The Pittsburgh Pirates finished the 2012 season with the third lowest batting average in the National League. They also had the fourth lowest OBP in the majors and the third most strikeouts. So what did the Pirates do to remedy this problem? They went for nostalgia and hired Jay Bell.
Yes, nothing says "improve our hitting" like a former shortstop with a career .265 average. Never mind the fact that his last coaching gig was for the Arizona AA affiliate Mobile Baybears where his team finished ninth out of ten teams in hitting. Now, he is suppose to take a group of major leaguers, well, players at the major league level, and turning them into a better hitting ball club?
To be fair, he can't be worse than Gregg Ritchie. If you've spoken to coach Ritchie, you know he's an extremely nice person with a lot of knowledge of the game. But, he's not a good hitting instructor. Like Bell, Richie's past teams have never put up solid numbers under his guidance. His departure to George Washington University is a positive for the Pittsburgh Pirates despite the fact that the hitting instruction may have been coming from Clint Hurdle.
You may be asking, "if Clint Hurdle is the real hitting coach, why the outrage over Jay Bell?"
Because he's a waste of a spot on the bench. Judging by his numbers as a player and a coach, Jay Bell offers zero new approaches to this team. Bell does have some decent numbers from his playing days with the Indians, Pirates, Royals, Diamondbacks and Mets. For a middle infielder his 191 career home runs are certainly impressive. But, he's going to a team that finished 12th in baseball with 170 homers. He is currently ranked 227th all-time in runs scored with 1,123. But what is Bell most known for?
That's right, Jay Bell use to move runners over with ease back in the early 90's under Jim Leyland. In 1991, Bell had 39 sacrifice bunts. By comparison, Clint Barmes and Kevin Correia led the way last season with eight. Now the team's new hitting coach is bringing his bunting skills to Pittsburgh where they play small ball with a lineup that possesses pretty good power.
The beat goes on for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There's never a solid solution to fill a hole. For all intents and purposes, the front office is Chevy Chase plugging gum into the Hoover Dam. Obviously the losing and lack of money have become obstacles for fixing a problem, but there has to be a smarter way to improve the club.
Unlike Bob Smizik, I plan to write off Jay Bell with this team. His expertise is not in any category the team actually needs to improve on. How is he going to teach players about their approach to hitting when he struck out 20% of the time during his career? Unless the Pirates plan on signing a big free agent to improve the lineup I just don't see Bell as a positive impact on the team.