While there may be little tweaking of the Diamondbacks’ offense going forward, there is still room for improvement. That’s the approach and philosophy of Dave Magadan, who was hired by Arizona Wednesday as the club’s hitting coach.
As a team, the Diamondbacks were among National League leaders in several offensive areas. Combined with manager Chip Hale’s penchant for playing aggressive baseball, the Diamondbacks emerged as a dangerous, offensive club.
Now Magadan, who was the hitting coach of the Rangers the past three years and let go after the recently concluded season, steps into an envious position. He now guides All-Stars Paul Goldschmidt and A. J. Pollock, along with rising stars in David Peralta and Ender Inciarte. At the same time, the 53-year-old Magadan understands there may not be much alteration to a successful offense.
“My job is understand each hitter and what makes each hitter tick,” Magadan said Wednesday in a conference call with Arizona reporters. “My goal is to have a plan going into game and to better understand the pitcher we face that game.”
Calling the Diamondbacks “a young, dynamic team,” Magadan steps into a situation where there is not much to improve. For last season, the Diamondbacks were third in the league in hitting (.264) behind the Giants (.267) and the Rockies (.265), second in runs scored, led the league in hits and shut out only seven times, the least number of times of any club in the National League.
Magadan takes over for Turner Ward, who was the Diamondbacks hitting coach over the past three seasons. Though Ward was offered a contract for the 2016, the 50-year-old native of Orlando, Fla. declined the Arizona offer.
“I was very disappointed that Turner did not come back,” said Dave Stewart, the Diamondbacks general manager. “Turner only spoke with (club president Derrick Hall and Bryan Minniti, assistant general manager) and made his decision known. We had a solid, functional coaching staff in place. Replacing a good hitting coach is not easy to replace.”
Once the Rangers make their decision, Stewart picked up the phone and reached Magadan. One of five candidates interviewed, Magadan became the favorite over assistant hitting coach Mark Grace, who pundits thought would have the inside track to replace Ward.
One issue facing Magadan, as well as National League managers, is the aspiration to alter the traditional batting order. While pitchers hit ninth in the National League, many managers moved pitchers into the eighth hole and left position players lower in the line-up. Hale used this strategy in several games last season and favored left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray in the eighth hole.
“This can work out for some clubs.” Magadan said of moving the pitcher out of the nine hole. “I’m open to it. The success depends on who hits ninth and who hits first.”
Hale likes to use Inciarte in the lead-off spot and Pollock behind in the two hole. While Inciarte finished with a solid .303 batting average, the 25-year-old native of Maracaibo, Venezuela walked only 26 times in 524 times at the plate. Still, Magadan says he wants to understand the capabilities and personalities of all players.
“I’m not looking to dis-mantle a good hitting team,” Magadan said. “This is a good hitting tram but I also believe there’s always room for improvement.”
Magadan’s hire now completes the Arizona coaching staff. Earlier in this off-season, the Diamondbacks brought in Mike Butcher as pitching coach, Matt Williams to coach third base and Gavin Alston as the bullpen coach. At the same time, Dave McKay is back as first base coach, Glenn Sherlock returns as Hale’s bench coach and Grace is back as the assistant hitting coach.
A FEW TRANSACTIONS
Earlier this week, the Diamondbacks came to terms with left-hander Matt Reynolds. The signing avoids salary arbitration.
Last season, Reynolds made $600,000 and recorded a 4.61 ERA in 18 appearances, Reynolds came off Tommy John surgery last season and missed the entire 2014 season as a result of the surgery.
Seven players remains eligible for arbitration. These players in include Randal Delgado, Rubby De La Rosa, Daniel Hudson, A. J. Pollock, Welington Castillo and Patrick Corbin.
In a move Wednesday, the Diamondbacks traded pitcher Allen Webster to the Pirates for cash consideration. The Diamondbacks recently designated Webster for assignment. In nine appearances for Arizona at the major league level last season, Webster was 1-1 with a 5.81 ERA and three starts.