How Mattingly plans to transform Blue Jays' offense

February 23rd, 2024

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- New year, new beard, new job for Donnie Baseball.

has added “offensive coordinator” alongside his title of bench coach. It’s a title you typically associate with the NFL, but as MLB front offices and coaching staffs continue to add more words and syllables, there was bound to be some overlap eventually.

This sounds complicated, but it’s the opposite.

Last season, the Blue Jays had several voices involved in the offense. The primary voices were Dave Hudgens, who was responsible for the broader strategy, and Guillermo Martinez, who was responsible for the fundamentals and working on swings. In 2024, there will be one message coming from one voice, and that message will be a straight shot.

“My approach and thought process is really pretty simple,” Mattingly explained. “What are we doing to get a good swing off? Are we putting ourselves in a good position? What are you hunting? What’s your game plan? What are we doing with this guy?”

Why the Blue Jays expect this to help:

There is an ocean of information available to players. It’s absolutely overwhelming at times, but good organizations learn how to customize it to their own specific players.

Some players want all of it, all at once. Some are visual learners who want to see the data while others want to feel it, repeating their swing and hitting a thousand balls in the cage. The magic is in finding which words, which tones, which times and which levels of force work for each individual player. When that happens, and the player’s mind is comfortable with the information, they can let their talent fly.

“Hitting is tough, man,” Mattingly said. “You get a lot of voices during the course of a season. There’s a high school coach, maybe somebody else sees something on the internet, guys are just trying so many different things. We just want to keep that to more of a simplistic view of how we’re going about our business.”

What will it look like?

The idea of a “team approach” can be misinterpreted. It doesn’t mean nine hitters succeeding in the exact same way with power, contact or speed. Mattingly wants it to mean one thing: competitive at-bats.

“A guy having his plan, executing it and staying with it. That ends up being a competitive at-bat,” Mattingly said. “What do you want to do with this [pitcher]? What are you trying to do? How are you trying to get him there? Then, stick with that. You’re not going to cover the whole zone. You’re not going to cover every area, every pitch. We’re going to try to minimize where we’re trying to handle. We’ll hopefully cover the areas that are guys’ strengths, try to get the ball in those areas and go to work.”

What do the players think?

The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Bo Bichette, whose voice carries as much weight in the clubhouse as anyone’s, was enthusiastic from Day 1.

“He had a little fire when he addressed us today, which I thought was nice,” Bichette said earlier this week. “Overall, he just wants us to compete better and give away fewer at-bats, have more of a plan every single day.”

The way the players describe this is simple, which is just what Mattingly wants. Today’s players hold Mattingly in such high regard for his success as a player, too, so these aren’t difficult conversations for them. When Mattingly speaks, they listen.

“Donnie’s one of the best hitters ever,” Cavan Biggio said. “Having a central message and offensive strategy that, in simpler terms, comes down to competing, getting a good pitch, driving the ball and doing what we really need to do instead of really breaking it down specifically. I think that keeping it simple is the biggest thing that we need to do because of the guys and the talent that we have.”

That’s what this is about. Baseball is complicated enough and the mountains of information available can either help or hurt that struggle. It’s about letting a player’s talent shine through, and after a frustrating 2023, the Blue Jays want to create a shorter, simpler path for that to happen.