Perry Hill not returning

According to Chuck Finder on the PBC Blog, Perry Hill won’t be returning to the Pittsburgh Pirates next season. The loss of Hill could be bigger than the loss of any player the Pirates have traded away the last two seasons. Hill is an excellent infield defensive coach, and his impact has been clear this off-season.

Take Andy LaRoche, for example. LaRoche looked horrible on defense last year, and had a -0.1 UZR in his 502.1 innings with the Dodgers and Pirates. This year, under Hill, LaRoche put up a 5.4 UZR, and looked like a Gold Glove candidate on many occasions.
Then there’s Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez had one year where he didn’t have a UZR around 0.0, and that was in 2006 when he posted a 9.2 UZR. That looked like an anomaly, although you could say that Sanchez had the skills to be a good defender. With Hill, Sanchez put up a 6.7 UZR at second base, a big improvement over his -1.8 UZR last year.
Jack Wilson has always been a good defender, but under Hill, Wilson put up a 14.4 UZR. The only season Wilson was close to that was in 2005, at the age of 27, when Wilson put up a 15.5 UZR.
The Pirates could have used Hill’s services going forward. Pedro Alvarez is due up next year, and isn’t exactly a Gold Glover at third base. If Alvarez can learn defensive skills, he could be a great all around third baseman.
The promotion of Alvarez could move Andy LaRoche over to second base, a position he’s unfamiliar with. LaRoche obviously learned a lot under Hill at third, and could have used his help at second.
The shortstop situation is questionable, although Ronny Cedeno has some good defensive skills, and was a favorite of Hill’s after the Jack Wilson trade.
All of this fails to mention the younger players in the system like Chase d’Arnaud, who is learning second, Jordy Mercer, who could be a J.J. Hardy type shortstop if he improves his defense, and Brian Friday, who really struggled defensively this past season in AA.
I’m sure most people will assume this was about money, going with the cookie cutter “Bob Nutting is cheap” complaint, although I don’t think this was about money. Hill left the game of baseball after the 2007 season to be with his wife, who was ill, and his kids, who were ages 2 and 6 going in to last season. Neal Huntington and John Russell both had a history with Hill, and both were in contact with him about coming to Pittsburgh if he decided to return to the game. Hill decided to do just that after the 2008 season.
The post by Finder on the PBC Blog mentioned that Hill “does not want to coach”, which suggests that it’s not so much an issue with the Pirates, but an issue with Hill. Hill left the game after the 2007 season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s leaving for those same reasons this time around.
The good news is that it doesn’t sound like Hill is looking elsewhere, and Finder reports that the option the Pirates had was picked up, so he can’t join another team next year. If he does decide to return to coaching beyond next season, the Pirates still have the relationship that exists between Hill and Huntington/Russell, which means there’s a chance that Hill could return to the Pirates in the future if he decides to coach again.
UPDATE 5:10 PM: John Perrotto has this via Twitter:
#Pirates are holding Perry Hill to the ’10 option they have exercised in his contract, denying at least 3 clubs pemission to talk to him.
Not sure if this means Hill wants to talk to other teams, or if it means other teams want to talk to Hill. Well, I’m pretty certain there would be other teams wanting to talk to Hill, but the Pirates aren’t letting it happen, whether Hill wants it to happen or not (which we don’t know). Considering Hill left coaching after the 2007 season, and considering he has two young kids and a wife who was ill two years ago, I’m going to take a guess that Hill just doesn’t want to coach.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

Perry Hill not returning; Searage promoted

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