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On Thursday, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced they have hired Joe Mather as their new hitting coach to replace Darnell Coles and Eric Hinske, who were let go midseason.
“First of all, I got a chance to sit down with some unbelievable candidates,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “It made my decision extremely hard, and that’s what I was hoping for. But I certainly felt like I had a connection with Joe that was evident early on in our conversation. There was an ease to it, and there was a comfort level of being able to speak our minds and communicate, get our points across.
“On top of that, I just really believed in what he was talking about with organizational philosophy — with the connection to the players, the order of priorities in establishing a relationship and a bond with his players — and it was evident to me that me was going to be able to take our hitting program to the next level or two.”
Joe Mather was the hitting coach and director of hitting for the Cincinnati Reds over the past two seasons, but he does have a history with Arizona and the D-backs organization.
A product of Mountain Pointe High School in Ahwatukee, Mather spent five seasons as both a coach and a manager in the D-backs’ minor league system.
He managed rookie advanced Missoula Osprey in 2015-16, leading the team to the Pioneer League Championship in his first season as skipper.
Mather was also the coach for Double-A Jackson Generals in 2017 and the manager of the Single-A Advanced Visalia Rawhide in 2018.
In fact, Mather has coached or managed several members of the current D-backs team, including Pavin Smith, Daulton Varsho, Taylor Clarke and five other players on the 40-man roster.
Mather spoke with the media and shared some of his thoughts on hitting and the improvements he saw in Cincinnati.
“As far as personal philosophy on hitting, I think for me, it stems back to when my dad was teaching me to hit,” he said. “Line drives are good, right? Hard line drives, even better.
“And good things come from that kind of mind set of ‘You know what, I’m just going to get in the box, I’m going to compete and I’m going to hit hard line drives.’ I think ultimately those lead to homers. I think those lead to your groundball singles that sneak through. I think they lead to better plate decisions.
“Now we have to work on all of those things, of course, and there’s ways we’ll do that. But for me to keep it simple — kind of on par there –- the easiest way for me to say it is I believe in hitting hard line drives both outcome-wise and mentally of having that approach.”
In 2020, the Reds were 15th in the National League in batting average and improved to second in the NL under Mather. He attributed much of that success to the players’ commitment to improving.
“I think as a staff we wanted to take that energy and present them with as many tools as possible to achieve kind of the common goal. Number one score runs, and that leads to the average. Another focus that we talked about was lowering the ball. We hit a lot of hard balls in 2020. Just a little bit too high and to the big part of the field. We lowered those a little bit, and guys like Nick Castellanos and Joey Votto, who traditionally are line drive hitters, kind of got back into that groove.
“We were able to put out some ideas, we were able to create relationships where we could challenge them in practice and where they were asking for challenges. So I would say those are the biggest things.”
The D-backs were ranked 26th in MLB in batting average in 2021. Hopefully Joe Mather can bring some of these philosophies to Arizona and improve an offense that could be best-described as dreadful last season.