The Pirates’ tweet was short and to the point.
Pirates announced today that Rick Eckstein has been relieved of his duties as Major League Hitting Coach.— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) August 30, 2021
Eckstein was hired in November 2018 after having been with the Nationals and Angels. Although he’d only been with the Bucs for three seasons, Eckstein was a holdover from the Clint Hurdle era, and many have been predicting that when Ben Cherington started the September Rolling of the Coaching Heads, Eck would be the first one under the guillotine. And so it has come to pass.
To give you an idea, the Pirates’ .665 OPS is dead last in MLB. Their .233 collective batting average? Fourth worst. They have hit 101 home runs, which is sixteen less than the next team above them, the Diamondbacks, who also beat them out in extra-base hits, of which they have a mere 327.
That doesn’t look good on any hitting coach’s resume.
From the Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey:
Given how this year has unfolded, and the fact that I really doubt they’re going to move on from Shelton, yeah, I would be surprised if they didn’t make a change. I think Eckstein would probably be the unfortunate fall guy. I also don’t think it’s deserved. I think Rick is a great guy and the victim of not having enough talent. But he had been there before. The numbers are bad. You have to do something to show fans you care.
“Wait a second,” you say. “Pirates pitching is mostly a flaming pile of garbage too.”
Sadly, that’s true. But Eckstein came on Neal Huntington’s watch. Oscar Marin is a Cherington hire, as is Derek Shelton, although Travis Williams had more to do with Shelty’s hiring than Cherington. It’s my thinking that in Cherington’s eyes, one full season isn’t enough to prove competence or lack thereof (let’s face it, no one’s really counting the 2020 season other than the Dodgers). I wouldn’t call either Marin or Shelty safe, but for now it’s plain that they’re not Cherington’s scapegoats.