Official.

I haven’t had a chance to dig into Ward as a batting coach yet.

Obviously, they still have to work on the roster, especially pitching. But you have to admit, it’s impressive (and surprising) that the Reds have been able to convince a pitching and hitting coach to leave teams that were just deep in the postseason to take a parallel job with a last place team. 

My WAG at what’s happening: Dick Williams, drawing on his non-baseball business background, figures investing in coaches to move the needle is about 100x less expensive than investing in players to move the needle similarly. So the Reds are offering the coaches they want a lot, lot more money than those guys are currently making. 

Whether or not this turns out to be a successful exploitation of a new market inefficiency depends on if there are meaningful differences between one professional coach and another. Let’s hope so. 

UPDATE: Quotes from Dick Williams about the Ward (54) hire:

“We went into this offseason committed to putting new leadership in place in the clubhouse,” president of baseball operations Dick Williams said. “We were interested to see where that would take us. We thought that some new voices in the clubhouse and a variety of perspectives from other organizations would be a good thing. We were committed to putting together a first-class coaching staff, but these things are hard to control.

“A lot of them come up quickly, and you have to be in a position to react. Thankfully, David has a lot of good contacts in this game. Those have afforded us opportunities to speak to guys that we might not have otherwise. We think it’s really important to give our players a chance to succeed. So we did what we could so far. We saw the right fit arise and we moved quickly and boldly to put it into place.” [John Fay, Enquirer]

Good feels all around. 

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 57 Comments

  1. Not coming to any conclusions quite yet,but building a 1st class coaching staff with a smart young manager to lead this team is a very intelligent way to change the losing mentality that has set in to this organization

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  2. The Dodgers have adapted as quick as anyone to what MLB is now…BB/K/HR. All or nothing.

    Team offense ranking in 2018….

    1st in walks
    2nd in HRs
    8th most in Ks
    14th in batting average (older metric for sure, just emphasizing all or nothing approach)
    1st in wRC+

    I heard and also saw tweets this season that Dodgers hitters look for a perfect pitch with no one on, will take BB if they don’t see it…but all look to swing for fence with runners on.

    The Reds can’t keep gettting out-HR’ed in GABP and be weak at hitting HRs on the road and expect new pitchers to get them up the win curve. Interesting hire.

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  3. I pulled all of this off of Dodgers websites about our Hiring Ward:

    The Dodgers set a franchise record for team home runs in 2017 under Ward – only to come back and break that record in 2018 with 235 team home runs. They also set Los Angeles records with 564 extra-base hits, as well as a .442 slugging percentage. In each of his three seasons, the run production for LA increased. During his tenure, the Dodgers rank first in the National League in home runs, second in walks, third in slugging percentage, fourth in on-base percentage, and fifth in runs scored.

    Williams said about Ward: He comes highly recommended for his ability to connect with players and help them maximize their potential.”

    This is highly subjective, but I have noticed him interact with the Dodger players and it stood out to me, how much the players seemed to like Ward.

    This looks like another fantastic move by Dick Williams and the Reds.

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  4. Turner Ward, this is Billy Hamilton.
    Billy Hamilton, this is Turner Ward.

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    • Billy LISTEN TO HIM

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      • Bloody unlikely. Billy is a fan favorite and a Bob C. favorite. Billy hasn’t listened to anybody for years, and still can’t bunt well.
        Dump him. I am tired of the Billy Hamilton saga.

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        • +1

          I hope the Reds part ways with Billy, however…

          If Billy is on the Reds in 2019, he’d better not start a single game, barring a run of OF injuries. Late game D or PR sub ONLY. That said, he isn’t worth the money to have sitting on bench for 7 or 8 innings every game. Too expensive. Find another fairly fast, good-fielding, subpar hitting OF (there are many) that makes league minimum for that.

          The one or two fly balls he runs down that an average CF wouldn’t each week does NOT make up for his 15+ ABs that are complete wastes of time. I’d rather see that one fly ball fall if it means getting 5 or 10 much better at bats from a solid hitter with at least average power.

