Alan Cockrell needs to be fired as Yankees hitting coach
The Yankees entered this season with a promising, but aging lineup. The acquisition of Starlin Castro entering his prime brought excitement to the Bronx, and fans were also optimistic with the productive second half of Didi Gregorius. Likewise, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez were both coming off of 30+ home run seasons. Brian McCann had solid power production (though his batting average was lower than I would’ve liked) and Carlos Beltran was coming off a much improved season. Fans were left hoping that Jacoby Ellsbury would get back to his “normal” self, and that Brett Gardner could finally maintain a full, productive season where he wouldn’t just fall off in the second half. Lastly, we were hoping Chase Headley would improve defensively and maintain his status as a serviceable third baseman. But none of that has happened a month into 2016, and it has to come at the expense of someone’s job, and that someone is Alan Cockrell.
|Photo Via Carlos Osorio|
So the Yankees turned to their assistant coach, Alan Cockrell, to take over as the primary hitting instructor as he was Pentland’s assistant during the 2015 season, and they hired Marcus Thames to be Cockrell’s assistant hitting coach. Once again, the Yankees elected to roll with two hitting instructors as it boded well for them during last season, as I previously mentioned.
Now, the date is May 5th, and the Yankees are coming off a 7-0 win against the Baltimore Orioles. After only managing one hit through the first five innings, the Yankee offense broke out in the sixth inning, and again in the eighth. It was the second time in three games that the Yankees have scored 7 runs, but still, only the 6th time in 25 games that the Yankees had put up 5 runs or more. So potentially, the team is finally turning the corner as a unit offensively, but I’m still not convinced.
A little over a month into the year, the Yankees have scored the second least amount of runs in the league, only in front of the Atlanta Braves. They’re hitting to a .236/.308/.361 slash line collectively. With the names I mentioned in the first paragraph, there is absolutely no reason for the New York Yankees to have an abysmal offense. Unless, it’s because the hitting coach is not doing his job at a satisfactory level.
The worst part about the Yankees offense is not in their mechanics. Rather, it’s in their approach to hitting. How many times are we going to see Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner swinging for the fences with 2 strikes, or Brian McCann roll over a ball on the outer half of the plate into the shift? How come any deficit seems insurmountable? It’s because their approach at the plate is already poor, and it absolutely breaks down in the later innings when they’re facing a deficit. I mean, there’s a reason the Yankees are one of the most shifted against teams in the MLB.
|Photo Via Al Bello, Getty Images|
I get it, I really do. The Yankees are paying these guys millions of dollars to hit the long ball and boast high slugging percentages in a hitter friendly ballpark, so I understand their tendency to hit to their strength and try to pull the ball nearly every at-bat. But at some point, Alan Cockrell has to approach these guys telling them to shake things up, to take a pitch, to hit the ball the other way, or to not swing for the fences every single at-bat. At some point, winning baseball games by playing small ball and manufacturing runs needs to become more important than trying to improve a player’s individual statistics.
Even Chase Headley is being over-shifted against in 2016. I don’t speak alone here when I say Headley doesn’t appear to have any strengths at the plate. He looks absolutely lost, and the way he’s tried to break his slump is to pull everything, but that hasn’t been a recipe for success for the dreadful Yankee third baseman. Headley has posted solid batting averages in his career, so there’s no reason he shouldn’t go up to the plate with a mindset that he is going to poke the ball to right field.
Just last night, he picked up what felt like his first hit in weeks. And guess what? He hit the ball the other way and just beat the shift! You would think players would come up to the plate with the mindset of ‘hmm, I hit the ball the other way last time, and I got on base, so I should probably try that again.’ But that hasn’t been the case. So yes, the player’s flawed hitting approaches fall on them, but it also falls on Cockrell.
|Cockrell and Tex in discussion via Bruce Kluckhohn of USA Today Sports|
And it’s not brain surgery to say that if these Yankee hitters start consistently beating the shift, the defenses will cease to shift against them, and that will open up more holes and opportunities for these players to hit to their strengths.
However, until the Yankees find a hitting coach that teaches these players fundamental and situational hitting that allows them to hit with runners in scoring position, I’m not sure the Yankees offense will be able to turn the corner, and become the powerhouse offense that they were in 2015. The Yankees stretch of 7 runs in two of their last three games is likely going to give Cockrell somewhat of a grace period for the next two weeks or so. But Cockrell should be feeling the pressure of New York, because fans are fed up. His seat as the Yankees hitting coach is heating up, and it could boil over any day now.
Article by: Chad Raines
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