Gabe Kapler

Now a hitting coach, Pat Burrell wonders how much better 2020 data would have made him

Now a hitting coach, Pat Burrell wonders how much better 2020 data would have made him

Pat Burrell was gearing up for his first season as a Single A hitting coach in the San Francisco Giants' farm system before the world changed. Now, like most of us, he's been relegated to communicating with coworkers via Zoom meetings.

"Obviously, the first year I try it there's this pandemic that shuts the whole world down, but hopefully we'll get back to work," he said to NBC Sports Bay Area this week.

Burrell always thought he wanted to be back in uniform at some point but wasn't interested in all the travel. He lives only 20 minutes away from the complex of the San Jose Giants, the Class A Advanced team he joined this season as hitting coach.

Burrell sought out the coaching job. He knew it was on him to put his name out there. He received a call on Christmas Eve asking if he was interested in the San Jose gig and he saw it as the perfect opportunity.

It will be an interesting transition for Burrell, who did some scouting for the Giants after his playing days ended in 2011. League-wide, offensive philosophies are different now than when Burrell played. He referred to his era as "a different generation." I don't know about you, but when I think of a different generation I think of the '70s and '80s, not 2008. Time flies.

"We think we knew a lot about hitting when we were players and what we see a lot of times is pretty true. However, in my experience, what I thought I was doing as a hitter did not match up with what reality was," Burrell said. 

"My thoughts as a hitter, what I was trying to do physically, it just wasn't the facts. It doesn't really matter what we think, it's about what we do. A lot of hitters in our generation had the thoughts of swinging down on the baseball. We weren't doing that, we just had to tell ourselves that so that we weren't popping up on every pitch. In essence, we were actually swinging a little bit uphill to meet the angle of the pitch. When you dive into the whole scenario of what's changed, it's kind of fun to be a part of the transition that's going on right now.

"There was a lot more gut feeling (when I played), the eye test. But the game has changed and you have to be open towards it. A lot of the stuff that I've learned about the mechanics of hitting, how the body moves and all the stuff that goes along with it, it's been fantastic, I had no idea. Part of me wonders if I would have known all of this as a hitter, would I have been a better player? I don't know, I like to think so. ... No one in my generation knew all that information and it's here."

Several Phillies from 2000-2010 would have been better received in 2020. If Bobby Abreu was here now putting up the offensive numbers he posted from 1998-2006 he'd be revered. If Burrell was rattling off seasons now of .390 on-base percentages with 30+ home runs, many fans would be looking past the batting average and identifying his value.

Our perspectives have changed. Burrell in 2008 hit .250/.367/.507 with 33 home runs, 33 doubles and an OPS 25% better than the league average.

Bryce Harper in 2019 hit .260/.372/.510 with 35 homers, 36 doubles and an OPS 25 percent better than the league average.

Think about how they were received. It was almost the same offensive season, viewed in totally different ways 11 years apart.

In the Giants' system, Burrell is reunited with Gabe Kapler, his teammate in 2009 and 2010 with the Tampa Bay Rays. After nine years with the Phillies, Burrell spent a season plus a month in Tampa before signing with the Giants in May 2010 and ultimately winning his second World Series that year.

"I actually got a funny picture," Burrell said. "My mom somehow, I don't know what she was looking through but she found a picture of [Kapler] and I before a game in Tampa, whether it was '09 or spring training of '10, we're standing on the line before a game stretching in our Tampa Bay uniforms. So I sent it to Gabe and we chuckled back and forth. 

"We had conversations about post-playing stuff but it wasn't very in-depth. I always knew he'd be a part of the game and I knew I'd be doing something. ... When he got hired, we did play Pickleball down here one day, which was fun.

Burrell and Kapler teamed up and from the sounds of it, they were victorious. Burrell is a Machine, some have said.

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Phillies agree to minor-league deal with Logan Forsythe

Phillies agree to minor-league deal with Logan Forsythe

The Phillies signed veteran infielder Logan Forsythe to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training, per MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.

Forsythe, like Neil Walker and Josh Harrison, is a versatile veteran who will compete for a spot on the 2020 Phillies’ bench. Remember, active rosters expand to 26 this season and teams will be capped at 13 pitchers, meaning you’ll see five-man benches. For most of the last two seasons under Gabe Kapler, the Phillies went with four-man benches until September.

Forsythe is 33 years old. After his days as a starting second baseman in Tampa Bay ended in 2016, he became a Swiss Army knife extra man, playing five different positions for the Dodgers in 2017-18 and all four infield spots for the Rangers last season.

Success against left-handed pitching has, at times, been one of Forsythe’s appealing attributes. From 2015-17, he hit .288/.372/.515 against lefties. The last two seasons, he’s hit just .195 with a .285 OBP and no power against southpaws.

The Phils are hoping he reverts back to his longer track record against opposite-handed pitching. It doesn’t hurt at all to stockpile veterans with something to prove like Forsythe, Walker, Harrison and relievers Francisco Liriano, Bud Norris and Drew Storen. The law of averages says at least a couple of them will click. None received a guaranteed deal from the Phils this offseason.

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Gabe Kapler and Giants make historic coaching hire with Alyssa Nakken

Gabe Kapler and Giants make historic coaching hire with Alyssa Nakken

With all of the chaos currently consuming the league, it may have been overlooked that the Giants and Gabe Kapler have made a historic coaching hire.

Alyssa Nakken has been named one of Kapler's assistant coaches. She will be the first woman on a major-league coaching staff.

Can anyone say girl power?

Nakken is also a chairperson for the Giants' Employee Resource Group. This group promotes diversity and equality within the organization.

And as a female, with her intelligence and determination and hunger and drive to excel — I understand some of her responsibility is keeping her fingers on the pulse of the culture — it’s invaluable. She’ll broaden the scope and perspective, and I applaud Gabe for doing this.

-Kathy Strahan, Nakken's former coach in an interview for the San Francisco Chronicle

This is a moment that could change the mold of the league in the new decade.

Women belong in sports and are here to stay. And this single hire has the potential to open numerous doors in the future for both the league and anyone who wants to be a part of it.

You can read more about the hire and get to know Nakken at the San Francisco Chronicle.

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