Texas Rangers Offensive Coordinator Donnie Ecker Talks Hitting


© John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports activities

The Texas Rangers made significant adjustments this summer time after they parted methods with supervisor Chris Woodward — Tony Beasley is presently serving in an interim capability — and subsequently changed Jon Daniels with Chris Young as their high entrance workplace decision-maker. However a transfer that has been each bit as impactful was made 10 months in the past. Final November — shortly earlier than Baseball America named him their MLB Coach of the 12 months — Donnie Ecker was employed away from the San Francisco Giants and given the title of Bench Coach/Offensive Coordinator.

Ecker’s repute as a tech-and-data-savvy hitting nerd is well-earned. Previous to the 2 seasons he spent as Gabe Kapler’s hitting coach in San Francisco, the 36-year-old Los Altos, California native constructed his bona fides as an assistant hitting coach with the Cincinnati Reds, and earlier than that as a minor-league hitting teacher within the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels organizations.

Ecker, who’s well-educated in biomechanics and analytics, mentioned a few of the philosophies and practices he introduced with him to Texas when the Rangers visited Fenway Park earlier this month.


David Laurila: You spend lots of time on the ballpark, typically arriving by 9 AM for a seven o’clock recreation. What does your day sometimes seem like?

Donnie Ecker: “It begins with understanding the place all of our individuals are at, zooming in on our hitters first and searching on the issues that we discover invaluable. How is their efficiency aligning with our North Stars and peripherals? As a division, we wish to be on high of that day-to-day. Most occasions, that’s a strategy of going deep and mentioning easy and actionable gadgets to the floor. All the things is from the within out, resulting in what we wish our conversations and coaching to feel and appear like that day for that participant.

“From there, I zoom out and put my give attention to the opponent and all the individualized matchups now we have in opposition to their bullpen. That flows into prepping for his or her beginning pitcher, which is a beast in itself with regard to element and thoroughness. We’ll individualize that as a lot as we will. Then we’re potential themes that could be there to show over the course of a sequence. These themes won’t ever override who we’re — our foundational beliefs — but when there are micro match-ups, guys that may’t deal with the run recreation, guys that may’t area push bunts, or outlier bullpen tendencies in opposition to runners in scoring place that require back-side hitting, no matter it could be, is there one thing distinctive that we will expose? Recreation planning on day one in all a sequence can take anyplace from 5 to seven hours. And actually, day-after-day is a brand new puzzle. Day-after-day, there’s a course of that’s required to ensure my work is clear.”

Laurila: I do know that you simply have a look at a ton of video. What are you specializing in?

Ecker: “We break it up into three areas. We’ll isolate how [the hitters] are shifting in context to the pitches they’re attempting to resolve. How is our man organising and shifting on a four-seam, and is that the place we wish it? How is he organising and shifting on a sinker man? Is his alignment the place we wish it based mostly on rubber place and launch top? So it’s mainly checks and balances. Are we in the suitable setups and alignments, or are there issues we have to remedy?
“From there we’ll dig into the second section. We separate path from motion, so we’ll simply have a look at path. After which, the third half is how our motion and path correlate with what we wish to swing at that day or what we’re possibly attempting to get rid of from the opponent.”

Laurila: Optimum physique motion profiles differ, two-seamer to four-seamer…

Ecker: “They’ll for every man. In locations I’ve been up to now, it was very particular. A technique to consider it’s this: Say you’re a quarterback and also you throw a fade route very well. Your pure bias is to have a tilted entrance shoulder, and also you create actually good loft in your ball, however you may’t throw the slant very nicely. We don’t actually need to teach, or cue you up, for the fade, however we do have to determine one thing that will help you throw a slant higher. So for hitters who’ve a pure bias to change into flat and aircraft out on fastballs up, we might must do one thing that’s a little bit bit totally different on a sinker matchup. And vice versa.”

Laurila: How do you practice that?

Ecker: “It’s a mutual and symbiotic relationship — and we’re not being reactive after the season begins. We’ve already downloaded in spring coaching what a man’s motion signature is, what he does greatest. We’ve recognized this stuff and put all of them in a bucket. What’s his bias when he’s left alone? Does he flatten out extra, or is he extra on the VBA [vertical bat angle] spectrum? Perhaps he’s someplace in between.

“We’ve created a combined motion signature that we agree on. Do you suppose that is how you progress greatest? Nice, we agree with that. Are these the pitches, over the course of time, that you simply’ve coated essentially the most? We’ve got information that may strip our opinion out of that. So we sort of set the muse objectively, within the spirit of honesty. Then we add that stage two query. You do that factor nicely, so how will we provide help to do that different factor nicely?”

Laurila: Are you able to give an instance?

Ecker: “We’ll have a look at a bunch of various areas. We are able to have a look at, is there one thing we will do to both enhance or lower the quantity you hinge? Is there one thing we will do to extend or lower the quantity of spinal flexion you’ve gotten? Is there one thing we will do to extend or lower the place your bat place begins? Can we shift strain to the entrance facet to offer you some pace or adjustability to get below a sinker man? Can we shift stride size in opposition to a excessive vert man? These are what we might contemplate sort of stage two, stage three, PhD layers of offense.”

