When the Seattle Mariners hired Edgar Martinez to be their hitting coach, I was quick to caution that it would be wrong to expect anything in the way of noticeable results. The hitting coach simply provides instruction, and at the end of the day it’s up to the player to step into the box and do his damage. A coach can tell a hitter what to do, but the hitter’s ability ultimately dictates what happens during his at-bats.
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While this didn’t stop many (most?) fans from predicting a big turnaround, I think it was still a valuable point to have been made. Expectations can be burdensome, and there’s only so much a coach can do, even if he’s a should-be-Hall-of-Famer and local legend. Looking back, yes, it was unreasonable to expect Edgar to turn the M’s offense around. Except guess what? That’s exactly what he’s done since arriving back in town.
Martinez was announced as hitting coach on June 20th. Let’s say it took him a week or so to start making his mark on the team, meaning that if his coaching was really to have had a positive affect on the Mariners it wouldn’t have started to show up in the statistics until early July. This seems like a reasonable-enough assumption. Now let’s look at the Mariners’ monthly offensive ranks on the year:
April: 91 wRC+ (17th in MLB)
May: 98 wRC+ (t-12th)
June: 73 wRC+ (30th)
July: 116 wRC+ (t-4th)
August: 121 wRC+ (t-8th)
Put another way: in the season’s first half, the Mariners had baseball’s 23rd-best offense. In the second hald they’re fifth-best. Edgar showed up right when the M’s hitters were in the middle of a pronounced faceplant, but since then he’s seen the group produce at a higher level than anyone except the Yankees, Astros, White Sox, and Giants.
The new and improved Mike Zunino has become the poster boy for Martinez’s success in Seattle, but he’s really only been the team’s seventh-best hitter since the break. Robinson Cano is hitting better than he ever has, and Nelson Cruz has somehow elevated to another level. Jesus Montero was having a great year in Tacoma, and is hitting even better now that he’s with the Mariners. Mark Trumbo has been above-average! Franklin Gutierrez has been excellent! And Kyle Seager‘s been himself. To say nothing of the fact that Brad Miller‘s been going nuts the last week or two.
The call-ups (and immediate success) of Gutierrez and Montero certainly have something to do with this improvement, as both have been nothing short of terrific since arriving back in the big leagues. Cano’s resurgence was something everyone saw coming, and Cruz is just maintaining his excellent average while in the midst of another impossible fun power tear. Lots of the team’s current hot hitting likely doesn’t have much to do with Edgar. But the timing of it all raises the possibility that this all comes back to him.
Edgar Martinez was bound to be a popular figure in Seattle, whether or not his presence had a visible affect on the team’s performance. It’s unfair to expect a hitting coach to turn a bottom-third offense into a top-five offense. It’s not that we can say for sure that Edgar’s done this, just that we can say he might have done this. Which should be enough to leave any and all fans sufficiently thrilled.