When you have the worst record in baseball and are in the midst of losing 30 of 35 games, including 19 in a row on the road, you have to expect there to be some sort of changes.
Change came to the D-backs on Thursday.
The team announced it has parted ways with hitting coach Darnell Coles and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske.
Triple-A Reno hitting coach Rick Short and run production coordinator Drew Hedman were named co-hitting coaches.
Let’s take a look at what this all means:
Who made the decision?
It was ultimately manager Torey Lovullo’s decision to make the change on his coaching staff, both Lovullo and general manager Mike Hazen said.
Why do it now?
The D-backs just finished a road a winless road trip to Milwaukee (0-4) and Oakland (0-2) during which they scored a total of 12 runs.
While the offense had struggled before that, Lovullo wanted to see if things would improve once such players as outfielder Ketel Marte, first baseman Christian Walker and catcher Carson Kelly returned from the injured list.
“I wanted to let those injured players return, and I wanted to see if those healthy players getting back into the fold would have this thing turned around,” Lovullo said. “But obviously that hasn’t happened. That’s what led me to this decision today.”
What do the D-backs hope to accomplish?
Lovullo acknowledged that there was not an issue with the game plans that Coles and Hinske came up with. After all, Lovullo signs off on those game plans, so he is a part of that.
“It’s just the execution was not there,” Lovullo said. “Moving forward, I want to create a certain offensive identity that means we are going to battle and fight and have a very, very unpredictable game plan that’s going to beat any pitcher, whether it’s the best pitcher or somebody in the back end of a bullpen.
“I want us to be that diverse. I think we have to create a new offensive identity and where we’re going to attack things, no matter who we’re facing.”
What is Lovullo’s job status?
With his team struggling and his contract set to expire at the end of the season, Lovullo’s future is up in the air.
Team president and CEO Derrick Hall has given an emphatic vote of confidence to Lovullo in recent weeks. Hazen, who has a long history with Lovullo, stated his support Thursday.
“I still feel like, within the game, the game is being managed, the effort is being put in, that needs to be in order to play the brand of baseball that we want to play,” Hazen said. “I still feel like Torey is the right person to lead these guys and right this ship and get us back to where we need to go.”
Hazen also went out of his way to say he is ultimately responsible for putting the team together and has to share in any blame that is assigned.
Lovullo said he is focused on the day-to-day challenge of managing and that helps simplify his focus and keep it off his contract situation.
“This game is hard enough, and if I’m going to bog it down with what I’m worried about in the future, I’m not doing my best job,” Lovullo said. “I’m going to commit to this process that I’ve done every single year. That’s all I know. I’m not coming off of that. Then I’ll be judged by my boss, and he’ll take it from there.”
What about the pitching?
The D-backs’ struggles this year have not just been on the offensive side. The pitching staff ranked last in the National League in ERA (4.97) and ERA+ (84) entering Thursday.
Lovullo was asked if he contemplated making staff changes on the pitching side.
“That’s a very fair question,” he said. “I’ll continue to say everything is going to be evaluated throughout the course of the remainder of the season. It’s something that I felt like the offensive trend needed to be addressed, and it’s just the direction I decided to go.”
“I think a distinction in my mind is four of our starting pitchers are out right now,” Hazen said. “The degree that we’re putting guys in situations is of some consideration for looking at the performance.”