August 3, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Sam Fuld (5) talks with coach Derek Shelton (17) in the dugout against the Baltimore Oriolesat Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

RCG Mailbag: Could the Rays Look to Change Hitting Coaches?

Welcome to another edition of the RCG Mailbag. Today’s inquiry comes from Justin Jay, a writer at the Toronto Blue Jays site here on FanSided, Jays Journal. Asked via Twitter, Justin wondered if the Rays would possibly look to replace Derek Shelton, their hitting coach. Specifically, he inquired about former Jays hitting coach Chad Mottola, seeing whether or not he would be a fit in Tampa Bay. Remember that if you have any questions that you would like to have answered in a future mailbag, you can send them to [email protected], [email protected], via twitter at @rayscologlasses, or feel free to ask in the comment section. You can also provide your questions at our Facebook page.

With Chad Mottola fired and the (struggles) of the Rays bats, I think he would be a sweet fit in Tampa Bay. Thoughts?

Thank you for the question Justin. It is true that the Rays offense has had it’s share of struggles since Shelton came on board after the 2009 season, finishing no higher than 25th in baseball in batting average over his first three seasons on the job. However, in that same time frame, the Rays led all of baseball in walks twice, finishing third in 2011. While the Rays may not have hit well those seasons, they were getting on base. The problem was scoring those runners in 2011 and 2012, as the Rays finished 15th and 18th in runs scored respectively.

This season, the Rays offense came together. They finished eleventh in baseball with 700 runs, and improved their hitting to a respectable .257/.329/.408 rate. That batting average was good for twelfth in the majors, and was their highest mark since 2009, when the Rays had a .263 batting average. The Rays also continued to draw walks at a prodigious pace, leading all of baseball once again last season. Perhaps the biggest reason for the turnaround was a decrease in strikeouts – the Rays struck out 152 times less in 2013 than the previous year. Seeking out and acquiring players such as James Loney and David DeJesus, who make contact and tend not to strikeout, may have also helped the improved performance.

Chad Mottola may be an interesting person to watch for future coaching vacancies, not just with the Rays. After essentially taking on a coaching role in his final year as a player, he ascended through the ranks to be the Blue Jays hitting coach last season. The Jays struggled offensively, yet a large part of that may have been due to the rash of injuries that Toronto suffered through for much of the season. Yet, the Blue jays decided not to bring him back for 2014.

As intriguing as Mottola may be as a hitting coach, it is unlikely that he would join the Rays staff. Shelton seemingly has the Rays on the right path, and it will be interesting to see if players such as Desmond Jennings and Matthew Joyce can develop under his tutelage. Will he be able to finally get Jennings and Joyce to tap into their potential? And can Shelton help Wil Myers adjust to pitches low and away, closing up a hole that the opposition began to exploit over the last few weeks of the season?

Perhaps more than anything else, the development of the Rays young hitters will determine Derek Shelton’s future with the Rays. At this point however, he seems to have their bats on the right track.

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Tags: Chad Mottola Derek Shelton Tampa Bay Rays

6 Comments on RCG Mailbag: Could the Rays Look to Change Hitting Coaches?

  1. Orestes Ortega says:

    I disagree, it’s been 4 years (since 2009) and nothing. What is it gonna take then to reach world series, another 4 years? HIRE MOTTOLA. enough said

    • Dave Hill says:

      I don’t see Mottola as an upgrade at this point. He has spent one year in the majors as a hitting coach, and while the Jays had injuries throughout their lineup, it seems telling that they did not bring him back.

      Shelton has a lot more experience as a hitting coach than Mottola. While that may not make him a better coach in the long run, it is difficult to see someone that was replaced after one year as the right person to improve the Rays hitting.

  2. Marylou McMillan says:

    I also think that a change is in order. While batters may walk, you have to get them in and the chances of them being walked in are slim. We need to work on moving runners and hitting with runners in scoring position. The turn around with Escabor came after Maddon discussed a bat change with him.

    • Dave Hill says:

      The key with the walks is that it shows a change in the approach. Jennings walk rate was close to a career high for him, and he struck out less than he had previously. On the whole, the Rays made more contact this season than in years past. To me, that is a sign that something is changing there.

      Maybe it’s not Shelton, but it seems that he deserves at least another year. To me, the biggest key for him to retain his job will be how Jennings, Joyce and Myers develop. If they plateau or regress, then I can see Shelton being replaced.

  3. Baltar says:

    When park factors are considered, the Rays have consistently been near the top for years. From 2010 thru 2013, they are 5th in wRC+ behind only the Red Sox, Tigers, Cardinals and Yankees in all of baseball.
    There is no batting problem.
    I think Mr. Jay should spend his time and energy figuring out how to fix the high-budget low-performance Jays rather than trying to fix a non-existent problem with the low-budget high-performance Rays.

    • Robbie_Knopf says:

      I’ve been guilty myself of ripping the Rays’ offense when really it has been fine. Tropicana Field is a tough place to be a hitter, yet the Rays continue to find success year after year. How can Shelton not be credited for that?

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