Yep, there it is. The Atlanta Braves have chosen former White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker as their new hitting coach. Walker was the only rumored name that was made public, though the Braves apparently interviewed several other candidates.
Greg Walker probably should have been fired years ago, based only on results and the way hitting coaches usually get blamed. Jerry Reinsdorf happens to be an exceptionally loyal guy, so Walker never took the fall for the team's propensity to start the season in a two-month funk.
Paul Konerko swears by Walker, and credits him for helping him break out of his soul-crushing slump in 2003. He said toward the end of the season that Walker was his hitting coach, no matter who was brought in.
But outside of Konerko, the track record is sketchy at best. About a half-dozen veterans experienced season-ruining slumps over the past few years, and Adam Dunn had the worst season ever. They've been prone to pop-ups, weak contact and low BABIP. Part of that is on the type of player the White Sox have acquired, but faces have changed, and the results have stayed the same.
In Walker's favor, with Nick Swisher being a huge exception, it's never been said that players tuned him out. He's a pleasant, popular fellow and nobody had a bad word to say about him.
And, of course, it's hard to separate what a hitting coach can actually do. Maybe with a different group of hitters - or advance scouts/video guys - he'll have a different story.
I was not a fan at the time, and I'm not a fan now. This doesn't seem like the guy with the right approach for the Braves, and I fear another year of sub-par situational hitting and on-base skills.
The only saving grace here is that the Braves seem to be going with a team approach to preparing their hitters. They named Scott Fletcher advance coach and assistant hitting coach. According to the Braves official release, Fletcher will "assist Walker in every aspect of the Braves' hitting program, as well as prepare the Clubs' advance scouting reports and materials prior to each series." That sounds like a reasoned approach, and it softens my disappointment with the selection of Walker as the hitting coach. And I'm sure there will be plenty of Fletch jokes to go around