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Williams adds LeCroy, Weidemaier to coaching staff

Nov 2, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

Associated Press AP

The Nationals will keep most of their coaching staff intact despite a change in managers, a decision both Mike Rizzo and Matt Williams agreed upon, but they will have two new coaches in uniform next season, including one who will hold a brand-new position.

Matt LeCroy, who played for the Nationals in 2006 and has served as a manager in their farm system the last five years, will replace Jim Lett as bullpen coach. Mark Weidemaier, formerly a member of the Diamondbacks’ front office, will be hired to serve as a seventh uniformed coach, coordinating the club’s defensive positioning and advance scouting.

Weidemaier’s hiring is particularly intriguing because it follows a recent trend in baseball to emphasize defensive positioning based on scouting and advanced stats. The Rays and Pirates were among the most notable clubs to employ regular infield shifts this season and wound up making the playoffs in part because of their strong defensive efficiency.

Williams, who was given the opportunity by Rizzo to make changes to his new staff, immediately requested the addition of Weidemaier, who helped Arizona become one of the game’s better defensive teams.

“One of the reasons I wanted to bring Mark Weidemaier on board is that he is an expert at that,” Williams said. “He has been an advance scout. He created all of our defensive advanced reports with Arizona, has scouted both leagues, spent 175 days of the 180 days of the season in a hotel room on the road, knows what he’s doing. And I think that will help us be a better team.”

Rizzo embraced the idea and approved the addition of a seventh coach to Williams’ staff.

“That’s one of the things he feels is very important: defensive alignment and advanced sabermetrics,” the general manager said. “And this is a guy he feels brings a lot to the table. I’ve known him myself for 25 years, worked against him many times as an advanced scout, and he’ll be great addition to the team.”

The Nationals were charged with 107 errors this season, third-most in the NL. They were fourth-worst in the NL in defensive efficiency (converting batted balls into outs).

“We understand that it’s a very fine line between 2 1/2 runs or 3 1/2 runs or 4 1/2 runs,” Williams said. “It’s a very fine line. But I do understand also that if we can cut one down at some point during that game, we have a much better chance of winning with the kind of club we’ve got. So that’s important. That’s going to be our focus as a coaching staff, and we’ll let the players know certainly that we expect that to be a focus of theirs moving forward.”

LeCroy will be on a big-league coaching staff for the first time in his career. The former catcher, first baseman and designated hitter was unfortunately best known in Washington for his abysmal performance behind the plate on May 25, 2006, when he surrendered six stolen bases to the Astros and had to be pulled in mid-inning, leaving manager Frank Robinson in tears after embarrassing one of his own players like that.

The highly popular and fun-loving LeCroy returned to the Nationals organization in 2009 as manager at low-Class A Hagerstown. After two years there, he managed high-Class A Potomac in 2010, then managed Class AA Harrisburg each of the last two seasons. He’ll run the bullpen in Washington, replacing Lett, who had held that position since 2010.

The rest of Williams’ staff will look exactly like Davey Johnson’s staff at season’s end: bench coach Randy Knorr, pitching coach Steve McCatty, hitting coach Rick Schu, first base coach Tony Tarasco and third base coach Trent Jewett.

Knorr’s return is perhaps the most significant, considering the 44-year-old also interviewed for the manager’s job and was the overwhelming choice of Nationals players to replace Johnson.

Williams, though, immediately reached out to Knorr upon getting the job and said he wanted him to stay and serve as his right-hand man, utilizing 10 years of institutional knowledge as a big-league coach and minor-league manager in the Nationals’ system.

“I can’t claim to know them or know this team as much as Randy does,” Williams said. “So I’m going to lean on him. He’s been kind enough to say: ‘Lean on me. I believe in this franchise. I believe in this team. I believe in our chances. And I want to be here.’ He doesn’t have to be here [but] in our conversations he said he did. I trust that, and I love that fact. I am going to lean on him heavy.”

In an impressive display of support, Knorr flew from his home in Florida to Washington to attend Williams’ news conference on Friday. He’ll also fly out to Arizona next week for extensive meetings with Williams on the Nationals’ personnel and philosophy.

“It was a tough decision to come up today, because to me, this is his day and I didn’t want to take anything away from that,” Knorr said. “But he asked me to come up, and I’m his bench coach and I’ll support him 100 percent.”

  1. MicheleS - Nov 2, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    Me Likey the new defensive coordinator position. I am curious about Lett being gone? Any reason for that or just time to make a change. Happy for LeCroy, earning his way up through the system.

  2. sjm308 - Nov 2, 2013 at 9:20 AM

    These last few days have me very excited about our future. Just hearing all the right people saying all the right things. Knorr, Rizzo, Williams all speaking like a team with a mission. If you look at this teams coaches, three of them have managed in our system from low A all the way up and that means that a lot of our players have relationships with them and hopefully a comfort level. Not sure that is a defining reason for success but it sure can’t hurt. I have not heard what our coaches earn but with the way Knorr handled this, I would hope he would be rewarded for his loyalty. I also missed what Williams salary is as well.

  3. MicheleS - Nov 2, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    SJM.. here is a link to the full presser if you want to watch. It’s about 30 minutes long

    http://www.masnsports.com/index_medialounge.php?show_id=1962316&p=

  4. sjm308 - Nov 2, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    thanks Michele! really upset we didn’t meet at Justin’s this year. There is a new “watering hole”, BlueJacket that opened up over by Yards Park. Have to try that before a game next season. Are there any plans for an Insiders Get Together?

