A newly revamped Los Angeles Angels lineup is at manager Phil Nevin’s disposal heading into the regular season, and with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani getting a taste of early competition, hitting coach Marcus Thames figures to be another key factor in their plans.
Thames was signed on this past offseason to be the new lead man to provide a historically struggling Angels offense with a new voice. After spending time with Nevin in the New York Yankees organization, home to many potent run-scoring units, Thames brought his hitting philosophies with him.
The Angels’ offense slotted as the No. 25 unit in Major League Baseball last season according to wOBA, which accounts for how a player reaches base. They were underwhelming when it mattered most, and their inability to limit strikeouts hindered their ability to win games because of lackluster run support.
Thames joined the coaching staff to bring a new mentality, which will hopefully be what the Angels need to get over the hump, via Sam Blum of The Athletic:
“We want our guys to be aggressive — aggressive in the zone,” said Angels hitting coach Marcus Thames. “Pitchers are trying to get ahead. So I want our guys’ mindset to be ready to go attack. If the ball’s in your zone, be ready to go.”
The additions of Brandon Drury, Gio Urshela, and Hunter Renfroe to a lineup already consisting of Ohtani, Trout, and Anthony Rendon, provides Thames with enough veteran bats to lean on when trying to change the club-wide approach:
“Marcus and (assistant hitting coach) Phil (Plantier), they stress hitting the fastball,” said Angels manager Phil Nevin. “We’ve certainly been aggressive early in counts. You look at our numbers as a body of work, as far our swing decisions, contact rates on the fastball have leaped off the page from what they were a year ago:
“It’s a mindset and I think it’s bleeding into everybody.”
The Angels ranked in the bottom half in MLB when facing fastballs with a -6.0 run value, and Thames’ understands that the top teams in the league have success against the heat:
“Mindset,” Thames said simply when asked what the process was to improve contact against velocity.
Is there anything mechanical?
“Mindset,” he repeated
Why is it just mindset?
“Because you’ve got to be ready to hit.”
To be a playoff team like the Cleveland Guardians, Yankees, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, or Atlanta Braves, your offense must be able to crush the fastball. When Thames was hired he preached the same philosophy, and he maintains that as Spring Training comes to an end.
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After acquiring Logan O’Hoppe at the trade deadline last season, he immediately became the Angels’ top farmhand, and after putting up big numbers with Double-A Rocket City, was called up to the big leagues during the penultimate week of the regular season.
After a successful cup of coffee, O’Hoppe has continued impressing the Angels this spring.
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