Laurila: What about motion profiles for dealing with off-speed pitches?

Ecker: “As soon as once more, it goes again to honesty and foundational questions. If now we have a rookie, it’s going to look totally different than with a man who has eight years of pattern dimension. On the finish of the day, we’re attempting to have the participant reply the issues that present up essentially the most. Do you hit breaking balls? Effectively, for those who do, nice; let’s be taught what makes you nice at that. However for those who don’t, we have to handle that.
“For me, every thing begins with, ‘Are you coaching it?’ In the event you don’t do one thing nicely, and also you’re not coaching it, there’s nothing else to the dialog. First issues first. Let’s ensure that we’re coaching the reality. Then, when you begin coaching it, now we have to seek out out what’s taking place. Is it an issue the place you don’t have adjustability to create size on breaking balls? Is there a notion challenge? There are lots of variables that would come into play.

“Once more, it begins with, ‘Are you coaching it?’ In the event you hear, ‘No, I similar to my flips and overhand BP,’ nicely, okay. We have to change that, or we have to settle for that for those who don’t examine for a math check and preserve getting D’s, that’s probabilistically what is meant to occur. So no complaining. In any other case, first issues first — let’s change the coaching surroundings, and let’s see how the athlete responds to that coaching surroundings. If we begin coaching simply breaking balls, and he begins feeling sure issues that assist him get a breaking ball off the bottom, that’s the place we begin actually diving into what I’d name accountable.”

Laurila: A hitter has a fraction of a second to resolve if, and the way, to swing the bat. In a way, you’re coaching the thoughts to acknowledge and react.

Ecker: “All the things is that this relationship with our surroundings. The perception-action coupling that’s taking place from dwelling plate to the pitcher’s mound is so vital. It’s why we’re at all times going to double down on maximizing house versus shrinking house.

“One great way to determine easy methods to be adjustable — easy methods to brace in your lead leg, easy methods to keep by means of a baseball — is to hit breaking balls from 65 ft. Then hit breaking balls from an additional distance from the mound. Stuff like that.”

Laurila: Some guys self-identify as “made hitters” — J.D. Martinez is an instance — whereas others have been seemingly born to hit. What are your ideas on innate expertise versus trainable expertise?

Ecker: “I believe hitting is the messiest section of any sport on the earth. It’s such an open ability — there are such a lot of variable complexities — and the extra in-stadium information that we’re capable of seize, the extra we find out how distinctive it’s by way of guys fixing issues. So I don’t know that I’ve an incredible reply for that query. However I do suppose it’s vital to have one thing you consider in. From a macro-foundational standpoint, what do you consider in? What’s your worth system? From there, go get these kinds of gamers, after which belief what you do nicely in improvement. Attempt to mix these two issues and be unapologetic about your course of.

“We are able to be taught from different silos, together with sports activities, which do an incredible job of buying system staff/gamers. They don’t simply draft ‘greatest athletes,’ they match scheme and personnel. Ninety-eight [mph] with two plus breaking balls in all probability matches everybody’s scheme, however what concerning the stage beneath that, the not-so-obvious gamers? It’s an space in baseball that I’m drawn to and interested by the way it evolves sooner or later. It’s why you see the highest NFL coaches having sure levels of roster management contractually. It’s not a secret. They know their schemes greatest, they usually know what they’ll clear up and what they’ll maximize. The low-hanging fruit continues to be in alignment, and the way the departments mesh collectively to mix these choices. That each one circles again to figuring out what you stand for, figuring out what that appears like, and trusting what you’ve gotten confirmed and never confirmed, objectively, to have the ability to produce in improvement.”

Laurila: We’ve ended up speaking lots about hitters’ motion profiles. Simply how vital is that?

Ecker: “It’s laborious to say that anyone factor is ‘most vital,’ however like I mentioned, there are three pillars we give attention to. Motion is one in all them. Path is primary, motion is quantity two — and motion influences path — whereas three is our recreation planning mannequin.”

Laurila: How do you strategy assessing and instructing path?

Ecker: “The best way we take into consideration path is that there are 4 issues that present up essentially the most: 4-seamers with vert, true sinkers, shapes shifting into you, and shapes shifting away from you. From that, how can we construct you a path that has the best stage of forgiveness in order that whenever you do miss, you miss within the air, on a line, with a excessive hit chance? Path forgiveness is one thing we discuss lots about right here. We wish to create a better margin of error. The place we hit our foul balls means lots to us. How we practice which means lots to us.”

Laurila: Let’s shut with this: Give me a snapshot description of your philosophy.

Ecker: “Discover out what your gamers do nicely, double down on it, be trustworthy and accountable with the areas they should enhance, perceive that early work is totally different than the playbook at 7 PM. Lastly, practice. Play the sport earlier than you play the sport. Why wouldn’t you?”


Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can discovered by means of these hyperlinks: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Steven Kwan, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Hunter Mense, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Trevor Story, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Chris Valaika, Zac Veen, Mark Vientos, Matt Vierling, Luke Voit, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis.

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