Nobody can say Greg Walker doesn’t know hitting. He does. Nor can anyone say he doesn’t know how to coach hitters. He has. But his resignation as the Atlanta Braves’ hitting coach — announced at 6:48 p.m. Tuesday — was confirmation of what we’d known for a while.
A good coach got bad results. Ergo, the coach had to go.
We’ll never know for sure if the Braves would have fired Walker had he not resigned, but it’s hard to imagine them retaining the chief hitting coach — Scott Fletcher is the deputy — of a team that scored fewer runs than 28 of the 29 other big-league clubs. Whatever Walker/Fletcher were doing hadn’t worked.
It wasn’t for lack of effort or expertise. Walker worked hard — most all big-league coaches do — and tried pretty much everything. But a hitting coach is judged on results. The Braves lost 83 games with a pitching staff that compiled the third-lowest ERA in the National League. (Only one of the five NL playoff qualifiers had a lower ERA.)
Speaking of postseason play: In 2005, the Chicago White Sox won the World Series with a lineup that was rightfully lauded for its measured approach. “Professional hitters,” we called those Pale Hose, one of them being Jermaine Dye, the former Brave who drove in the only run — with a two-out eighth-inning single off Brad Lidge — of the Series clincher. Walker was the hitting coach for those champions.
Maybe nobody could have done much with Dan Uggla’s whirlybird follow-through or B.J. Upton’s pronounced stance, but that, sad to say, is the point. In 2014, not much got done. (In 2013, the Braves did lead the league in home runs.) A team of big swingers became a collection of bigger missers. If it was hard for us to watch, imagine how it felt to be Greg Walker.
On a personal level, I’m sorry to see Walker go; he’s a fine fellow who made time for the media even when the media was asking questions he’d rather not have heard. On a practical level, there’s no way he could have stayed.