Our Batting Coach Gene Tenace

With the early success of our offense this season and with the credit that batting coach Gene Tenace is getting, I thought we could take a look at his playing career. After the Jays started slowly last year a lot was made of Gary Denbo's 'patient' philosophy of hitting. Wait for your pitch, take a walk if it is offered. When things didn't go well for the Jays, Denbo and manager John Gibbons were fired. Cito was brought in to manage and he brought Gene Tenace in to be hitting coach.

The term 'grip it and rip it' has appeared in many stories about the Jays new batting philosophy. We would be aggressive, go up there swinging. Look for a pitch and go after it. But somehow that doesn't jive with the way I remembered Gene Tenace playing career. So I thought we'd take a look at it. 

Here is his career (chart works better if you use 'wide view'):

Year

Age

Tm

G

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

1969

22

OAK

16

38

1

6

0

0

1

2

1

15

.158

.200

.237

.437

25

1970

23

OAK

38

105

19

32

6

0

7

20

23

30

.305

.430

.562

.992

176

1971

24

OAK

65

179

26

49

7

0

7

25

29

34

.274

.381

.430

.811

132

1972

25

OAK

82

227

22

51

5

3

5

32

24

42

.225

.307

.339

.646

97

1973

26

OAK

160

510

83

132

18

2

24

84

101

94

.259

.387

.443

.830

139

1974

27

OAK

158

484

71

102

17

1

26

73

110

105

.211

.367

.411

.778

130

1975

28

OAK

158

498

83

127

17

0

29

87

106

127

.255

.395

.464

.859

145

1976

29

OAK

128

417

64

104

19

1

22

66

81

91

.249

.373

.458

.831

149

1977

30

SDP

147

437

66

102

24

4

15

61

125

119

.233

.415

.410

.824

133

1978

31

SDP

142

401

60

90

18

4

16

61

101

98

.224

.392

.409

.801

134

1979

32

SDP

151

463

61

122

16

4

20

67

105

106

.263

.403

.445

.848

139

1980

33

SDP

133

316

46

70

11

1

17

50

92

63

.222

.399

.424

.823

137

1981

34

STL

58

129

26

30

7

0

5

22

38

26

.233

.416

.403

.819

131

1982

35

STL

66

124

18

32

9

0

7

18

36

31

.258

.436

.500

.936

161

1983

36

PIT

53

62

7

11

5

0

0

6

12

17

.177

.346

.258

.604

68

15 Seasons

1555

4390

653

1060

179

20

201

674

984

998

.241

.388

.429

.817

136

As you can see, grip it and rip it doesn't apply to him. He was a low average, lots of walks, power hitter. In a full season he'd have more than 100 walks a year with batting averages in the .250 and lower range, he'd have on base averages of .400 or more. Doesn't really sound like 'grip and rip' to me.

But then Saturday against the A's we took 9 walks, Friday we took 6, Thursday 5, Wednesday 5.....it looks to me like we are being patient. Waiting for our pitch (well most of our players), taking a walk if it is offered. You think maybe there is not as big difference in philosophy from Denbo to Tenace.

Anyway, if there had been a Sabermetic movement in baseball back went Tenace played, he would have been the poster boy. 10 straight seasons with OPS+ over 130, while his high batting average over the period was .263. Talk about a Moneyball player, in 1975 he hit 29 homers, walked 106 times, all with a .255 average. The year before he hit 26 homers and had 110 walks with a .211 average. 

And people didn't think he was much of a player. There is a famous story about a SI editor turning down an article written by Bill James because James called Tenace one of the best players in baseball, while the editor 'knew' that wasn't true because he hit in the low .200's. There wasn't even the thought that a player can have value outside of their batting average.

As one of Charlie Finley's Oakland A's he won 3 World Series. He homered in his first two World Series at bats. They were an interesting group, that team. A lot of different personalities held together by a mutual hatred for the owner. Gene was part of the exodus of players that left the A's when free agency came to baseball. Finley was cheap and didn't want to pay his players market value. Tenace won another World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. He also played for San Diego and Pittsburgh.

As a coach he has coached with the Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals and now Jays again and has two World Series rings from our wins. As a player, Bill James listed Tenace as the 23rd best catcher ever in his New Historical Baseball Abstract

Anyway the point of all this was to suggest that maybe 'grip and rip' isn't really his hitting philosophy at all, maybe it is a little more nuanced than that. I know he preaches that batters have a plan when they go up to bat. They should know what they are looking for and what they want to hit. And I truly don't believe he believes any less in being patient than Denbo did. I just think that maybe the hitters bought into what he was saying better. 

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Join Bluebird Banter

You must be a member of Bluebird Banter to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bluebird Banter. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker