Parrish the thought: Braves change minds, can hitting coach

Larry Parrish, seen in his one and only spring training with the Braves. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Larry Parrish, seen in his one and only spring training with the Braves. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

It made no sense that Fredi Gonzalez would announce, barely 12 hours after the worst collapse in National League history was complete, that his entire coaching staff would return. It made no sense that such a flop wouldn’t spawn at least some measure of re-evaluation.

Today the Braves started making sense. They fired hitting coach Larry Parrish. We can only assume Frank Wren saw what everybody else except Fredi G. saw — that the hitting had been substandard all season.

To reiterate: This should not have been a bad-hitting team. This wasn’t a lineup built around the fanciful notion that Troy Glaus might revert to 2002 form. (Although Troy Glaus did, in May 2010, revert to 2002 form.) The lineup the Braves trotted out after the trading deadline was comprised of seven guys who have made an All-Star roster and the league’s best-hitting rookie. Wren stitched together a fine everyday eight.

But they didn’t hit. Or, more precisely, they hit home runs and nothing else. They were third among NL teams in homers, third-worst in on-base percentage. You can manage that without a batting coach.

The Braves hit .235 in September, a time when more hitting was needed to back up a rotation overrun by rookies. They scored seven runs in their final five games. Had they won even one of those final five, they’d have gotten to play a 163rd game in St. Louis on Thursday. The Braves led 3-1 after three innings of Game No. 162 — and worked 10 more innings without a run.

To retain Parrish would have been the height of folly. The man had never been a big-league batting coach and spent the summer proving he wasn’t one. Who among the Braves seemed to hit better under Parrish than under the hugely chastised (and subsequently reassigned) Terry Pendleton? Brian McCann stopped being as patient. Martin Prado got lost. Jason Heyward got so confused he wound up getting benched.

A hitting coach cannot actually hit for his men, but he can instill an approach. Parrish’s approach seemed to be: Swing hard in case you hit something. (The Braves had the fourth-most strikeouts among NL clubs.) This team entered September with baseball’s fourth-best record because it had hit just enough homers to buttress a stellar rotation and a lockdown bullpen, but two starting pitchers were lost and the bullpen began to buckle from the strain, and when that happened the Braves had nothing.

The Braves hit .243 as a team. The average National League player hit .253. Think about that. Think about a lineup of Uggla and Chipper and McCann and Heyward and Prado and Freeman and finally Bourn falling so far below average … and then deciding the batting coach had earned his keep.

Parrish is a nice enough man who surely knows his baseball, but the men under his tutelage performed so far short of expectations and abilities that he could not possibly have kept his job. Simply to retain credibility as an organization, the Braves had to make this move.

By Mark Bradley

254 comments Add your comment

freshd

September 30th, 2011
4:38 pm

im not gonna say it

I'll do it then...

September 30th, 2011
4:39 pm

Loserville USA

September 30th, 2011
4:39 pm

Now…reverse course and consider the manager, Frank.

Craig Skok

September 30th, 2011
4:39 pm

Donald Trump

September 30th, 2011
4:40 pm

Larry Parrish, I’m sorry but cha fired

Obama

September 30th, 2011
4:42 pm

Well the unemployment numbers are going up again. Thanks alot Parrish

realist

September 30th, 2011
4:42 pm

This is a start, but you have to cut the head off of the snake to kill it.

Craig Skok

September 30th, 2011
4:42 pm

McLouth’s contract est finis, nes pas?

JackDennis

September 30th, 2011
4:42 pm

Apparently Wren had to tell Fredi how the cow eats the cabbage.

freshd

September 30th, 2011
4:44 pm

thanks i’ll do it then.

Robert

September 30th, 2011
4:44 pm

“Parrish is a nice enough man who surely knows his baseball, but the men under his tutelage performed so far short of expectations and abilities that he could not possibly have kept his job.”

The men under Bobby Cox’s tutelage performed far short of expectations year after year after year and yet he kept his job – year after year after year

Craig Skok

September 30th, 2011
4:45 pm

I barely passed French, so give me a break.

Sonny Clusters

September 30th, 2011
4:45 pm

We was thinking Fredi isn’t really in charge in the dugout either. He lost his coach after he said he’d be back.. That’s Mark Richt-ish and that’s not good. Maybe that’s why Constanza came out of the lineup in favor of Heyward after Fredi said he’d play the hot hand. Nothing worse than being the manager and not really being the manager. The Braves don’t have cerebral managers anyway . . . and maybe there’s a reason because they need somebody in the dugout who will take orders.

Curious George

September 30th, 2011
4:45 pm

Are the Braves hesitant to fire Fredi Gonzalez for incompetent and substandard performance for fear of having to go another round publicly with the nonsense and divisiveness of “Rev. Jackson,” or is Fredi a few shades too light to warrant and of Jesse’s concern?

Innocent Bystander

September 30th, 2011
4:47 pm

Lost in this (very exciting) turn of events is what this ordeal has suggested about Fredi’s dynamic with Wren. Fredi obviously doesn’t hold the power he thinks he does.

