Marlins' hitting philosophy unified across org

July 12th, 2020

MIAMI -- With a promising core of position players and waves of talented hitting prospects getting closer to being big league ready, the Marlins are aiming to develop their own hitting identity.

The roots of Miami’s organizational philosophy are tied to the Yankees.

From the big league staff down to the Minor Leagues, the organization feels it is more on the same page than ever.

Gary Denbo, the Marlins vice president of player development and scouting; manager Don Mattingly; bench coach James Rowson and hitting coach Eric Duncan all previously spent time wearing the Yankees pinstripes -- either as players or coaches.

And this year, Double-A Jacksonville hitting coach Scott Seabol and Class A Advanced Jupiter hitting coach Ty Hawkins joined Miami’s system after previously working with the Yankees.

“What's been going on here the last few years, and I think Gary Denbo has a lot to do with it,” Mattingly said, “the hitting philosophies all match up now.”

On the big league staff, Robert Rodríguez, brother of Miami utility player Sean Rodríguez, is the assistant hitting coach.

Still, when it comes to run production, the Marlins clearly have work to do. 

A year ago, Miami ranked at or near the bottom of the Major Leagues in several significant statistical categories. The offense was last in home runs (146) and slugging percentage (.375), and 29th in runs (615). 

Enter Rowson, as bench coach and unofficial “offensive coordinator.” 

“I think we're in a pretty special position,” Duncan said. “I have a long history with James Rowson, our bench coach/offensive coordinator, and my experience last year with Donnie. We're all in lock step with what the message is, and what it's about.”

A year ago, Rowson was the hitting coach of the Twins. The Bomba Squad, as they were called, set a Major League single-season record with 307 home runs, and they were second in runs (939). 

What the Marlins are trying to build is a group-oriented process aimed at generating more runs. In order to do that, they clearly have to do more damage at the plate. That’s why slugging stats are so important.

“Simply, it's to score more runs than the other team,” Duncan said. “But going deeper into it -- it is how we game plan and how we prepare, how we have nine individual plans to attack the opposing pitcher that night.”

Duncan, considered a rising star in the coaching ranks, is in his first season as hitting coach and his second year with the Marlins.

In 2019, Duncan started off as Miami’s Minor League hitting coordinator, but he was promoted to the big league staff after assistant hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo was dismissed last April. 

With the growth of analytics and the influx of advanced data, traditional coaching roles have changed on the Marlins’ staff. MLB is in the launch angle era, where players and teams are seeking to elevate the baseball, in hopes of driving balls into the gaps and over the fences. 

Not surprisingly, the Twins had an average team launch angle of 14.7 degrees in 2019, which was the highest in the Majors. The Marlins, meanwhile, ranked last with an 8.5-degree launch angle. The MLB average was 11.2 degrees.

“I think our philosophies have kind of matched, and Gary is building it all through the Minor Leagues,” said Mattingly, who is more hands-on in the hitting process. 

Added Duncan: “Obviously, exit velocity and launch angle, if you hit the ball a certain miles per hour at a certain launch angle, your opportunity to get a hit or hit a home run goes way up."

As a staff, the Marlins don’t talk much about launch angle with the players, because they are the results each time a ball is put in play. 

“Now, how you get to that point, in terms of your balance, your body control, your direction, your timing,” Duncan said. “That's talked about a lot.”

Duncan notes if players are committed to understanding their swing, their timing and pitchers’ strengths and weaknesses, positive results should occur.

“If all of those things fall in line, leading up to when the ball hits the bat, then the result coming off the bat, the launch angle and the exit velocity will be where we want it,” he said.