The Pittsburgh Pirates have filled their hitting coach vacancy with former Nationals coach Rick Eckstein, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via tweet).
Eckstein’s career can be traced back to 2004 when he served in the Montreal Expos’ organization as a minor league hitting coach for two seasons. From there he spent the next three years as the hitting coach for the Nationals’ and Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliates.
David Eckstein’s older brother joins manager Clint Hurdle’s staff with four years of previous major league hitting coach experience with the Washington Nationals from 2009 to 2013. After being released mid-season from manager Davey Johnson’s staff, Eckstein spent the year after in the Angels organization where he served as a front office liasion, a role that merged the responsibilities of an assistant hitting coach with those of an advanced scout.
For both 2015 and 2016, Eckstein moved to the college ranks as an assistant hitting coach for the University of Kentucky before spending the last two seasons as the minor league hitting coordinator for the Minnesota Twins.
He’ll work to improve a Pirates’ offense that scored 692 runs in 2018 – 20th overall in the MLB. They were 25th in home runs and 16th in slugging percentage. They did display some decent contact skills, striking out at the fifth lowest rate in the majors (20.3%) while tying for 8th league-wide in batting average (.254).
At his disposal, Eckstein will have an offensive core that should be entering their prime. Starling Marte is the oldest of the group at thirty, and Gregory Polanco is somehow still just 27-years-old – but they also boast a trio of 26-year-old regulars – Josh Bell, Adam Frazier, and Colin Moran – that will need to excel for the Pirates to contend in a crowded NL Central.
The 45-year-old Eckstein takes over for Jeff Branson, whom the Pirates let go along with assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey in early October. Both Branson and Livesey had served in their posts since 2014.