LAS VEGAS -- The Rockies are coming off back-to-back post-season appearances for the first time in franchise history. That is good.
The Rockies, however, know it could be better. They know that their offense stumbled through the season – compiling a franchise-worst .258 batting average overall and .225 on the road – and particularly hit on hard times down the stretch and in the post-season.
The Rockies took the first step in addressing that concern on Tuesday.
They hired longtime big-league hitting coach Dave Magadan to replace Duane Espy, who was let go at season’s end. Magadan, the godson and cousin of Lou Piniella, will be embarking on his 33rd season in the big leagues, including 16 as a player. His hitting coach resume includes stints with the Padres (2003-06), Red Sox (2007-12), Rangers (2013-15), and Diamondbacks (2016-18).
"He's going to bring fresh perspective and that outsider look at our team," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. "I don't think that necessarily means that there's sort of an at odds in terms of philosophy. One of the benefits is he'll come in with new eyes and fresh eyes, similar to how [pitching coach] Steve Foster and [bullpen coach] Darren Holmes a few years ago were able to help us see things or unlock things in different ways. That's what his huge experience at the big league level brings."
Magadan was part of a housecleaning of the Diamondbacks hitting staff at the end of last season, and is the third of the three coaches let go to wind up as the hitting coach on another big-league staff. Tim Laker, who was the assistant hitting coach with the D-Backs in 2017-18, was hired to be the Mariners’ hitting coach, and Robert Van Scoyoc, who was hired a year ago as the Diamondbacks’ hitting strategist, is now the hitting coach of the Dodgers.
Magadan inherits a team that for the first time in franchise-history did not have a .300 hitter. The team ranked seventh in MLB with 780 runs scored, but that was only the 15th highest run total in the franchise’s 26 years. And in their final five games – Game 163 against the Dodgers, the wild-card game with the Cubs, and the Division Series against the Brewers – the Rockies scored six runs, losing four of five games.
The win? A 2-1, 11-inning victory against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in the wild-card game. They came on the heels of a 5-2 loss to the Dodgers in the Game 163 battle for the NL title, both runs coming in the ninth inning after the Rockies fell behind 5-0. And they scored two runs in being swept in three games by the Brewers in the Division Series.
He becomes the second of the last eight Rockies hitting coaches – a stretch that dates back to Clint Hurdle being promoted from the Rockies minor-league system in 1997 – to be hired without previous ties to the organization. The only other outsider was Blake Doyle, who was on the staff of manager Walt Weiss from 2014-16.
And in line with that he understands that he has to do a quick study on his new pupils.
"To be able to sit here and tell you every strength and weakness is a little bit disingenuous," Magadan said. "I'm going to sit down, talk to the staff, talk to my assistant hitting coach [Jeff Salazar], talk to the players, talk to everybody involved. Certainly I've got my window into what I saw as a guy on the other side of the field in the 18 games that we played against the Rockies every year."
And what he also can see are the numbers. The Rockies hit .259 with runners in scoring position, ranking 23rd in franchise history, had a .346 on-base percentage, which ranked 19th, and a .442 slugging percentage, which ranked 15th.
It’s time to get back to the basics, which Magadan understands.
"Really, all you have to do is see what happened in the postseason this past year," Magadan said. "The team that ended up winning it all was the team in Boston. You could tell with their at-bats that they were just trying to do what the game was asking them to do on every at-bat -- whether that meant grinding out an at-bat, going up there being stubborn for a good pitch to hit, moving a runner with an out, hitting behind runners, putting balls in play to get guys in from third.
"You're always going to have those games where you get 18 or 20 hits, hit four or five homers and blow out a team, but how are you smoothing out the rough spots?"
In the case of the Rockies, it’s a matter of smoothing out what was an offensively rough season.
ADJUSTMENT: The Rockies also announced that Ron Gideon, who spent the last two years as a general assignment coach with the Rockies will become the first base coach, replacing Tony Diaz, who went to Minnesota as the third base coach.
Gideon has been in pro ball as a player, coach or manager since 1984, but had never been in the big leagues until he joined manager Bud Black’s staff in 2017.