Andy McKay, Part Deux


A week ago, SSI snipped this bit of whimsy on JeDi's new player-development guru.  Greg Brumley googled us and was kind enough to post this:


I coached against Andy McKay -- and despised him (to this day).  We were arch rivals and there was no love lost.

That aside, the man is a brilliant mental game coach.

Reading this post and the comments, it becomes obvious we are in a realm which fans and pundits profoundly do not comprehend.

Mental game is ABSOLUTELY NOT something every college team teaches.  The few coaches who succeed do so because they teach it with more intensity than anything else.  As in every interaction with every player on every element of his game today.  It is not, as one commenter thought, psychological mumbojumbo.  Mental Game begins with the proposition that I am responsible for everthing I do -- failures as well as achievements.  The underlying method is to strip away distracting thought so I may focus on the task AT THIS SECOND (throwing a slider, hitting the ball, fielding a ball, etc., etc).  And most players -- including most major league players -- do not have this skill.  On the other hand, I can tell you that, having coached almost 40 years, teaching mental game is the most fulfilling and most fun experience I've had in the game. It can cause explosive improvement in a team or player.  Ask UCLA.  Ask Cal State Fullerton.  Ask Tampa Bay and on and on and on..

McKay is extremely focused, very organized, and an exceptionally hard worker.  It has been said that great coaching is getting a player to accomplish things he never dreamed he could do -- which requires taking that player places he doesn't want to go.  McKay knows his players and he knows how to get to them.  At the same time, he is tough and he is demanding.  He's always been too enamoured with charts and graphs for my liking, but he does create a common understanding of what's expected and the necessary steps to get there.  There will be little misunderstanding in his minor-league system.

His greatest challenge will be the minor league coaches and managers -- and those old-style executives Dipoto had not cleared out.  

College coaches (and top junior college coaches) are exponentially more skilled than minor league coaches.  If you doubt that, consider this: All MLB teams hire minor league coaches who have NO coaching experience.  They may have played minor league or Big League ball, but most have not a clue why they succeeded or failed...let alone how to teach 19 and 20 year-olds what they must do. For the most part, they throw the ball out there for 140-150 games and let the players figure it out for themselves  College coaches are teachers by profession; virtually no one is a head coach without having coached for one or two decades.  They do not enjoy the player turnover MLB does, so they must get the most out of the players they have.

So McKay will be trying to install standards of professionalism among coaches who have little idea what that is.  Unskilled coaches are usually rigid because they fear facing or exposing their lack of ability.  Consequently, they retreat into team politics.  McKay is prodigious at developing esprit de corps; his college assistants were worshipfully loyal to him.  He has what it takes to turn in his direction a staff which is in any way willing.  Part of the question will be how many people he'll have to fire, in order to find willing coaches, and whether the MLB Good Ol' Boy network can bring him down before he does.

Personal feelings aside, I very much hope he succeeds.  The more Mental Game discipline he can instill, the better it is for our Game -- and Seattle won't get back to post-season without it.

- See more at:


:: back to Dr. D's shtick :: 

Two things about focus here.  First thing:  if you at all doubt the idea that some humans are better at screening out "Thought #2" better than the typical ML player can do it?  Then research "Buddhist Self-Immolation" and learn something.

Second thing:  it was public knowledge that Ichiro's focus techniques were a running joke in the Mariner locker room.  Dr. D has been snickered at :- ) for 15 years, due to his love for aikido and for NPB-style baseball coaching.  We don't find it at all far-fetched, this claim that even major league hitters struggle with true concentration.  "You can't find a Mariner on the roster who will give you a pro at-bat," one scout told us a couple years back.  And what does that mean, a "Professional At-Bat"?


Mr. Brumley's thoughts on college coaches vs minor league coaches ... a good deal of it rings true.  There's an echo in chess:  parents seek out the best chess player to work with their 10-year-olds, not the best teachers.  Coach-O-Vision Translation:  there may be a lot of room for the Mariners to seek Moneyball-style riches in this territory.  Maybe even as much room as Andy McKay thinks there is.

Greg's colorful protests about the Good Ole Boyz network?  Mr. Brumley isn't the first to lodge these complaints and he won't be the last.  James once said that the scouts in Moneyball, the ones who formed a Circle of Yaks against Paul DePodesta, were so eerily well-cast that he thought the actors were actual scouts.

So, yeah, you can presume the giant power struggle between McKay and the Brewers-style scouts ;- ) to be imminent.  Personally, I'm delighted that Jerry DiPoto is willing to wage this war.


The Dalai Lama tries to teach better focus in meditation/prayer.  And he knows whereof he speaks:  there are dozens or hundreds of Buddhist monks who have (foolishly) lit themselves on fire and paid no attention to the flames.  Blocking out distraction as a developed habit?  I'd say so.

Have you ever attempted even 10 breaths' worth of truly undistracted focus?  I could say it's a life's work to attain that, to pray/meditate for 60 seconds without thinking of anything else.  But personally I couldn't say, because I haven't attained it.   Some guys have.  

It's an exciting subject.  The power of concentration is almost limitless.


They just now, at Be Jolly Inc., went back over the idea that there's no such thing as clutch -- or hot/cold -- performance in baseball.  Er, there is supposed to be no such thing as clutch hitting, I guess; James had recently published an article proving that there is clutch pitching.  And this maxim was held up as an example of one of the things of which we are most certain.  (Albeit with James' caution that sabes should keep listening to the other side.)

I could make five different arguments that 'clutch hitting' is a phenomenon that we are simply not detecting.  For example, the usual method is to measure whether 15* hot games in a row has any predictive value for a group of hitters in game 16.  But suppose that only 3% of ML hitters are good with pressure on?  Show a sabe that Joe Shlabotnik had an RISP performance 100 points higher for his career, and he'll shrug it off as a fluke.   And why should clutch performance exist everywhere in sports, including in baseball pitching, except for it doesn't exist in baseball hitting?

BJOL just had an article proving that hot/cold pitching exists.  And why wouldn't it?  Don't pitchers go through moods and biorhythms like the rest of us?  But the Pascal's Triangle of BABIP masks a lot of hitting phenomena.

Every sabe will allow that clutch failure exists.  "But those guys wash out of the majors," they'll protest.  What, subjects' performance under tension is not a continuum?  It's merely an I/O phenomenon?


Ah, well.  Forget that rant.  The broad point is this.  Sabermetricians are dangerously close to the belief that mental skills in baseball don't matter.  Ballplayers in the majors have the mental skills, goes the story; if they don't have them, they are pruned off the ML tree.  

Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley didn't have them, so that's that?  As James once put it, you pay a price for everything you believe that isn't true.

Supposing that clutch hitting doesn't exist .. fine.  Let's forget clutch hitting and speak of Mark Trumbo's EYE ratio before and after Edgar.   Let's talk about what causes an UP season or a DWN season.  It says here that Edgar will be associated with some pretty jolly UP seasons.  The Mariners' brass is making some good moves here lately.


But hey.  We were talking about the minor leagues.  You and I have been complaining about player development a long time, hain't we.  So there y'go amig-O.


Dr D




OBF's picture

as well...

Specifically the idea of clearing one's mind of everything except a simple, small, changable, detectable mechanic, and then drilling it over and over, and attempting it in the game at game speed.

Also, isn't all film study (something edgar is famous for) an attempt to train the mental / cognative part of one's game?

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