When the Cubs announced that they had signed Mark Loretta as their new bench coach I admit I did a bit of a double take. Judging by the Twitter comments, I imagine I wasn’t alone in that double take. So I spent the last couple of days researching to try and get to know Loretta better. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found and imagine you will be too.
I’m not sure how much stats can tell us about any coach, honestly. Particularly a bench coach or manager. While I think it’s possible to get some information on things like a hitting philosophy for a hitting coach, or an approach to pitching for a pitching coach, honestly all of that information is usually more informative when looking at a coach’s record in a previous position.
We don’t have any previous coaching information for Loretta, however, so I did take a look at his playing career at Fangraphs and Baseball Reference.
Mark Loretta: Select Stats
Loretta played all or part of 15 major league seasons. He had two exceptional seasons and a few seasons where he was an above-average player. For the most part, he was a replacement level second baseman who occasionally spent time at other infield positions. He had limited postseason appearances with the Padres and the Dodgers:
He hit for average, never really struck out a lot (particularly by today’s standards) and never demonstrated a lot of power. I find it particularly interesting that his career wRC+ is exactly 100, in other words, average.
He’s spent the last nine seasons with the San Diego Padres as a special assistant to baseball operations. He was hired for that role when Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod were part of the Padres front office. According to the Athletic, in that role he worked with minor league affiliates and scouting, in addition to community outreach.
You can get a better sense of those community outreach activities on his Twitter account.
Interviews and Intangibles
Honestly the most interesting information available on Loretta was qualitative, not quantitative. He received resounding endorsements across baseball, including this enthusiastic reference from Len Kasper:
Mark Loretta is one of my favorite people in the world. What a great bench coach hire for the Cubs.— Len Kasper (@LenKasper) January 2, 2019
Additionally, he was a a frequent guest on San Diego sports radio Mighty 1090. He comes across as knowledgeable and thoughtful. He also clearly had a great rapport with the San Diego reporters who spoke to him about everything from Trevor Hoffman’s Hall of Fame induction to community events.
In fact, on Thursday they spoke to him about his decision to take the Cubs’ bench job.
You can listen to the entirety of the interview (which I highly recommend) here.
The interview is about 20 minutes long and he reveals that in addition to having strong family ties to Chicago (he’s a Northwestern alum) Jed Hoyer reached out to him after Joe Maddon suggested Loretta as a possible candidate. This is particularly interesting because there has been a lot of speculation that this is a Theo Epstein hire, and Loretta’s account seems to contradict that.
It doesn’t appear that Loretta was necessarily pursuing coaching opportunities until the Cubs reached out to him. In fact, the Padres had a bench coach position available earlier this year and he didn’t actively pursue it.
Loretta described his position with the Cubs as a liaison between the front office and the players. Given Maddon’s offseason reading of “Managing Millenials for Dummies,” this seems like a good role for the 47-year-old first time coach. Loretta also revealed his contract was for two seasons and that his family will remain based in San Diego while he explores this new opportunity. I got the distinct sense from this interview that Loretta has strong Padres ties and I wouldn’t be shocked if he used this opportunity to pursue a managerial role in San Diego when their farm system matures.
However, for now, Loretta is a Cub, and by all accounts the North Side of Chicago is lucky to have him back.