Today, the Chicago Cubs made the first move of the off season, and signed Rudy Jaramillo to take over the role of hitting coach. Many people around the league will tell you that Jaramillo is one of the best hitting coaches in the game. With the Cubs struggling with offense throughout the 2009 season, he could have a huge impact on a team that could never put together an extended run of hot hitting. While you can make the argument that the hitting coach is an overrated position on the coaching staff (and Derrek Lee said as much) if you have to have one, you might as well go out and get someone who has as good of credentials as Jaramillo.
While he should be able to help out a number of Cubs, one player in particular might benefit the most from his addition to the coaching staff. That player would be Alfonso Soriano who spent two years under his instruction while he was playing for the Texas Rangers. Why would Soriano benefit more then other players? One reason could be that in 2010, Soriano will be spending his first full season out of the leadoff spot since he was with the Rangers and Jaramillo. In those two seasons, he hit mainly third in 2004, and fifth in 2005. In those two seasons, Soriano averaged 32 homeruns and 98 RBI. Not only did Soriano have success under Jaramillo, he had a strong relationship with him as well, which is what he was quoted to say in the Chicago Sun-times on Tuesday.
So why do people consider Jaramillo to be one of the best hitting coaches in the game? According to the article on the Cubs homepage, the players he has worked with have had a tremendous amount of success. The article noted that Jaramillo’s hitters have won 17 Silver Slugger Awards, four Most Valuable Player Awards, three home run titles, and three RBI crowns under his tutelage. That is a very impressive list to put on your resume. While the hitters themselves are the ones who do all the work, the hitting coach is the one who tries to work out any possible kinks that hitter may have. How much of a difference he will make is anyone’s guess, but if he is able to help Soriano return to the player he was before this year, then he will have earned his salary.
Now, for those who think that this move was made to accommodate Milton Bradley, who the Cubs have said they are going to do everything in their power to move, that is not the case. Too much has transpired since his suspension for Bradley to ever play another game as a member of the Cubs. With the way his soon to be former teammates tore into Bradley, he can not come back. In fact, the only player to really stand up for Bradley was Aramis Ramirez. Well, he was the one guy to speak about him that didn’t throw Bradley under the bus. The only way he can come back to the Cubs, is if you were to trade everyone on the roster who said anything bad about him. The Cubs will not trade away half of their roster to make the club house more friendly for Bradley. That just wont happen, so you can forget about any chance of that happening.
The 2010 off season has officially begun for the Cubs, and while they did not add any on field talent, they took the first step in improving their offense. The main difference between Jaramillo’s philosophy and what the Cubs have been taught in the previous three years in plate discipline. Jaramillo tries to get his hitters to be more aggressive, as opposed to showing patience at the plate. Maybe that is just the change the team needs for them to return to being one of the best offensive clubs in the game in 2010. Anyway you slice the situation, this is a good start to getting the Cubs back on track.