When the first place Cleveland Indians fired hitting coach Jon Nunnally on June 18th, it came as a bit of a surprise. The Indians were producing enough runs to win games and the offense was much improved from the previous season. One of the main concerns manager Manny Acta had at the time were strikeouts. At the time of Nunnally's departure, the Indians had already struck out over 500 times, which was the worst in the American League. The question is: Does introducing a new hitting coach mid-season impact the statistics of the hitters? Jon Nunnally was replaced by Bruce Fields, who was the Indians minor league hitting coordinator. This article will compare the Tribe's offensive statistics under each hitting coach and determine if the coaching change was necessary.
Jon Nunnally ended his reign as the Indians hitting coach on June 18th. In 2011, he had coached in 69 games. While Nunnally was coaching, the team batting average was .251. The total team strikeouts was 502, averaging 7.28 strikeouts per game. strikeouts aren't the only concern for a hitting coach. Run production is also very important. Under Jon Nunnally, the Indians scored a total of 302 runs, averaging to 4.38 runs per game.
Bruce Fields took over on June 19th, and as of September 5th, had also coached in 69 games. Since he took over, the team batting average was .248, very similar to that of Nunnally. The total team strikeouts was 577, which is 75 more strikeouts in the same amount of games as Nunnally. The average strikeouts per game since June 19th was 8.36, over one more strikeout per game. The total runs scored under Fields is 280, averaging 4.06 runs per game. While an average difference of 0.32 runs per game does not seem like much, the Indians scored 22 more runs in the same amount of games with Jon Nunnally as the hitting coach.
Other factors also need to be considered when looking at these numbers. There have been many injuries on the team this year, with big hitters like Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, and Shin-Soo Choo spending time on the disabled list. This meant that Triple-A and bench hitters replaced them in the line-up, possibly skewing the stats one way or another. The bottom line is that Indians players enjoyed the coaching style of Jon Nunnally and his presence in the clubhouse and were taken off guard by his firing. His replacement, Bruce Fields, was brought in to try to take the Tribe's offense where it needed to be in order to contend for a playoff spot. The Indians strikeouts have noticeably increased, which has become very frustrating for the fans to watch. The Indians 1,079 strikeouts on the year make them the worst in the American League and tied for 5th worst in the majors. So can the hitting coach work magic and make strikeouts disappear? Would the Indians find themselves 7.5 games back in the AL Central if Nunnally was still their hitting coach? It is hard to tell at this point, but the offense has obviously not improved since Fields took over.