Curious George

September 30th, 2011
4:47 pm

Mark,

Why did the proven, elite, championship-winning Terry Francona lose his job over such a debacle, but the unproven (& uninspiring) Fredi Gonzalez get to keep his?

Jayson Heyward

September 30th, 2011
4:48 pm

Oh Great! Now who is going to teach me and Chipper how to ground into inning ending double plays????????

old brave, retired

September 30th, 2011
4:48 pm

Even Tiger Woods needs a swing coach. You wouldn’t think major league hitters actually need a hitting coach, but the truth is, they do. They seem to need someone to tell them to hit to all fields, “hit them where they ain’t”. I think Heyward needs to not put his hands so far down on the bat, not exactly choke up but a limited choke. Then he could hit that inside pitch and still cover the outside pitch. And of course stand a little closer. McCann just looked tired and never recovered from the DL. Prado never recovered from the move from 2nd base the whole season. We could sure use the bat of Pastornicky at short. Our pitcher’s hardly ever bunted successfully. More later, Peace

J-bird

September 30th, 2011
4:48 pm

In the end, OBP is what really counts in this game. You get on base, you will score runs. I know everybody wants to talk about the Braves hitting with RISP, which is a legit complaint. However, situational hitting is a very difficult thing to quantify. Does someone “turn it on” more when guys are in scoring position? Who knows… more likely that a lot of it is luck. Either way, more chances with RISP, even if the BA stays the same, will equate to more runs.

The Braves went from having the 4th highest OBP in the majors in 2010 to 26th (out of 30.) The crazy thing is that their lineup was much better than in 2010. Parrish has to be the one to blame here. We’ve known that Parrish’s hitting philosophy was much more aggressive than what TP taught (and you guys thought TP was bad) and it obviously affected our players, most notably Heyward and Prado, IMO.

Prado is already a very free-swinger for a #2 hitter and Parrish made him worse.

The best thing about Heyward in 2010 was his selectivity, pitch recognition, and approach. Parrish’s approach minimizes that huge advantage Heyward has, especially over players his age, and that’s a big reason why Heyward was having such weak contact on a lot of balls.

Parrish down, Gonzalez to go.

Sonny Clusters

September 30th, 2011
4:48 pm

Fredi told Newberry “our goal was to make the playoffs. We wanted to keep putting pennants up there. It didn’t happen.” First, the goal was not worthy. The goal should have been a NL pennant and a WS ring. Second, those are not pennants on the wall. Those are little division signs and even one for a wild card. Who are they fooling, themselves? Stinky Wintes would tell you real quick that winning the division is not winning a championship. Those little signs need to come down as part of a new attitude.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2011
4:48 pm

I have to say, Curious, that I think Terry Francona, whom everyone calls Tito, is top-notch. I’d hire him in a minute.

Craig Skok

September 30th, 2011
4:48 pm

Kawakami’s contract done? Hope Lowe does the honorable thing and retires.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2011
4:49 pm

But let’s also note that there’s a different mindset in Boston. They paid twice as much for their roster as Liberty Media did.

old brave, retired

September 30th, 2011
4:49 pm

I meant for Heyward to Not put his hands so far down on the bat

Curious George

September 30th, 2011
4:49 pm

Would the superficial people who blame everything on race be okay with it if we replaced Fredi Gonzalez with Terry Francona, a member of a very similar demographic?

Adios Parrish

September 30th, 2011
4:51 pm

Good riddance and a step in the right direction

Craig Skok

September 30th, 2011
4:52 pm

Liberty Media done with its tax shelter? Braves for sale now, please?

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2011
4:52 pm

Kawakami’s contract is done. So the Braves can use that $5 million to help buy out Lowe’s $15 million.

Charles

September 30th, 2011
4:52 pm

As for the manager, what a self-inflicted indictment. When asked why he didn’t walk the Phil’s best hitter to get to a guy batting under 200 in the last inning, he said he thought about such a move, but the count was already 2 and 2. Good grief! I suspect most all of the fans thought of that strategy before the first pitch. That’s almost tantamount to saying I’m not too bright. Don’t good managers think ahead a couple of moves? Then to make it worse, he asks if the questioner could guarantee him the under-200 guy would not have gotten a hit or drawn a walk. Double good grief! That’s called taking a reasonable chance. The future with Fredi is not an encouraging thought.

cloudy

September 30th, 2011
4:53 pm

You know at some point you have to blame those that pitch, catch and hit; or don’t pitch, catch and hit. I think I might just back the truck up.

Mitchell

September 30th, 2011
4:53 pm

Oh, what a surprise.

My comment got deleted.

That about sums it up.

Mitchell

September 30th, 2011
4:55 pm

Just in time for the playoffs.