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          • If he saves 2 doubles each week, and gets on base 10% less often (.300 OBP Vs .400 OBP), then isn’t he crudely a .400 OBP CF (who can’t field)?

            This is gorilla mathematics I know. But in 20 ABs per week he’s out 14 times instead of 12.

            Play him until someone can generate more WAR than him. I hope that’s Senzel.

          • Play him until someone can generate more WAR than him…

            Even without the defensive bonus for playing CF and much less playing time, Scott Schebler has almost as much WAR as Billy Hamilton.

            2018: Hamilton (1.3 WAR), Schebler(1.1 WAR)
            2017: Hamilton (1.2 WAR), Schebler(1.1 WAR)

            If Schebler played CF and received as much playing time as Hamilton, he would easily surpass Hamilton in WAR. Of course there’s a new sheriff in town now, so we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out.

        • Huh. I could swear he was listeneing to me when I talked to him. I’m not a very good bunter, though.

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    • While that’s a nice notion, if the Reds are committed to changing the culture and improving on the field (the coaching hires are an early indication), then the only statement that needs to be made to Billy is “thank you for services and Godspeed on your life’s work”.

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      • A change in Red’s culture is evident with the last three major hires. Billy Hamilton should be an important part of that change by being sent westward to make spectacular catches in spacious outfields such as Kansas City, Denver or San Diego among others. His time in Cincinnati should be over.

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      • One can only hope MRRED. I have doubts that will happen, but I was sooooo hoping he’d get traded for a decent prospect last off-season…we got stuck with the worst hitter in baseball for another season.

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  5. He could be a good fit as a the hitting coach for the reds but difficult to tell right now.

    Still not sold on three true outcomes being a good hitting goal. It leads to some nice numbers (see the dodgers numbers above), but it didn’t bring home the bacon two years running, which admittedly could just be because they ran into opponents playing better ball at the moment than they were.

    I personally think votto is onto something better with his approach of trying to not make outs. Choke up and put the ball in play with 2 strikes. Two of those three out comes are positive (hit or error). Make the defense earn the out.

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    • Ted Williams’ first rule of hitting: Get a good pitch to hit.

      Ward seems to emphasize that, so we’re off to a solid start. What is a “good pitch” varies by hitter but can make a ton of difference. Once Peraza realized low sliders falling out of the zone weren’t good, he suddenly was, lol.

      I agree that swinging from the heels for an occasional two-strike XBH isn’t worth it for most of the league – the increase in power is offset by the lack of contact for most. Hopefully, he can impress a better approach on the non-Votto/Suarez/Gennett portion of the lineup and we’ll see a jump from Winker/Schebler/Peraza to go with adding Senzel. This has the makings of a really nice lineup with a few improvements.

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  6. Billy the Kids needs to add a little muscle if he’s ever going to hit.

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  7. The two-out hitting approach of the Red Sox is more effective than trying an all or nothing blast.

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    • See also –
      Astros, Houston
      Royal, Kansas City

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    • I agree. Put the ball in play with two strikes. Also, do not take pitches down the middle. Having the best HR team works during regular season, but when you’re facing more consistently good pitching staffs in playoffs, that all or nothing becomes more nothing and less all. Making pitchers and fielders work for outs is how to win playoff games.

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      • I agree with shortening up with two strikes, especially with runners on base when a strikeout isn’t just another out.

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  8. The Dodgers had seven players with more than 20 home-runs. Three players with 15. I am not sure the Ward is going to find that power out of our players. I feel the Reds still lack a bat in the middle of the line-up.

    i wonder why the Dodgers did not match the offer if he is so prized??

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  9. I am very encouraged with these first hires (pitching & hitting). They are going outside the organization & bringing in new blood, hopefully bringing new ideas and improvement.

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  10. There is a commonality between the “all or nothing” approach and the approach of Joey Votto. Both key on being selective in swinging at pitches. Both advise to not be afraid of the strike out by taking pitches you are not likely to drive.

