New hitting coach Tim Laker brings new-school ideas to Mariners
Tim Laker acknowledges that the most significant work hitters put in comes in the offseason – when players are away from their team’s hitting coach.
That’s when private coaches are hired and changes are made, in recent years coming with the help of technology that can measure every aspect of a swing. Laker, who the Mariners announced as their new hitting coach on Monday, has learned that if you can’t coach ’em in the offseason, join ’em.
Turns out the offseason can be valuable for hitting coaches as well.
Laker, who spent the previous two years as assistant hitting coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks, spends his offseasons in southern California working with a group of hitting coaches that includes Craig Wallenbrock and Robert Van Scoyoc (who was reported to be named Dodgers hitting coach Monday). If the name Wallenbrock sounds familiar, well, it is part of the answer to the question “How did Chris Taylor turn his game around with the Dodgers?” At 71, Wallenbrock is a consultant for the Dodgers and a highly sought-out hitting guru in the offseason.
“I spend a lot of time in the offseason with them,” Laker said the hitting experts who have helped J.D. Martinez, among others, make swing changes. “I have been fortunate enough to hit with a lot of guys who have sought us out in the offseason. It’s what I do in the offseason. It’s helped me, doing it for so many years, working with so many different hitters, getting different ideas, philosophies. I have had a chance to get a feel for all of that and better myself as a hitting coach.”
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have expressed the desire to bring in-house what hitters go to on the outside. Laker brings some of that experience, and he was excited to see the approach the Mariners have taken to better replicate the work hitters get away from the organization in a minor league swing camp in Peoria recently.
“They were using Rapsodo, Blast Motion, using the data to lend in the coaching,” he said. “I don’t see a lot of teams going that way. It seems all of the minor league coaches were teaching the same thing, which is not always the case.”
Time will tell if the work pays off and if we see an imprint of an organizational hitting philosophy in players that are promoted from within the system. As for the big leaguers, Laker has experience with two of them. Ryon Healy, who was college roommates with Laker’s stepson, sought him out for help after the season ended, and Mitch Haniger hit with him a couple of times last season on the recommendation of Daniel Descalso, who spent the last two years with the Diamondbacks.
While Laker indicated the Mariners will most likely hire an assistant for him, the Mariners coaching staff is otherwise complete.
Bench coach: Manny Acta
Pitching coach: Paul Davis
Hitting coach: Tim Laker
First base/infield coach: Perry Hill
Third base coach: Chris Prieto
Bullpen coach: Jim Brower
Major league field coordinator: Jared Sandberg