Sonny Clusters

September 30th, 2011
4:57 pm

Fredi may not be the sharpest crayon in the box. We thought Chipper was graded on a curve and that helped him out some at Bolles High School but Fredi may be a dimmer bulb yet. More of the same with the Braves isn’t going to be very exciting. There’s a reason this is being described as an “epic” collapse. The fans, the players, the coaching staff, the owners, everybody should be mad. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? We was always very mild mannered but we was never part of an epic collapse. BobbyBall is all over this inbred organization. The Braves are more inbred than those little dogs in Athens with the exploding hearts. Let’s hope there will be some more changes soon.

phil

September 30th, 2011
4:57 pm

What a relief….

But it’s only a start.

FG must go too.

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2011
4:58 pm

I’m outraged because Dairy Queen was out of Blizzards. How’s that?

Curious George

September 30th, 2011
4:58 pm

Will a new hitting coach be able to remind the Jason Heyward we saw in 2011 that HUSTLE doesn’t slump, contrary to his relentless attempts to prove otherwise?

phil

September 30th, 2011
5:00 pm

Fire FG tomorrow and grab Francona….

phil

September 30th, 2011
5:01 pm

Good lord, Bradley. I’ve been reading your stuff since ‘85 and you don’t prefer the peanut buster parfait?

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2011
5:03 pm

You make a good point, phil.

hawesg

September 30th, 2011
5:04 pm

Best news I’ve heard all week from 755 Aaron Dr. You can’t REDUCE the performance of a unit when you ADD talent and expect to keep your six figure job.

What is this? Wall Street?

Sonny Clusters

September 30th, 2011
5:06 pm

Chipper is coming back! Wish he’d been back in that last 0-5 game with 3 strikeouts especially since he is the star of the team. Longoria, on the other hand came up big and led his team to the playoffs. Atlanta fans have become so used to this crap the Braves serve up that nobody challenges them – maybe that will be Mark’s mission in the off season. Hanging up those little signs (especially that last one) has to be an affront to every baseball fan in the city. Braves tradition is not the proud tradition they would have you believe. We was thinking it is a tradition of excuses and failures and watching somebody else celebrate on your home field. Those little signs must come down. There need to be some changes in the organization if they are serious about being a winner (they’re not). The fans need to crusade. They will need a leader (Mark perhaps?). Mediocre baseball for years and selling it as championship baseball. Now, the epic collapse. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? Clusters want to know.

Tired Braves Fan

September 30th, 2011
5:06 pm

this is the difference between a winning organization (Red Sox) and a middle of the road organization (Braves). Despite winning TWO world championship rings in recent years, the Sox says the heck with you….results matter…..and fire Francona.

the Braves?…….”oh, well there’s always next year” mentality and keep the incompetent Gonzalez

I’m in my forties…..I doubt the Braves will ever win another WS in my lifetime

Bobbys' Booger will work for Francona

September 30th, 2011
5:07 pm

I’d like to think the vent of some fans had some effect on Wrenn. Either way, that comment by FG early yesterday was moronic at best….keeping all his staff…goodlord. Anyway one down 1 to go. If the Braves want to stem the tide of disappearing fans hire Francona and fire Freddi

Big Wally

September 30th, 2011
5:07 pm

The fact that Gonzalez thought about keeping him, proves Fredi G, ain’t the man.

Jo-Bu

September 30th, 2011
5:08 pm

Wonder if any one would ponder this notion for a moment:

I’m not too impressed with the way Fredi G. managed the team this season. But, if we were to give him the benefit of the doubt in his first year, he now has a pretext for doing things more to his liking next season. Maybe he didn’t want to ruffle too many feathers by makeing wholesale changes this season? Only DOB and others in the media who’ve been around the Marlins club house could attest to his style of management but I say that spring training of next season, Fredi has at least an excuse to remold the culture of this club. The Bobby Cox era is gone and, I think Stan Castin might have said this: If you’re going to make a chance, by golly, make a change.

Again, I’m not carrying any water for Fredi, I think he was terrible tactically and strategically. This team and the “Braves-way” need a change in mindset and stop trying to re-live an era gone by in Bobby Cox.

What do you think MB?

Bobbys' Booger will work for Francona

September 30th, 2011
5:08 pm

wOW sONNY cLuSTERS…..

fredi g

September 30th, 2011
5:09 pm

Is freddi g next?

Bobbys' Booger will work for Francona

September 30th, 2011
5:09 pm

bigtime Lucidity from Sonny C

Tired Braves Fan

September 30th, 2011
5:10 pm

I went back and read your post about Fredi….Sonny Clusters, very funny.

However, I think Fredi would be categorized as a “non-Hispanic white”…….ergo, the Right Reverend Jesse Jackson would have no interest in defending him should he get fired.

Sonny Clusters

September 30th, 2011
5:10 pm

Dairy Queen is never out of Blizzards but these Braves were out of tricks against the Marlins, the Nats, the Mets, the Cards, and that other team that swept them at home who had nothing to gain, nothing to lose. Fredi’s statement that the whole staff would return the day after the debacle shows the pin in pin head. The organization may serve good cheese in the press box but the product on the field is in decline. Fredi is undermined by the decision to fire Parrish. It was a good call but an unfortunate one for Fredi who it has been demonstrated is not making his own calls. Epic collapse. Epic. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? We was outraged all day today.