Statistical analysis will weigh more heavily on the White Sox coaching staff’s daily decisions after Joe McEwing was elevated to Rick Renteria’s bench coach on Friday.
McEwing -- whose influence led to a 957 percent increase in defensive shifts utilized from 2013-16 -- replaces Renteria, who was named the team’s new manager on Oct. 3 after Robin Ventura announced he wouldn’t return.
Former player development director Nick Capra replaces McEwing as third-base coach while Curt Hasler was promoted from minor-league pitching coordinator to replace bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen.
McEwing’s promotion is another sign the franchise will stress the use of statistical analysis when constructing its lineup, etc., a move Ventura suggested was in progress when he said the White Sox needed a new voice. Renteria likes how he worked with McEwing last season and suggested analysis would have a big impact on their day-to-day operations.
“All the information that is provided to us plays an important part in how we move forward,” Renteria said. “We look at outcomes, which are the statistical analysis aspects. But then we are also trying to stay ahead of the curve. We do a lot of video work, trying to see if guys are changing their approaches. In terms of the shifts, we did incorporate shifts, but we also did some modifications as was to be expected when you see guys changing approaches with two strikes and things of that nature or runners in scoring position -- all those different aspects that come into play.”
Similar to many organizations, the White Sox have drastically modified how they align themselves defensively over the past four seasons under McEwing and general manager Rick Hahn. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox went from being ranked 27th in shifts implemented in 2013 to ninth by 2014 with an increase from 102 to 588. The White Sox shifted 1,079 times last season and McEwing has been instrumental in that transformation, several team sources said. It’s reasonable to expect analysis will be used more often in lineup construction and game strategy under Renteria, too. He didn’t shy away from the use of statistical analysis when he managed on the other side of town in 2014, Cubs third-base coach Gary Jones said last week.
“It’s part of our daily preparation,” Jones said. “Rick is good with it as we are right now. It was definitely a part of the equation, no doubt.”
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Renteria cited familiarity when asked why he didn’t go outside of the organization for coaching staff hires. McEwing has long been held in high regard within the franchise and interviewed for managerial openings in Houston and Texas in 2014. Renteria suggested McEwing’s work ethic -- and how he works -- had a big impact on his promotion.
“Having sat side by side (with McEwing) going over a lot of game reviews and studying the opposition and setting up defense, I got to know him quite well,” Renteria said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s in there early looking for anything that will give us an edge. His managing experience and coaching experience also allows him an opportunity to be able to serve me well.
“It’s a good fit. We both are kind of high energy. Joey might be a little higher energy than me and I didn’t think that was possible. He brings a lot to the table.”
The White Sox announced the rest of its staff -- first-base coach Daryl Boston, pitching coach Don Cooper, hitting coach Todd Steverson, assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks and bullpen catcher Mark Salas -- would return in 2017.