One of the first moves the new Mets front office made in their first season was to release batting coach Pat Roessler and replace him with newly fired Cubs’ batting coach Chilli Davis. So far it’s fair to say that’s one offseason move that is working out.
Roessler had been with the Mets since 2015, when Kevin Long came on as hitting coach assisted by Roessler, and Long helped reshape the attack into a pennant winner that year. Long, (and Roessler) were exponents of the launch angle theory of hitting, and the Mets had success with that long ball approach. Daniel Murphy gave credit to Long to helping retool his swing to generate more power. Long left the Mets after the 2017 season, understandably enough, when he was passed over for the open managerial position. Rossler than moved from assistant to head hitting coach for 2018, generally following the launch angle approach, although not as successfully as his predecessor Long.
Davis is a different breed. He played 19 years for six clubs, and made three AS teams as a smooth swinging switch hitter. He was not destined to be a fielding coach, by the time he hit 30 he was pretty much a DH.
What Davis brought to the Mets was an approach that took advantage of defensive shifts, by hitting to the opposite field on occasion. He is an advocate of situational hitting, Such as looking to drive the long ball when ahead in the count but perhaps slapping the ball to the opposite field if that gets the job done.
Lets take a look at a sample game, and see if we can find any impacts of the Davis approach to hitting. The game to be examined is the July 2, 2019 opener of the subway series at Citi Field. That game resulted in a 4-2 triumph for the Mets. The Mets had 11 hits that game, five of the opposite field variety. Amed Rosario notched a single to right. Later on Todd Frazier, facing the kind of shift he often sees, gave a less than elegant swing but it produced a single through the right side. As the game progressed, Robinson Cano singled to left.
None of these mattered that much in the scheme of the game. The next two would. J. D. Davis hit a homer to right center. Finally the winning two runs were plated by Michael Conforto via a long double to left. Just one game of course but it showed a lot of the Mets (at least five) were buying into the situational approach preached by Davis.
The recent Twins series showed influence of the Davis approach as well. During a key AB the Twins broadcast team alertly noticed Pete Alonso had choked up an inch on the bat after he got to two strikes. He still made an out, but the point was he was ready to sacrifice power for a hit in that spot.
It’s hard to compare the cumulative production of the 2019 Mets with the 2018 version since so many players are different (think Alonso.) But in the most important offensive team stat, runs scored, the 2018 club finished 12th in the league. The current Mets team as a of this writing is ninth in runs scored.