    Joey is an OBP machine, but does not have a low strike out rate.

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    • It’s fair to note though that JV is better than 99% of MLB hitters at discerning what pitches are worth swinging at and being disciplined enough to follow through on his philosophy. That’s how he’ll punch his ticket to the HOF.

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    • It seemed like you were onto something up until you got to saying he doesn’t have a low strike-out rate. What would you consider a low rate? The average K% across MLB, excluding pitchers, was 21.7% last year. Votto’s K% was 16.2% and he in fact walked more than he struck out. In 2017, Votto’s K% was an unworldly 11.7% (average was 21.2%). He walked 134 times to 83 strikeouts.

      His K% in 2018 was tied for 37th best in all of MLB
      His K% in 2017 was 9th across all of MLB

      Joey’s lack of power (.135 ISO, .419 Slg) had me very concerned last year but I didn’t worry one bit about his strikeout rate as it is still one of the better rates in the game.

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      • Fair enough, LW. perhaps i was not comparing him to league average. But I was using the old rule of thumb of 100 strikeouts a season. Other than 2017, which was a low strikeout season for Joey, his strikeout totals are
        2013 – 135
        2014 – 49 in 62 games (128 for full season)
        2015 – 135
        2016 – 120
        2018 – 101

        Those are not abnormally low strikeout totals. They reflect the fact that Votto is willing to lay off pitches he doesn’t want to go after, putting himself into a position where he might strike out while working for a better pitch to drive. Because he has exceptional ability to recognize strikes and balls, a reasonable chance of drawing a walk will result from his working further into the count.

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        • Rankings of K% for Votto among qualified hitters:

          2018 => MLB (38/140), NL (14/65)
          2017 => MLB (9/144), NL(4/64)
          2016 => MLB (63/146), NL(28/67)
          2015 => MLB (87/141), NL(37/65)
          2014 => ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          2013 => MLB (92/140), NL(43/64)
          2012 => ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
          2011 => MLB (84/145), NL(33/66)
          2010 => MLB (105/149), NL(44/73)
          2009 => MLB (115/154), NL (55/76)
          2008 => ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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  11. Brewers cant pitch, Dodgers cant hit. Brewers cant pitch, Dodgers can’t hit. Brewers can’t pitch, Dodgers can’t hit. the absurdity is almost comical if it wasn’t so sad.

    next we will hire the grounds crew from the Tampa Bay Rays lol

    Reply
    • Dodgers led the NL in runs scored, hitting for power, walk-rate, weighted on-base percentage, lowest swing-rate on balls and avoiding ground balls. Brewers pitching coach widely acclaimed as one of the very best in the game and doing a great job with a not-so-great staff.

      But sure, go there with your fact-free contrarianism.

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    • Hmmm…the Dodgers hit better than the Reds and the Brewers pitched better than the Reds. Of course, that’s not at all on the coaches but gaining the perspective of success is the least that a team with 90 or more losses 4 straight years and running can do to improve. But don’t worry, I’m sure they’ll “play hard” and “hustle” for the new coaches.

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    • Using very old-school, traditional stats. Brewers had the 4th best ERA in the NL last year.

      Dodgers in the very traditional AVG/HR/RBI line were:

      Avg: .250 (8th)
      HR: 235 (1st by a bunch)
      RBI: 756 (1st)

      This while playing primarily in more pitcher-friendly stadiums on the west coast.

      Rather by Steve’s more advanced metrics or my more traditional ones, or heck, even the good old eye-test, your argument that the Brewers can’t pitch and the Dodgers can’t hit couldn’t be any more faulty.

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  12. What I like most about what has happened the past few weeks is – it seems there is a plan, a real, honest to goodness, not just word service – plan. I don’t know that it will work – it still is dependent on the players – but I think it’s gotta work better than the schizophrenic dysfunction of the past few years.

