MILWAUKEE -- Andy Haines is out after three seasons as Brewers hitting coach, the club announced Wednesday following a review of manager Craig Counsell’s staff.
The Brewers informed Haines his contract will not be renewed for 2022 and advised assistant hitting coach Jacob Cruz he is free to pursue other opportunities while the club conducts a search for Haines’ replacement. The shakeup followed a premature postseason exit for the Brewers, who mustered six runs against the Braves including a pair of shutouts while losing the National League Division Series in four games.
“This was a very difficult decision that we've grappled with over the past week,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “Andy is a very good coach and he contributed to a lot of wins here, and he deserves recognition for that. At the end of the day, we felt like this was the right time to make a change.”
Stearns added, “I understand everyone wants reasons and rationale. I get it. I'm not going to go into the specifics of that in a public manner. I think we understand what Andy was able to contribute here; we understand his strengths. And at the end of the day, we really just thought a new voice, a little bit of different framing of message, perhaps, a new idea, might be beneficial for our group as a whole. This is a really tough position throughout baseball, and we're seeing that with the continued turnover of this position. I think sometimes you get to a point with a particular coach, specifically in hitting, where a fresh perspective is needed.”
The Brewers do plan to return their other coaches, including bench coach Pat Murphy, pitching coach Chris Hook, associate pitching, catching and strategy coach Walker McKinven, bullpen coach Steve Karsay, first base coach Quintin Berry, third base coach Jason Lane and bullpen catchers Nestor Corredor and Adam Weisenberger.
The Brewers ranked 12th in runs per game in 2021, their high point in Haines’ three years as the club’s primary hitting instructor after ranking 27th in the shortened '20 season and tied for 15th in '19.
In 2021, the team struggled particularly with the bats early in the season -- before a trade for shortstop Willy Adames seemed to provide a jolt -- and late. From Sept. 13 through the final out of Game 4 of the NLDS, the Brewers batted .203 with a .341 slugging percentage -- last in the Majors over that span. The Brewers struck out at the eighth-highest rate in MLB in 2021 and the fifth-highest rate -- once every 4.04 plate appearances -- over the past three seasons.
Of particular curiosity, given Haines’ relationship with Christian Yelich that stretches all the way back to the latter’s Minor League days, was Yelich’s struggles over the past two years after winning the 2018 National League MVP Award and then signing a club-record contract extension. Haines and Yelich worked extensively to find the root of Yelich’s diminished power -- he hit nine home runs in 2021, including only one from Aug. 22 through his season-ending strikeout in Game 4 against the Braves -- but did not come up with any solutions.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with one particular individual or one particular factor,” Stearns said.
The Brewers are building a list of candidates for the primary hitting coach position, including some names from within the organization, Stearns said. After Haines’ vacancy is filled, the organization will revisit whether Cruz is a candidate to stay on as assistant hitting coach, but he is not among the candidates for the top job at this time, according to Stearns.
Stearns declined to give a timeline for the club’s search.
“Coaches fundamentally are teachers, and they’re leaders,” he said. “We’ve had very good coaches here throughout the time I’ve been here, and many of them have gone about their business in different ways. We’re not going to pigeonhole ourselves into one particular profile, one particular philosophy. We’re likely going to evaluate a wide range of candidates and hopefully determine what we think is the best fit for us going forward.”