Yankees’ new hitting coach preaches learning-first approach in opening presser

Syndication: Detroit Free Press

The Yankees have long had a reputation of being a cookie-cutter organization in terms of hitting development, and while the validity of those claims is muddy, they’re soothed even more by James Rowson’s opening presser. Officially hired yesterday by the organization, Rowson had an opening press conference over Zoom this afternoon, and he was transparent regarding his approach, communications with Giancarlo Stanton, and an overall emphasis on learning.

Asked about how he’s changed as the game has changed, the view he has on specific styles and approaches, and about struggling star Giancarlo Stanton, Rowson made a strong first impression with his remarks.

Yankees New Hitting Coach Delves on “In-School” Approach

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles
Mar 2, 2017; Sarasota, FL, USA; Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco (11) is congratulated by hitting coach James Rowson (33) after he hit a home run during the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

James Rowson has been known for preaching a player-first approach centered around identifying a player’s strength and emphasizing it, and he delved into what that looked like this morning. Rowson talked about how players come from different generations and “matching the language,” using launch angle as an example of a term that can mean something similar to terms used by players in the past. He mentioned not having a “style,” as he feels like that limits his ability to reach an entire group of hitters.

The Yankees are fitted with a variety of hitters, as is any ballclub, but a fair criticism of the organization centers around how a lot of their hitters this past season struggled to hit for a respectable average. As old-school as it sounds on the surface, batting average does play a role in your ability to get on base, and the Yankees .304 OBP stemmed from a .227 BA as a team, the second-worst mark in all of baseball.

They were sixth in walk rate (9.3%), and perhaps by leaning into the strengths of hitters who have shown the ability to hit for average, such as Anthony Volpe and DJ LeMahieu, they could see better years in 2024. Preaching an approach that leans into a hitter’s strength could stem from a concept that’s been widely applied in the pitching world regarding using a pitcher’s best pitch as much as possible.

matt blake, new york yankees
Apr 17, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake (67) walks to the mound during the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

When asked about whether he’s an old-school or new-school coach, James Rowson made a statement that rings true to the growth mindset and constant learning approach that breeds success in today’s game:

“I’m not old school, I’m not new school, I’m in school…I’m always in school, you can never forget what you learned in the beginning, that’s the foundation”

– James Rowson

Baseball is always evolving, and as data and rules improve and change, teams will adjust to react to them. Speed is more important now than it was in 2018, hitting the ball hard is preached more now than it was in 2000, training for velocity was something not previously deemed possible, and baseball always changes. Rowson was the Yankees’ MiLB hitting coordinator all the way back in 2008, and back in 2008, the average fastball velocity (4-seam/2-seam) was just 91.4 MPH.

Now? The average velocity has crept all the way up to 93.9, and hitters have had to evolve because of it. A hitter who has taken a step back due to an inability to handle velocity is Giancarlo Stanton, who went from having a .359 wOBA against pitches at or above 95 MPH to just a .237. James Rowson mentioned already speaking to Giancarlo Stanton through text messages, and he mentioned emphasizing listening to hitters as a big key for hitting coaching.

He’s excited to get to know Stanton and figure things out but also mentioned that he wasn’t looking too far ahead just yet. It was certainly an impressive opening interview for the new hitting coach, and Rowson has his work cut out for him as the Yankees look to rebound from an ugly season of run-scoring.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: