Awful Hitting Should Put Eckstein On Notice

By Editorial Staff

These numbers aren’t pretty.

The Nationals went 1 for 13 last night with runners in scoring position, and 2 for 42 overall in the last few games. It’s hard to win games that way.

It isn’t a coincidence the Nationals lost four straight after taking a 4-3 loss to the Reds last night at Great American Ball Park.

It’s not a crime to struggle against Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, who are good pitchers in their own right.  It raises questions when the Nationals struggle against the Wade Mileys and the Dontrelle Willises of the world. This has been too often that the Nationals make others pitchers look good than they really are.

It’s hard to give Miley and Willis credit when they were getting by most of the night.  A great team would have made both of them pay for being behind the count or putting men on base.  Fortunately for them, they face a team in the Nationals, who feature players that are learning on the job.

This isn’t the first time the Nationals struggled in situational hitting. They have done this for most of the season, which is why they have a losing record.

It isn’t just them struggling in situational hitting. Sometimes, all the hitters in the lineup go on the funk.

Here are the hard cold facts about the Nationals’ hitting:

  • They are 27th in majors in batting.
  • They have the second most strikeout rate in the majors.
  • They are 26th in runs scored.

This should be an indictment of Nationals hitting coach Rick Eckstein.

Folks can talk about Eckstein can’t do the work for the players. If that’s the case, what is the point of having a hitting coach?

A hitting coach has a purpose. His job is to teach the hitters and work with their psyche. He has to write notes at games and offer suggestions on how they can improve. He has to get them to listen. Based on that, it’s fair to call out Eckstein.

When Wilson Ramos continues to swing at every first pitch or swing at balls, one wonders if Eckstein is getting through to him.

When Brian Bixler swings at a wild pitch like he did at Chicago in early August, one can’t help but think if Eckstein is teaching guys properly.

If Jayson Werth is not even bothering to listen to Eckstein for help, this raises credibility issue for the Nationals hitting coach.

When guys ground into double plays often, it’s safe to question if they are being encouraged to make adjustments.

Maybe Eckstein does work with them, but the results say he has not had success with them. It’s all about the bottom line when it comes to coaches.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and Nationals manager Davey Johnson can’t like what they are seeing. Sure, they are going to preach patience, but at some point, it will run out.

It’s been two years of lousy hitting under Eckstein’s leadership. Something has to give. The team can’t expect the same coaching with different results.

There’s no question young players are learning, but they need to make progress at some point. They haven’t. If anything, they are getting worse than getting better, especially in the case of Wilson Ramos, who is playing like a minor leaguer.

If anyone wants to know what a good hitting coach does, look at the job Diamondbacks hitting coach Don Baylor has done with Justin Upton and Chris Young. He has spent time working with those two hitters, and they have taken to his teaching. It’s not a coincidence Upton has cut down on his strikeouts and focuses more on hitting the ball in the field rather hit for the fences.

Baylor would have been useful this season for the Nationals. He was available after the Rockies fired him as their hitting coach last year. A proven hitting coach was a must last offseason, so it was surprising the team retained Eckstein rather than go after a proven hitting coach that had success everywhere.

Imagine Baylor working with Ramos and Werth.  Those two may have benefitted with him.  No one would see Ramos be hacking at every pitch, and the highly paid outfielder wouldn’t be quick to reject help. No way would rookies go on a deep funk that last the entire season.

That’s what good hitting coach does.

Eckstein’s job should be on the line with one month remaining in the season. Either the Nationals improve in hitting or it’s time to hire someone who can do a better job than Eckstein.