The U Files Case #24: Constitution of the Walling

When the Mets dumped ex-manager Bobby Valentine and started on a new relationship with Art Howe, things got off on a better note from the get-go. Valentine had a well-publicized and acrimonious relationship with Mets upper management. Howe, on the other hand, has gotten off well with his higher-ups to date. In filling out Howe's coaching staff, Howe and the Mets High Command each suggested names and worked with each other. Howe's suggestion was Denny Walling for hitting coach.

Walling had last been a minor league hitting instructor in the Baltimore Orioles system before coming to work for the Mets. He had been Howe's hitting coach from 1996 through 1998 with the Oakland Athletics. Walling has pledged to instill greater plate discipline in his charges.

Here I will use the same methods to analyze his managing of hitters as I used to analyze Art Howe. As here I have three years to look at, I was able to add every hitter under his tutelage to the study and not impose a lower limit on plate appearances. Using archived statistics at, I entered every batter changing coaches to Walling during the span of his position into a spreadsheet. In total 24 batters are included in the study. Batters who came up for the Athletics from 1996 to 1998 are excluded, as they have no prior experience to compare their performance under Walling to.

The batters ranged in age from 22 (Jose Herrera) to 38 (Rickey Henderson) in the first year of the study - the year before the batter came under the tutelage of Walling. The average age in this year was 28.958. Ten batters were 30 or above, and the remaining 14 under 30 years of age. Rickey Henderson and Kevin Mitchell (yes, that Kevin Mitchell) were the only two batters 35 or older. The three high profile batters included in the study were Mark McGwire (31), Jose Canseco (31), and Henderson. Jason Giambi (24) is in the study, though he hadn't reached the recognition he has now. Other notably above average hitters include Terry Steinbach (33), Scott Brosius (28), and Geronimo Berroa (30).

The average of the group in the first year of the study was an OPS 9.193 percent above average. In the first year under Walling, the group posted an OPS 3.146 percent above average. However, the group created more runs on a per plate appearance basis under Walling. The batters collectively created .1158 runs per plate appearance before Walling, using the Runs Created statistic per Under Walling, the batters created .1197 runs per plate appearance. One might pass it off as a statistical oddity and perceive that the batters had a better year under Walling, as RC is a more exact statistic.

Fourteen batters improved in their first year under Walling according to RC, and ten did worse. Twelve improved according to OPS+, and twelve declined. Mike MacFarlane improved in OPS+ from 85 to 86, but declined in RC per PA from .1065 to .1057. Kevin Mitchell declined in OPS+ from 65 to 64, and improved in RC per PA from .0725 to .0882. Jack Voigt dropped in OPS+ from 111 to 16 (yes, that's sixteen!) but improved his Runs Created from .023 to .038 per PA. All three were part time players.

Eight players played a second year under Walling, including McGwire, Brosius, Giambi, Berroa, Matt Stairs, Ernie Young, George Williams, and Dave Madagan. They produced an OPS+ of 116.336 and created .1459 runs per PA. This group includes the two best hitters of the original group as well as Berroa and Brosius. Thus, the high performance of this group can be attributed to their higher talent level.

There seems to be a slight statistical controversy, but it appears that the Oakland offense improved very slightly under Walling.

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