For most of his tenure as White Sox hitting coach, Greg Walker was a lightning rod for criticism. Fans seemingly were always upset with Walker with a lot of different things, whether it be the team’s plate approaches, the stances of certain players or just the overall lack of production. Whatever the case may be, the blame from the fans went onto Walker more often than not.
However, 2012 brought winds of change into the coaching staff, and the team’s new hitting coach, Jeff Manto, has seemingly worked wonders with multiple players on this White Sox team.
When Manto was hired after last season, he wasted no time going right to work. At Sox Fest, he told fans he made it a point to go visit the key players who struggled mightily last season and work with them specifically. Obviously, that can be seen this season, as his work with Adam Dunn and Alex Rios appears to have paid dividends in a lot of ways. Not only is there a big difference in both guys mechanically (Dunn’s just quicker to the baseball, and Rios, of course, has his hands positioned higher, allowing him to get in a better hitting position), but just the overall comfort level at the plate of these two guys is easy to see.
It’s not just with last season’s struggling players though as Manto has taken AJ Pierzynski to the next level. His hands look so much quicker and his swing so much shorter than they ever have been in the past.
Also, it’s clear to me that he’s also been a big influence on Alejandro De Aza as a hitter. Remember, the Marlins organization just flat out gave up on De Aza, and he wound up with the White Sox organization. He hit over .300 in both AAA and with short stints with the White Sox in both 2010 and 2011. Who was the minor league hitting coordinator in both of those seasons? Jeff Manto. Given his success every time he’s been with Jeff Manto, one can assume that something clicks there.
Each hitting coach approaches things a different way. Some are more mechanical. Some are more focus on the mental aspect. Some like to tailor things specifically to each hitter, while others want everyone to follow the same regimen. Since I’m not around the team, I’m not sure exactly what Jeff Manto’s plan is in working with each specific player, but whatever that is, it’s certainly working with a lot of the team.
Greg Walker may or may not have been a bad hitting coach, but it was clear that towards the end, he didn’t click with a lot of the players that he needed to connect with. That could be on Walker or the players, but the bottom line is that it takes two to tango, and the hitting coach is going to take the fall 99 times out of 100 when it comes to whose job is on the line.
So, since a lot of fans were so quick to jump and blame Walker, let’s start giving Manto some this credit he deserves. If we are going to be all over a hitting coach when the team is not hitting, we should give him credit when he’s helping the guys out. The team has had its streaks and slumps offensively, but when looking at the overall body of work compared to last season, it’s easy to see Manto has done his job and then some.
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Remember when Walker declared Rios was fixed after seeing 5 swings in January of ’10?
Then Rios batted: .227/.265/.348.
That’s some mighty fine work by the “hardest working hitting coach in the league.”
He’s been a breath of fresh air. Now if only he could figure out Beckham’s problem