All it takes is a single look at the 2017 offensive leaderboards.
Batting average? The San Diego Padres are the league’s worst, at a dismal .233.
Runs? Last as well, at just 509.
On-base percentage? The Friars’ .298 mark again represents the league’s rock bottom.
Advanced stats paint a similar picture, with the team slotting in at 29th in both wOBA and wRC+. Those numbers continue a trend of offensive underperformance from the boys in blue that has been ongoing for years. What it all points to is something that isn’t all that nice to look at. The Padres don’t just struggle to score. They are consistently a team that is arguably the worst in the league at producing runs, the most important currency in the game.
Those offensive woes reached a breaking point Friday morning, as the team announced that they had relieved second-year hitting coach Alan Zinter of his duties.
Zinter originally came on board prior to the 2016 season after serving as an assistant hitting coach in Houston. The early results were promising, including a renewed focus on a small-ball attack suited for speedsters like Travis Jankowski and the breakout first half that made Wil Myers an all-star and a household name in America’s Finest City last season.
While there were similar success stories in 2017 (Jose Pirela filling in admirably for injured and struggling starters all summer, Cory Spangenberg impressing in his return to the field from a badly-broken leg, etc.), those feathers in Zinter’s cap were accompanied by pronounced struggles from some of the organization’s supposed sluggers. Myers has struggled to replicate the numbers of a year ago, slumping to a .293 wOBA in the second half of the season. Meanwhile, after rookie Hunter Renfroe turned heads with a strong debut to close out 2016, persistent problems with simply making contact at the plate resulted in a demotion to Triple-A El Paso last month.
That lack of development at the top of the depth chart, when accompanied by the paltry showings of the Friars’ line-up as a whole, may ultimately be what is to blame for Zinter’s dismissal. And while some of those deficiencies can certainly be blamed on the widespread inexperience of the roster, that can only be seen as the whole of the equation for so long.
“We’re realistic. We know we have talented young hitters, so there are going to be some growing pains,” said general manager A.J. Preller of the decision. “But ultimately, just sitting down, weighing out what we were looking for at that spot, we decided we were looking for a different voice there going forward.”
Manager Andy Green had a similar answer when asked about the move. “I held a conviction that if we’re going to get to the next level as an organization, we’re going to need another voice in the seat,” said the Padres’ skipper.
By all accounts, Zinter appeared to be one of the most respected and well-liked members of the Friars’ clubhouse. Because of that, the midseason move to fire him may seem surprising. However, per Andy Green, the decision was made now to allow Zinter as much time as possible to slot into the coaching searches of other organizations. He will likely continue to be a valuable component of a team’s offensive outlook in the future. However, that will no longer be a role he fills under the sunshine-filled skies of San Diego.
Minor league hitting coordinator Luis Ortiz will take over Zinter’s responsibilities for the remainder of the 2017 campaign, and a formal search for a replacement will begin after the final pitch of the season is thrown.