July 22, 2014
Todd Steverson’s roots in an Oakland Athletics organization that emphasizes on-base percentage appealed to the White Sox, who officially named the A’s minor-league hitting coordinator their hitting coach Thursday.
Steverson is not about passively taking walks, though. His philosophy of “selective aggressiveness” is about being aggressive on pitches in the strike zone.
“There is no time clock in baseball but there are 27 outs and you want to maximize those with a good mind-set,’’ Steverson, 41, said. “The ability to get on base creates more plate appearances, and the more plate appearances the more opportunities to score runs.’’
Simple enough. The five American League postseason teams, including the A’s, ranked in the top six in on-base percentage. The top four teams in walks, including the A’s, made the playoffs.
“Nothing good happens for a hitter outside the strike zone. Balls not over the plate aren’t very hittable so our job is to swing at strikes,’’ Steverson said. “You want to be able to take a walk, not going up there looking for a walk, but if the pitcher doesn’t throw strikes you take your base.’’
The Sox fired Jeff Manto after his second season, in which the Sox ranked last in runs (598), second to last in on-base percentage (.302) and at or near the bottom in almost every other offensive category in the AL. Steverson managed in the minor leagues and was the A’s first base coach in 2009-10, but his forte is hitting. The Sox trimmed an initial list of 16 or 17 to six candidates and Steverson became a clear-cut choice. President Ken Williams, assistant GM Buddy Bell, manager Robin Ventura, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Hahn each had a hand in the hiring process.
“We came away very impressed with [Steverson’s] clear and simple approach to swing mechanics,’’ Hahn said, “as well as his devotion to having a plan and approach to every at-bat … and what he wants to accomplish. We went through a couple of rounds with him and it was fairly evident he was our unanimous choice after we sat down with him.’’
NOTES: The Sox picked up the $4 million option on right-handed reliever Matt Lindstrom, 33, who posted a 3.12 ERA over 76 appearances in 2013. With veterans Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton gone, Lindstrom’s presence on a young staff coupled with his strength as a ground-ball pitcher in a hitter’s park made the move a logical one.
◆ Paul Konerko and Gavin Floyd were among 147 major leaguers who filed for free agency. Free agents can begin negotiations with any club starting Nov. 5.