazing two years ago, he's still been the picture of mediocrity four times in the last five seasons. #4 is just wrong. in 2004, 54.5% of Beltre's at bats came with nobody on; in 2005, 55.4%. Hardly a difference. There's also the fact that Beltre's been a slightly worse hitter with men on base for his career, but whatever, it's not like we can expect Pentland to be familiar with these numbers off the top of his head. Since he hasn't really had a chance to work with Beltre at all since being hired, he's probably just rattling off a bunch of things that might be a problem in the hopes that one of them sticks. With luck, he'll get a better idea of what to work on once ST rolls around.

You have to wonder, though, just how much good a hitting coach can do when he doesn't see anything physically wrong with somebody's swing. Let's say Pentland really belives that Beltre's biggest problem is confidence. Okay, then what? The only way for a hitter to re-gain his confidence is to go out there and beat the snot out of the ball, but if he couldn't do it a year ago, there's no reason to believe that he'll suddenly get it together this time around, and all of a sudden it's the middle of July and you're wondering why Beltre still hasn't done crap since signing as a free agent. I guess a few encouraging words every now and then might help ("Hey, Adrian, lookin' good." "You really smashed that pitch in the first inning."), but beyond that, I fail to see what kind of significant impact Pentland could really have. This feels like one of those situations where it's just up to the player to get himself going. At least in Beltre's case, he's done it once before.

And just for the hell of it, what did Don Baylor have to say about Beltre a year ago? Via Jim Street:

(The NL) is a 'challenge' league, especially in hitters' counts, whereas there are more breaking pitches over here...He is feeling his way through the American League right now and it shouldn't take him that long. He might have to start looking for offspeed pitches more often.

Percentage of breaking pitches faced, 2004: 28.0%
Percentage of breaking pitches faced, 2005: 29.5%

That's a difference of about one breaking ball every four games. By and large, Beltre faced pretty much the same pitch distribution with the Mariners as he did with the Dodgers, so that wasn't really the issue here. Nice try, Don, but no dice.