Pirates Name Rick Eckstein as Their New Hitting Coach

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Friday afternoon that they have hired Rick Eckstein as their new hitting coach. He has been the minor league hitting coordinator for the Minnesota Twins for the last two seasons.

Eckstein is the older brother of former player David Eckstein. He played college ball at Florida and after graduating, he served various roles in both college and professional baseball before getting his big break in 2009. Eckstein spent five years as the hitting coach for the Washington Nationals (2009-13). During that time, they went from a 59 win team (both 2008 and 2009) to 98 wins during the 2012 season. Since leaving that job (and before being hired by the Twins) he held a hitting coach position in college and a front office position with the Angels.

Looking just at the Nationals during his five years in the same role, he took over a team that finished 28th in the majors in runs scored in 2008. In 2009, they didn’t win any more games, but the offense was 21st in runs scored, so there was an immediate improvement that didn’t show up in the win column. In 2010, they dropped in offense to 25th overall. In 2011, they stayed stagnant, finishing 24th. The next season was the breakout, when they moved up to tenth in runs scored. They dropped to 15th overall in his final season.

It’s interesting to note that their runs scored lined up well with the payroll ranking for the Nationals over those years. The biggest difference by a wide margin was 2012 when they ranked 20th in payroll and tenth in offense.

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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