The Dodgers front office and coaching staff have been raided this off-season, which is sort of to be expected when the team has gone to back-to-back World Series (unfortunately without the benefit of a win, but I digress). After a bit of a lull in activity, the Dodgers are reportedly filling two vacancies on their coaching staff with Robert Van Scoyoc as hitting coach (Via Pedro Moura) and Dino Ebel as third base coach (Via Bill Plunkett).
If Van Scoyoc sounds familiar then it’s probably because of his association with the career resurgences of J.D. Martinez and Chris Taylor, so he won’t be a new face to at least one Dodgers player. He also isn’t even new to the Dodgers organization, as he was previously a hitting consultant for the team before being hired by the Diamondbacks as a hitting strategist.
A native of Los Angeles, Van Scoyoc is known as the unorthodox coach who worked with, among others, J.D. Martinez and Chris Taylor to revamp their swings. For several years, he and another coach, Craig Wallenbrock, worked out of a business park in Santa Clarita, 30 miles northwest of Dodger Stadium. He then spent two seasons as a hitting consultant for the Dodgers while working with dozens of big leaguers during the offseason.
Did you hate the “launch angle swing” (god that phrase is so dumb) last year? Well have I got a hitting coach for you.
Van Scoyoc has taught the importance of hitting the ball in the air, remaining on plane within the strike zone, shooting breaking balls to the pull side and timing fastballs to the opposite field. Those concepts run counter to baseball tradition, but they have become popular within the game this decade. Martinez’s reinvention and ensuing successes contributed to rise of Van Scoyoc and Wallenbrock, as did Josh Donaldson and Justin Turner’s similar evolutions. Donaldson worked with Bobby Tewksbary and Turner with L.A.-area coach Doug Latta, but the teachings share similarities.
Keeping up with the trends in the industry, in an article about his hire by the Diamondbacks last year, Van Scoyoc seems to effectively mesh the traditional and analytical worlds.
Diamondbacks players say they value hitting coach Dave Magadan’s experience and feedback, several of them noting Magadan’s ability to provide in-game input on the proper approach to take with them to the plate. They say assistant Tim Laker has an eye for mechanical adjustments. Van Scoyoc, who declined comment for this story, provides a sort of blend, complementing Magadan and Laker’s abilities while bringing his own perspective, the hitters say. By all accounts, the three seem to be working well together.
“I’ve always felt like the way we kind of teach and coach pitching versus hitting is so different in the industry,” Porter said. “A lot of resources for years have been dumped into pitching, with pitch data and the different types of mechanical evaluations or giving guys new pitches, changing arm slots, whatever it may be. That’s all incredibly valuable and everyone is still doing that. But I think as an industry we gave up too quickly on hitters rather than exploring more avenues with them. To me, it’s another way to bring in another viewpoint that can help, another resource for our hitters, really.”
That apparently contrasts with the approach of former hitting coach Turner Ward, who Moura described as more traditional and focused on talking hitters up and (ironically) situational hitting.
So at least in theory, this seems like a forward-thinking hire that keeps the Dodgers on the cutting edge. But of course, it’s difficult to predict how things will actually work out and whether improved results will follow. Or really even to know how much credit or blame goes to the hitting coach to begin with.
For now though, it seems at least reason to be intrigued, if not excited.
To fill another vacancy on the staff, the Dodgers turned to Freeway Series rival Angels for third base and bench coach Ebel, who is another addition that isn’t a stranger to the organization.
Ebel began his professional career in the Dodgers’ organization, spending six seasons as an infielder in the minor leagues. After serving as a player-coach with minor-league teams in San Antonio and San Bernardino, he was a full-time coach and manager in the Dodgers’ farm system until joining the Angels as manager of their Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City in 2005. He joined Scioscia’s major-league staff after bench coach Joe Maddon left to become the Tampa Bay Rays manager in 2006.
At least from an experience standpoint, the credentials seem to be there, but it’s difficult to analyze coaching hires like this.
What I do know is that he seems to have big shoes to fill, as Chris Woodward was a rare third base coach that fans didn’t seem to hate in terms of decision making. Woodward also effectively worked with the players on implementing the shifts, and he seemed to be generally well-liked if not beloved.
A bit of a Kenley Jansen update, as he’s had his heart procedure and seems to be doing well.
Today, Kenley Jansen underwent an ablation procedure with Dr. Koonlawee Nademanee in Los Angeles. The procedure went as expected and Jansen is resting comfortably in the hospital. The club anticipates Jansen will be ready for Spring Training and available on Opening Day.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) November 27, 2018