  5. Candide - Nov 2, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    Unclear on Weidemaier’s role. Post says he’ll be “a seventh uniformed coach,” which suggests he’ll be in the dugout. But Williams says he spent 175 days in hotel rooms on the road last year. So is he going to be on the bench, or is he going to be always one series ahead of the rest of the team?

    • MicheleS - Nov 2, 2013 at 10:35 AM

      I think he is going to be in the dugout. Federal Baseball has a good wrap up of all of Williams appearances yesterday and the one I heard on MLB Radio, it sounded like the new D Coordinator is in the dugout. You can click on the link to the radio interview in this:

      http://www.federalbaseball.com/2013/11/2/5057528/nationals-manager-matt-williams-talks-about-his-new-job-on-mlb

    • Jw - Nov 2, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      Sounds like he was an advance scout in AZ, not a coach. For the Nats it looks like he will be a coach who takes the input from advance scouts and turns it into defensive positioning. But that assumes they have an advance scout. When Debbi Taylor’s husband Wade left for the Dodgers, they didn’t replace him, preferring to use video. The Dodgers just fired Wade Taylor, maybe he’ll be back.

      • David Proctor - Nov 2, 2013 at 11:51 AM

        JW, according to comments by Rizzo, we do have advanced scouts and also use video.

  6. Faraz Shaikh - Nov 2, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    exciting!!!

  7. Sonny G 10 - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    I was wondering about the limit of uniformed coaches allowed in the dugout during a game. So I googled it and found out the limit used to be six, but this year the limit has been raised to seven. Teams pushed for the increase because a lot of teams now use a second batting coach and some teams want interpreters for their pitchers who don’t have fluid English. So this new limit certainly allows for a defensive coordinator to be in the dugout. With the manager, the bench coach, the first base coach, third base coach, and hitting coach, five positions are taken up. The defensive coordinator would be the sixth uniformed coach in the dugout. Looks like we have room for one more coach. Another hitting coach, maybe, or have I left someone out.

    • Sonny G 10 - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:44 PM

      Oops! I missed Cat, the pitching coach. So the defensive coordinator would be the seventh uniformed coach.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Williams is spot on with the finer details leading to extra runs. Better defensive positioning and better fundamentals will help towards that. Mark’s stats speak to part of it in defensive rankings and luckily Nats pitchers were very good in keeping a better than league average share of runners from scoring.

    That 3.199 ERA stat I quoted for starters in 2013 to include Stras, JZim, Gio, Ohlie, TJord, and Roark is numbers that can improve with better defense. This is what Rizzo envisioned when he didn’t extend Dunn and traded Willingham and got players like Span.

  9. Doc - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    The bullpen guys seemed to really like Lett.

    So like MicheleS, I’m curious about his departure.

  10. David Proctor - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    In fairness, pitchers who came up through the minors absolutely rave about LeCroy. I also believe I read that LeCroy helped Drew Storen during his demotion to AAA (even though LeCroy is the AA, not AAA manager).

    • Sonny G 10 - Nov 2, 2013 at 1:46 PM

      Hey, that sounds pretty good. I did not know this about LeCroy.

  11. David Proctor - Nov 2, 2013 at 12:59 PM

    Interesting little line in Boswell’s article.

    ” If Atlanta throws at Bryce Harper three times next year, Justin Upton will end up in the dirt twice. “That kind of stuff won’t go down the same way anymore,” one National said.”

    I wonder who that Nat is and that’s a not-so-subtle shot at Davey. The only Nats there were Roark, Desi and Werth. Roark doesn’t have the stature to be speaking like that.

    • Candide - Nov 2, 2013 at 1:21 PM

      Knorr was there also, could have been him.

      And since the speaker was obviously saying it off the record, it could have been anyone, including Roark. And of the four, Roark is the only one who’d be able to actually deliver on the promise.

      • Sonny G 10 - Nov 2, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        My guess would be that Jayson Werth said it. Sounds more like his style than any of the others.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Nov 2, 2013 at 3:45 PM

      That was from Jayson. It was pathetic how Davey allowed the Braves to do what they did.

  12. Candide - Nov 2, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    BTW, the Barves have made a qualifying offer to McCann.

    • nats128 - Nov 2, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      No surprize there. They want their draft pick and hoping he doesnt accept.

  13. David Proctor - Nov 2, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    If anyone is desperate for some baseball, the AFL All Star Game will be televised at 8pm tonight. Brian Goodwin is starting in CF

  14. mrnat7 - Nov 3, 2013 at 7:46 AM

    Maybe they let Lett go so Matt Williams could have his number 9.

  15. iconicwoodencap - Nov 3, 2013 at 9:19 AM

    So, I’m curious. The new scouting/defensive positioning coach, Weidemaier, evidently has defensive advanced reports on all the teams in both leagues during his tenure at Arizona. Does he get to bring all that information with him to Washington or is it proprietary to Arizona? Seems to me, AZ paid for all that information and might not be too happy to have it given to a competitor. At the same time, it seems like it would be difficult to prevent Weidemaier from knowing what he knows….

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