While we’re still waiting on an official announcement of the new coaching staff, the Mariners appear to have filled all their core positions. Who have they chosen to do so? Tim Laker, of course!
D-backs assistant hitting coach Tim Laker finalizing deal to become Mariners hitting coach, according to source. https://t.co/is0HWo1zkA— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) November 14, 2018
Laker most recently hails from the Diamondbacks system, where he was the assistant hitting coach at the Major League level. Prior to that, he’d been a hitting coach and hitting coordinator in the Cleveland and White Sox minor league systems, dating back to 2011. Prior to that, Laker’s progression up the minor league coaching ladder included a stop historians of the Mariners may recognize. Laker was the manager of the 2010 Mariners AA affiliate, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx. Laker’s coaching career was preceded by an 11-year career as a catcher, albeit with just 716 MLB PAs. During that career, Laker was worth 2.1 more bWAR as a pitcher than as a position player.
Despite a somewhat anemic offensive reputation as a player, Laker has been credited with many offensive breakthroughs as a coach. Surprise standout David Peralta, who somehow hit 30 HRs this past year, shouted out Laker during a particularly hot stretch this past season.
”Peralta’s power improvement came as a result of discussions with hitting coaches Dave Magadan and Tim Laker and input from the Diamondbacks’ analytics department, which showed Peralta how often his hard-hit balls stayed on the ground”
Many Diamondbacks seemed inclined to agree, although outside of Peralta, Paul Goldschmidt, and noted swing-changer A.J. Pollock, there was little to be excited about offensively last year in Arizona. Others who have raved about Laker include 2017 Brandon Drury, which is a better Brandon Drury to have in your corner than 2018 Brandon Drury, and former Mariners catcher Chris Iannetta. Iannetta in particular highlighted the way Laker aided him in his efforts to hit breaking balls, which would be a massive boon for many Mariners, including one 6’5 1B whose name rhymes with Tryon.
While Laker’s credentials lag well behind those of Edgar Martinez, it’s not a stretch to say his coaching credentials are slightly longer. The implication seems to be Laker has a familiarity with the importance of elevating the ball in today’s game, as the quote from Peralta implies, and the players he’s publicly been credited by are all are notably veterans, fitting the theme of Seattle’s older roster in need of a new spark.
Two personal notes also seem worth including on Laker. Firstly, Laker suffers from colitis, an exceedingly unpleasant chronic inflammatory bowel disease that has played a role since 1992 in limiting his workload at times throughout his playing and coaching career. Secondly, Laker was named as a player implicated in the infamous Mitchell Report, and later admitted to having used steroids as a player at age-25. He’s discussed his regret for the choice since becoming a coach.
Welcome to Mr. Laker, and best of luck.