Apr 30, 2019 - Sports

Baseball's hitting coaches go all in on tech and data

Illustration of a baseball player's batting form being evaluated by technology

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As baseball, like all sports, becomes more data-oriented and technology-driven, MLB hitting coaches are no longer required to have actually played in the big leagues.

Details: Instead, teams are looking for coaches who are well versed in how to use the new technologies available to them (hitting apps, machines) and leverage the data they produce.

By the numbers: 19 of MLB's 30 hitting coaches played less than 100 big league games, 13 never played in the majors and four never even played in the minors.

  • All but four were hired in September 2016 or later, proving just how much fresh blood has entered a once insular community of former batting champions.

The big picture: At the turn of the century, most general managers were former big leaguers. They've since been replaced by an influx of Ivy League grads with skillsets seemingly more cut out for the trading floor than the baseball diamond.

  • The hitting coach revolution is the "next wave of that trend: giving outsiders a uniform and making them coaches," writes WSJ's Jared Diamond (subscription).

The bigger picture: The changing role of an MLB hitting coach is a reflection of what's happening in society as a whole, where technological advancements are fundamentally changing or straight up eliminating jobs, while also creating new ones.

  • Plenty of professions are starting to resemble the modern hitting coach: less about what you know, more about how good you are at absorbing mass amounts of information and knowing what to do with it.

The bottom line: While their predecessors functioned as history teachers, passing down the lessons they were taught, today's hitting coaches are more akin to if your AP Physics and AP Statistics professors had a baby. (Sorry for the visual.)

Go deeper: Traditional sports look to new tech to survive

Go deeper