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    • Exactly. Rather than hoping extra bobble-head days bring in fans, they finally saw the plunges in attendance for what it is. Fans were/are fed up with poor play and no real attempt to fix the poor play. The front office and ownership seemed very content with crappy play and 90 loss seasons.

      Now, given the past several weeks, it appears the FO and owner got the message…finally. I don’t know how it will play out, we still have subpar talent overall, BUT the coaching hires have exceeded my admittedly cynical expectations by a long ways.

      Most importantly, these coaching hires, good ones at that, make me feel like this talk about improving the starting rotation is REAL this time, and not just talk. I was fully prepared to hear “we wanted good FAs and trades, but it was all outside our payroll and prospect budget”. Now I can see the Reds actually signing or trading for a GOOD SP2 or maybe even getting a near-ace.

      I keep hoping they get a DeGrom, but I feel that the prospect price may be too high. That said, if they can pull that off trading maybe #4, #6, #8 and #15 prospect and keep the top 3 or so, DO IT! If they can get DeGrom for one of the top 3 and much lower prospects, I’d be okay with that too.

      Reply
    • The Reds need to make a lot of good moves to become competitive. The early moves appear to be good. I’m waiting to see what’s next.

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  13. I think you may be right, Steve, about Dick Williams’ thinking of investing in coaches being 100x cheaper than players. It is a more efficient use of dollars and innovative.
    It is a sign of a change in philosophy that the Reds have offered enough to hire successful coaches away from other teams.
    I agree with other commenters that this is a way to change the team attitude and bring in different ideas and perspective from other teams.
    It does raise some concern I mentioned a couple weeks ago.
    I hope the Reds want to do more than complete the coaching staff, sign a FA starting pitcher and decide that’s enough we will go with what we got.

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    • Yes, the key part of this strategy (if indeed that’s what this is), is that the Reds are buying organizational know-how from more successful teams. I’m sure better coaching will help at the margins. But gaining insight into how successful teams are run is worth way more to this club. And you’re right on with your last remark. Revamping the coaching staff should be just the start. All of the expertise and smarts in the world won’t help this team improve without the players that can put it into action on the field.

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  14. More analysis from Dodgerland:

    article titled – Filling Turner Ward’s shoes won’t be easy
    Dodgers need to replace one of the game’s best hitting coaches

    “It’s a bit sad, though, that we’ll never get to see the Yasiel Puig-Ward love affair fully play out. But Puig saw marked improvement over the last three years under Ward. He went from a 101 wRC+ in 2016 — the low point of his career — to 117 in 2017 and 123 this past season. His contact rate improved and his swinging strike rate fell in each of the last three seasons — great trends for any hitter.” truebluela.com

    “The Dodgers had the lowest O-Swing% in baseball over the last three years — 27.2 percent. That was 1.6 percent better than the next-best team in the Twins. They were the best at not chasing of any team for the last two seasons. That is a testament to the hitting coach.” truebluela.com

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  15. While I can see where you’re coming from, players and coaches don’t move the needle similarly. We need players. I hope by “we were interested to see where that would take us” , DW doesn’t mean they’re not prepared to make the most important moves, which is get players.

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  16. This is encouraging. Set up the coaching staff before delving into free agency-we notice this,so will the players. That said, you can’t turn a donkey into a Kentucky Derby winner-we still need quality pitching. I appreciate the path Williams has taken-it appears to be an organized attempt to right the ship

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  17. You know, the interweb is great. You can whine all day long and someone will actually read it! The negative comments are absolutely crazy. Are people aware that the Reds have lost 90+ games 4 years running? Are people aware of how good the rest of the NL Central is? And still they criticize these hires?!

    Some like to “guess” that luring well-paid coaches instead of paying for players would pass the smell-test. News flash – these coaches don’t come here thinking that they’re working with non-ML talent and an organization that is too cheap to win. They want to build teams and become managers someday. Losing doesn’t look good on a resume.

