Per Bill Shaikin and everybody else, the Dodgers have informed Dave Hansen that he will not return as the hitting coach in 2013. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, of course, given that the Dodgers topped only four teams in wOBA – two of which lost 100 games. They were next to last in homers, third from the bottom in slugging… well, you were there. There was no bigger problem this year than the offense.
Now whether Hansen did a good job as hitting coach coach or not, I can’t say. Maybe it was his fault that it took so long for the new additions to come together at the end of the season Maybe if he’d done a better job, they’d be in the playoffs.
And maybe, just maybe… everyone who is celebrating that he’s gone doesn’t have a damn idea what they’re talking about. Have we forgotten that it was just barely over a year ago that we had a similar conversation detailing how Hansen’s sudden status as “golden boy” for the team’s second half turnaround after replacing the deposed Jeff Pentland was foolish?
As it always seems to be, the answer lies on the field, because the difference here is largely that the roster of the Dave Hansen Dodgers simply isn’t the same as the roster of the Jeff Pentland Dodgers. Just look at the mess Pentland had to deal with before he was let go:
- 289 of Juan Uribe‘s 295 awful, awful, plate appearances
- 142 lousy PA from the supposed LF duo of Jay Gibbons (.668 OPS) & Marcus Thames (.576 OPS)
- 70% of Casey Blake‘s injured and generally ineffective season
- 79% of Rafael Furcal‘s terrible year
- 79% of Dioner Navarro‘s atrocious performance
- the initial growing pains of rookies Jerry Sands (144 PA) and Dee Gordon (85 PA) who were each rushed to the bigs ahead of schedule and made it clear that the lessons they learned helped them adjust in AAA for their inevitable, and more successful, returns
Meanwhile, Hansen has benefited not only from not having to look at Uribe, Gibbons, Thames, Blake, Furcal, and Navarro, he’s had nearly 200 plate appearances of Juan Rivera‘s 119 OPS+ that Pentland didn’t. He’s had the one hot streak that Rod Barajas runs into every year. He’s had Sands and Gordon return with a better idea of what they need to do. He’s been able to get the injured Ethier out of the lineup. The roster, overall, is simply a better collection of players (both health- and talent-wise) than it was earlier in the season, and that, more than anything, is the reason for the rebound.
Now tell me what Hansen worked with this year, would you? He got two great months out of Matt Kemp and four months of him either being hurt or limited while trying to play through being hurt. He had four months of James Loney. He had three months of Dee Gordon. He had no left fielder the entire season other than the three weeks or so where Bobby Abreu was playing well. He had a roster that was so torn apart by injury that on June 1, this was actually the lineup that Don Mattingly filled out:
1-Gwynn-CF 2-De Jesus-3B 3-Ethier-RF 4-Hairston-2B 5-Van Slyke-1B 6-Castellanos-LF 7-Treanor-C 8-Gordon-SS
Not hideous enough for you? Here’s June 28:
1-Gordon-SS 2-Herrera-3B 3-Rivera-LF 4-Loney-1B 5-Van Slyke-RF 6-Kennedy-2B 7-Treanor-C 8-Gwynn-CF
Lineups like that are a penalty punishable by death in some countries.
So fine, fire Hansen; I’m not trying to defend his work and to be honestly I really don’t care whether or not he keeps his job. Let’s just not pretend that this is suddenly the move that turns around the offense. After all, it was only a year ago that everyone couldn’t stop singing his praises.