M’s Hot Stove: New coach Brant Brown dives into hitting strategy

Jan 16, 2024, 9:00 PM

Seattle Mariners general dugout...

A general view of the Seattle Mariners dugout before a 2002 game at T-Mobile Park. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Brant Brown may be new to the position of Seattle Mariners bench coach and offensive coordinator, but he is not new to the organization having spent five years coaching in the minors before joining the Dodgers and eventually Marlins as a hitting coach.

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Going back even further, he managed the Texas Rangers’ Double-A affiliate Frisco RoughRiders, where one of his travel partners was a young broadcaster by the name of Aaron Goldsmith.

“That was a key factor in me coming to Seattle,” Brown deadpanned Tuesday on Seattle Sports’ Mariners Hot Stove before reliving some Texas League travel stories with Goldsmith.

While it is good to have a relationship with a team’s broadcaster, it’s even better to have a connection with the manager. Brown and M’s skipper Scott Servais were Cubs teammates in the late 1990s.

“Scotty and I always talk. We have been friends for a long time,” said Brown. “It’s always worked back and forth. I think the personalities really blend well. When he asks me a question, he knows he’s going to get the truth from me.”

That trust is of vital importance in the bench coach role. In the role of offensive coordinator, Brown brings with him experience and success with two very different organizations.

He has hit the ground running, having talked with nearly all the Mariners hitters to get to know them as individuals while also doing his homework studying the analytics and tendencies. What he sees – and likes –  is a group that is set up to tackle the full spectrum of what major league pitching throws at them each night.

“When you make up a lineup, you need a diverse group of guys that have certain superpowers because it really helps when you are facing different pitchers and different pitch characteristics each and every night,” he said. “If you have a good diverse group that are good at different things yet good together, it just puts you in better places throughout the game and gives you opportunity to win more ballgames.”

On the Hot Stove last week, general manager Justin Hollander stated a big part of Brown’s focus with the Mariners day-to-day will be on approach. That, of course, will vary with who they are facing, but Brown brings an overall message for the group.

“First and foremost, it’s not what the pitcher is trying to do, it’s what you are trying to do to the pitcher,” he said. “Second, is there a situation that needs to get done to help us win that changes what you are trying to do? And three, we don’t know which run in the game is going to win the game. We have to understand at the end of the day is you have to know where you are at in the count. You have to understand as you get into deficit counts, the slug goes down and the chase goes up. We have to modify our intent to where we are at in the at-bat, where we are at in the game and everything needs to be tapered towards a letter which is a ‘W,’ instead of a number.”

These are all things the Mariners have wanted to see from their hitters, but in a very different voice with different terminology. Not once in the 20-minute interview did Brown use the “Dominate The Zone” phrase the Mariners have embraced for several years now. It has been all about the numbers, the analytics and it will always be, but Brown provides an alternate focus with the letter, which is interesting and perhaps will resonate better with some hitters.

Another message he shared on the show? While the Mariners are looking to cut down on the swing and miss, there is room for error outside the strike zone.

“I don’t expect our hitters for every one of their swings to be in the box,” he said. “I do not. But what I do expect is for when they do chase a pitch out of the box, I want it to be in one area and that area should be to their strength. Those are creating conditions that one, it is very feasible and you can do it, two, if you swing outside of the box it is something you might be able to hit and three, you can’t practice perfection in a game or a task that is not going to be perfect, but you can handle doing it the way you want to do it, not the way they want you to do it.”

One hitter he is looking forward to working with is Julio Rodríguez and perhaps lessening some of the pressure on the young superstar.

“His drive this offseason has been impressive,” Brown said. “I’m super excited to get to know him better. I’m super excited hopefully to guide him in certain situations knowing that if we do things the right way, no one has to be a hero. You are going to hit for the hive, no one has to be a hero. Sometimes all hitters get themselves in trouble to because they think they have to do too much in those moments. He is a very feared hitter in this league, so he is going to get every pitch in the book. Sometimes the best thing he can do is take the walk and pass the baton and let the next guy do the job.”

This week’s Hot Stove Show also featured an interview with Cal Raleigh from his new home in Arizona, a chance to catch up with former Mariners reliever and new major league pitching strategist and assistant pitching coach Danny Farquhar, and the rundown on the international signees with director of international scouting Frankie Thon Jr.

You can hear the full show in the two podcasts below.

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