    The Reds sorely needed a change in leadership and by gosh the Reds FO is delivering! It’s overdue – but I sure am not going to criticize the 3 hires of the past 3 weeks.

    This is fantastic progress! This is fresh leadership that we’ve been clamoring for. This is new guys with new ideas. And if you combine these coaching minds with some FO & scouting smarts – the Reds will build a winner.

    To dissent just because the Dodgers and Brewers didn’t win it all is just dumb as can be. To hold out because they haven’t bought a splashy FA starter is way premature. And to expect overnight success is not realistic. But I am making plans to see the Reds several times next year and am very excited to see an improved product. The Reds FO is making long overdue changes – time to hop on board!

    Reply
    • @Redlegs64,

      No one’s comments here are dumb, unless they are insulting others.

      Everyone here really wants the Reds to be a credible and winning organization, and until they show that….skepticism is warranted.

      Plus, none of us, writers or commenters below the line, are right 100% of the time.

      Personally, I see these hires as a part of a long-term change in organizational structure and player development, one that could really pay off in 3-5 years and be sustained. Fine by me.

      But, for now, you have an owner saying “pitching will be acquired” and “record-high payroll.” I understand why folks are impatient to see that delivered on, and not focus on new coaches.

      Reply
  18. Nice hire. This should help a middling offense. Other than Senzel being added, there should be one more position player added from outside, hopefully an OF.
    I heard last night on MLB Network radio the Mariners are exploring a tear-it-down-rebuild. That was a surprise. If that is the case, the Reds should go hard after the M’s OF Mitch Haniger. He has 4 years left of team control and had a breakout season in 2018. He would be perfect in RF for the Reds and Winker goes back in LF. Haniger will probably cost Taylor Trammell and a few others in the Reds top-15 prospects. But it would be worth the prospect loss. Haniger might be this off-season’s Christian Yelich, but at a little less of a prospect cost.
    I doubt the Reds could pull off getting closer Edwin Diaz in that deal. But maybe getting Alex Colome for the bullpen could be done, too. Colome has 2 years left of team control.

    Reply
    • I don’t think the Reds should include Senzel, Greene or Trammell in any deal other than Mike Trout. There are other prospects and young major league players they can deal. The Stros haven’t included Whitley and Tucker in deals, they include other players/prospects and get the deal done.

      Reply
    • I suppose it would come down to the timing on the M’s rebuild. They might think they can do it before Haniger’s team control runs out. They could also hold onto Haniger unless they are blown away by an offer while trying to extend him either this off-season or next. If they are on a 5-year plan though, a team may be able to pry him away without giving up a Yelichesque prospect haul.

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      • FWIW, Haniger is a Boras client.

        Along with with Harvey and Keuchel, that is a full helping of Scott Boras that the Reds could get to negotiate with. Good luck with that.

        Besides Haniger, the Mariners have LHP James Paxton, with 2 years of control left.

        Dee Gordon with 3 yrs left at 13/13.5/14 to play CF…maybe the new hitting coach can get him back to 2015 NL batting champion form.

        The Mariners want to “re-tool”, the Reds have upper minors talent.

        It chills me to think of trading Senzel/Trammell/Mahle, but Reds could do one-stop shopping in trade with Seattle.

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        • Dee Gordon was a failed experiment in CF. The M’s were thrilled when the opportunity to move him back to 2B presented itself.

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        • Dee Gordon’s 2015 batting champion form was followed by his 2016 PED suspension. These things may or may not be related, but I wouldn’t want him on my team.

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  19. Great signing especially since this guys philosophy aligns well with that of our future HOF 1B. Here comes a rebound year for big 19.

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  20. Jon Heyman tweets the Reds among many others interested in Josh Harrison versatility. He’s from Cincinnati.

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    • Harrison has usually done well against what I assume was his favorite team going up. He has the offensive skills. Can he play the outfield?

      Reply
  21. See a report Padres are interested in Suarez. What would they give?

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  22. I wouldn’t trade Suarez, unless I was blown away.

    Reply

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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