Chili Davis is ready to scrap launch angle in favor of a throwback concept: putting the ball in play.
The veteran hitting coach, hired last month by the Mets as part of manager Mickey Callaway’s retooled staff, will be preaching contact this spring as he attempts to help resurrect a lineup that has added solid pieces in Robinson Cano, Wilson Ramos and Jed Lowrie. The 58-year-old Davis spent last season with the Cubs and served previously as hitting coach for the Athletics and Red Sox.
Davis’ approach is a change from the Mets’ philosophy in recent seasons of employing one kind of swing, to maximize power, regardless of the situation.
“A lot of situational hitting, I think every club needs that,” Davis told The Post. “You see clubs that win the World Series and you hear people talk about the good situational hitting, you look at the Red Sox last year, putting the ball in play with runners in scoring position and not striking out.
“It’s hard to have one approach [maximizing power] with 12 or 13 hitters. When you do that, you have a pitcher who is pitching away from that approach and all the hitters are going to have a tough day.”
Davis played for the Giants, Angels, Twins, Royals and Yankees over a 19-year major league career, finishing with 350 home runs. Davis says he’s been told by players that for somebody who hit so many homers, he seems to hate the longball. But Davis disputes that notion.
“It’s not that I hate home runs, it’s I don’t like to see guys going up to the plate trying to hit home runs,” Davis said. “Home runs are mistakes by pitchers — they have to make the mistake before the home run is going to happen. You don’t hit good pitchers’ pitches out of the ballpark. You hit mistakes.”
Such talk wasn’t well-received by certain Cubs players in 2018, leading to Davis’ ouster after only one season as hitting coach. Following his dismissal, Davis blamed his failure to connect with the team’s “millennial players” for his undoing.
But Davis says the source of his frustration was with individual players, and not an entire generation.
“There were some good connections there and there were some other connections that didn’t happen,” Davis said. “I was with the Boston Red Sox and you’re talking about millennials, you are talking about a young player in Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley was a young player, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, Rafael Devers, so I really don’t think it has anything to do with millennials.
“I don’t know what the description is of a millennial is, you know? There’s probably multiple descriptions. It didn’t work out. There wasn’t the fit with the Cubs that I hoped it would be, and because of that, I am where I am right now.”
According to Davis, Mets special assistant Omar Minaya contacted a member of the Cubs’ front office shortly after Davis’ firing and that led to an interview in New York. As part of a Mets coaching shakeup, hitting coach Pat Roessler was fired in November after only one season in that role. According to an industry source, Roessler was almost dumped last June, as the lineup scuffled, but manager Mickey Callaway intervened to keep the hitting coach in place until the season concluded. Assistant hitting coach Tom Slater was allowed to remain.
Davis cited the Mets’ new additions as a reason for optimism about the lineup, but he also sees room for improvement from returning players.
“They are a young lineup and they are a talented young lineup,” Davis said. “And I think with the addition of Wilson Ramos and Robinson Cano and we can get [Todd] Frazier back to being Frazier. We don’t expect Frazier to hit .320, but he was a run producer and I still think he can be that.
“Picking up the one run here or there and especially with the pitching staff that we have, if we give them runs, they are going to win ballgames for us. I think that is what we are going to try to focus on this year is give our pitching staff some run support. We don’t have to give them 10 runs per game, although I like those games where we give them that.”
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