With Turner Ward receiving his marching orders yesterday, the Reds have an official opening for next year. David Bell and the front office will perform a full search for their next hitting coach. It shouldn’t take long, though, because the guy that should be the next hitting coach is already in house. His name is Donnie Ecker.
Ecker played for a while in the minors after being drafted by the Texas Rangers and was later hired by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015 as a hitting coach in their farm system. David Bell was the assistant hitting coach with St. Louis at the time, and their relationship most likely blossomed from there. Ecker then took a job as a hitting coach for the Angels’ AAA affiliate for 2018, and was hired to join the Reds after David Bell was named manager.
Ecker’s impact has already been felt by Aristides Aquino’s incredible two-month span. Aquino, who credited Ecker for his improvement this season, changed everything about his stance in spring training this year with Ecker’s help. The Punisher changed his stance to a completely open one reminiscent of Andres Galarraga and improved in nearly every statistical category from his 2018 season, leading to his call up in August where he absolutely raked. Here are his combined stats from the last two seasons.
Here’s an absolute tank shot from the Punisher.
Ward was brought in to improve the offense, and his relationship with Yasiel Puig was seen as beneficial for the 2019 season after that trade happened. That offensive boom didn’t happen, as the Reds fell behind in multiple offensive categories while the team’s pitching staff improved greatly. One of the biggest drops came in OBP, where the Reds finished 9th in the majors last season with .328. They fell all the way to .315 this year, good for 22nd. The Reds didn’t walk much this year and that led into their poor offense, where they finished 25th in runs with 701, 71 runs behind the MLB average. Ward will get another job, but he didn’t get the job done here.
Donnie Ecker is the logical choice to replace Ward for 2020. We don’t know if Ecker will be able to immediately rejuvenate the offense, but if Aristides Aquino is any evidence, his prospects as the main hitting coach are very promising. There’s also the fact that he and Bell worked in the same system with the Cardinals, and Ecker probably has a hitting philosophy similar to what David Bell wants to do next year with the offense. While a wide search should still be conducted for the position, the answer isn’t too far away.