In an unusual move, Joe Maddon changed his cap and transformed into a hitting instructor as he worked with Carlos Pena in the batting cage prior to yesterday’s game (via Bill Chastain)…

“We just turned back the clock to 1987,” Maddon said. “We turned back the clock in the batting cage. So it was more for me than it was for him. Just wanted to run some things by him, things I did many years ago, simple stuff without changing anything. I talked to [hitting coach Derek Shelton] about it in advance. Shelty and I are pretty much always on the same page when it comes to doing things. Just wanted to get out there today, specifically work with him and see what happens.”

It is no secret that Pena, a streaky hitter by nature, is in one of the worst funks since coming to the Rays in 2007. After another 0-fer, he is now hitting .198 on the season. That is the lowest batting average in the majors among qualified hitters. And it has just gotten worse this month, with Pena 7-61 (.115) in 20 games.

So whatever

hitting coach Derek Shelton is doing, it ain’t working.

What is interesting about the above quote from JoeMa is that he goes out of his way to make it clear that he and Shelton talked about it in advance and that the two coaches are “pretty much always on the same page.”

The role of hitting coaches is often misunderstood. Their role is rarely to make hitters better. Rather, their number one priority is to help hitters out of slumps. And here we have the one hitter that is struggling above all others, and a manager that clearly doesn’t think that his hitting coach’s tactics will work.

No matter what Maddon says, this has to be a slap to the face of Shelton.

Does this mean Maddon has lost faith in Shelton? Maybe. Or maybe Maddon just thought it was time Pena heard a different voice. Still, even if that is the case, this move doesn’t bode well for the future of Shelton in the Rays organization.

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4 Comments

  1. The Rays have such a wide array of hitting styles - from Pena and Joyce's all or nothing approach, to Crawford's Walt Hrniak-based style, to Zobrist and his unusual style, to whatever Upton is doing this week. Shelton has a tough job. I'm surprised he doesn't have more help.

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    • Beth says:

      There are a lot of different hitting styles, and that's why you can't have a hitting coach who sees his job as getting everyone to do the same thing. I think the coach's job is to understand each hitter's approach and then be able to diagnose what might be going wrong when slumps do occur. I can't say whether Shelton is good at what he does, or at fault for any weak hitting, but a number of Rays are hitting below last year, and in some cases hitting below their career averages, so if you prove your worth as a hitting coach by helping guys get better, Shelton hasn't proven his worth.

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  2. Don says:

    The thing that gets me is I can sit in my seat...100's of feet away from a hitter and see him make the same mistakes over and over again...SO either the coaches don't SEE... or they don't know HOW to correct problems hitters are having ...
    Either way a guy like Sheldon is USELESS....hitting is WORSE in 2010....thats a FACT.... not a comment!

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