Blue Jays Sign Gary Denbo as Hitting Coach
The Blue Jays have wasted no time in hiring a new batting coach, signing 46-year-old Gary Denbo from the New York Yankees to a two-year contract. Denbo has been the Yankees Hitting Coordinator (roving minor league instructor) for much of the last decade, and has also spent time as a minor league coach in the Reds and Yankees organizations.
He had one season as the Yankees batting coach in 2001. After the Yankees offense had an off-year and they failed to win the World Series against the Diamondbacks, Denbo was replaced and worked for the Cleveland Indians as a scout, and then the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Pacific League before returning to his former role with the Yankees. Denbo also does some catching instruction, and has served as the Yankee’s assistant director of player personnel. He was courted by the Jays last season for a minor league position but decided to rejoin the Yankees instead.
One of the main complaints this season was that the Blue Jays were too often unprepared for upcoming pitchers, and Ricciardi said the Jays would be looking for someone with as much experience in the video room as on the playing field. Denbo has received praise for his thoroughness and preparedness, and is certainly a video geek. According to his bio at the hitting academy:
Players swear by Gary’s communication and teaching and toiling skills, and believe slumps will be more short-lived because of his ability to spot and correct flaws quickly. Gary, considered a ‘new age hitting instructor’, has developed a method of combining video and computer analysis of the baseball swing. He uses a library built with the swings of top hitters in the game to serve as a teaching source in developing proper swing technique.
Another possible flaw about the Blue Jays approach this season was that they were trying to pull the ball too much and were trying to swing too hard for the fences. Take a look at what Denbo worked on with Jeter (he is also known for emphasizing “swing path“.)
Denbo also advised Jeter to try to hit to the middle of the field instead of trying to pull everything. Finally, Denbo counseled Jeter on taking a better swing path and moving his bat through the strike zone at a steady rate.
I’m skeptical about the Jays needing a new hitting “identity”, but this seems like a good move. Despite being a casualty of a typical Yankee overreaction to not winning another world series, Denbo has a track record of getting star players (such like Mike Lowell and Derek Jeter) out of serious slumps and boy do we need that next year. He was originally promoted to hitting coach by the Yankees because Derek Jeter and others were seeking help from him while he was still in the minor league system. Denbo and Butterfield also know each other from their time with New York.
Trying desperately not to overestimate the benefits of technology, adding a scientific approach to hitting instruction is exciting as well. (Hmmm….I wonder if he needs a library/database analyzing pitchers to go along with his one for hitters swings…?? Call me!!!). Lyle Overbay is well known for being a tape junkie, so he has to be pleased at this news. As everyone heard ad nauseum this season, he pointed out something he saw on tape to Vernon, who proceeded to go on his only tear of the season for a couple of weeks. If Denbo can do that a few times next season, he’ll earn his paycheque ten times over.