The Cincinnati Reds have hired Jay Bell away from the Pirates to be their bench coach, according to Ken Rosenthal.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 12, 2013
Bell was the Pirates’ hitting coach in 2013, his first year on the job. I was going to mention how he seemed to have struggled on the job, but after looking at the numbers the Pirates showed some improvements in 2013. Here is a look at the 2012/2013 numbers.
Stat – 2012 Ranking / 2013 Ranking
OPS – 25th / 17th
wOBA – 25th / 16th
wRC+ – 26th / 13th
Some of that could have been due to Starling Marte being on the team the entire season. They also had Jordy Mercer at shortstop for half a year, which was an improvement over Clint Barmes for the entire 2012 season. There were some players who struggled, most notably Travis Snider, Garrett Jones, and Jose Tabata up until the last two months of the season.
It’s hard to quantify the value of a hitting coach. You can’t tell if the improvements from 2012 to 2013 were due to Bell, or due to the players. It’s easier to give credit to pitching coaches, because we hear more about certain adjustments that were made. Of course it’s also easy to see the impact of the pitching coaches since they’ve turned around so many struggling pitchers. That can’t just be a coincidence. I was ready to say that Bell isn’t really a loss, but the Pirates did improve under him. That said, I don’t think the loss of Bell would be the same as the loss of one of the pitching coaches, and it definitely isn’t as bad as potentially losing Ray Searage. The Pirates did improve in 2013, but they were still an average offense at best.
As for a replacement, Jeff Branson served as the assistant hitting coach. You would think he is the favorite for the job, but the Pirates might not necessarily go in that direction.