Mike Tosar – The White Sox’ Winston Wolfe
The movie Pulp Fiction was released in the United States on October 14, 1994. I was a junior in high school at the time and I can remember me and my friends going to see this movie at the theatre’s multiple times. It was a wild ride, something we hadn’t seen much in film to that point (I was only 16). As many times as I have watched this movie since, and it has been many, I have still been left wanting more of one singular character. Harvey Keitel’s portrayal of Winston Wolfe.
Wolfe is a one-size fits all consulting firm of sorts for crime lord Marsellus Wallace. In this particular situation he is here to help Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega get out of a sticky accidental killing that they committed. However, you can tell that The Wolf gets the call any time this gang runs into an unusual issue that requires fixing, of sorts.
That is Mike Tosar.
Pedro Grifol’s Coaching Staff Announced
The White Sox post-TLR PR full court press continued on Tuesday of this past week. It was in the form of formal announcement of Pedro Grifol’s staff, although only nominally. Daryl Boston is still here. Not sure why. Ethan Katz and Curt Hasler were spared a red tag in their respective lockers. And confusion over how Charlie Montoyo got here leads those of us that breathe through our noses to realize the people upstairs picked him. But none of that interests me too much. Just one name out of the group has stood out from what I had heard before and what I am finding out in real time. Mike Tosar.
In what I (and soon you) would come to find out after going down the rabbit hole a bit, Tosar seems content to front run the PR machine by acknowledging this new job and getting right to work. Here’s his Linked In page from before the formal announcement.
Generally, the Bench Coach (Montoyo) is the Manager’s right hand man, but in this case, it’s Tosar and his position of…..Major League Field Coordinator? What is that?
Major League Field Coordinator?
I did a google search and I do know that Rocco Baldelli was once in this position for the Tampa Bay Rays. But finding a clear cut definition was tough, until I found this blog post by Geoff Miller, where he interviews Jeff Bannister, the Pittsburgh Pirates (at the time) Minor League Field Coordinator. See what Jeff says below, I think it fills in the gaps plenty for us.
Got all that? Or as Winston Wolfe more eloquently says “I solve problems.“
The title or more so the assignment of Major League Field Coordinator seems to be more of a “catch all”. It allows Tosar to be applied to his “highest and best use” a business term I’ve heard 50 million times, but it’s application is rarely valid. Here it appears to be. A clip from Alec Lewis‘ excellent 2019 Athletic article below (LINKED HERE), shows how Grifol may be taking on some influences from his prior job, namely Dayton Moore.
Mike Tosar and Pedro Grifol
The bond between Tosar and Grifol goes back along way. I’ll let James Fegan’s excellent Athletic article paint some of the picture for you. The rest, including Tosar’s high level playing and coaching resume, I’ll let Jordan Lazowski of Sox On 35th paint for you. For those TL;DR people, below is the 10,000 ft view on Tosar’s priors.
Those columns do a great job getting into the nuts and bolts. However, the BeefLoaf, maybe due to his age, maybe due to his general skepticism, maybe it’s due to having seen the White Sox supposedly hiring a hitting guru in the past, needs to dig in deeper and for himself. Let’s start where the 108ers mistakenly first stumbled upon Tosar, but hardly the beginning of the story. The Royals new hitting program.
I was worried about the Royals, but didn’t know it was Tosar
The FromThe108 podcast from February 18, 2022 featuring Janice Scurio. A YouTube version of that podcast is linked above. That was the first time I made myself aware of Mike Tosar, or moreso his accomplishments. At the 1 hour 34 minute mark in the video, we start to talk about the Royals and my concern about this new HITTING PROGRAM they are implementing that has improved a group of their young prospects. I was shook.
I specifically name MJ Melendez, who made gigantic strides in his time working with this new hitting program. Now the program wasn’t just Tosar, as Alec Lewis’ article denotes. However, this 2021 interview with Melendez, he specifically names Tosar as the person who implemented the mechanical change to his stance that allowed him to unlock these huge gains. An excerpt from the article below…
The improvements for Melendez were stark! See the difference between the 2019 campaign and 2021. Chronologically, the hitting program started in the 2019 off-season and Melendez above mentioned the off-site of the 2020 COVID season as the point in which Tosar helped him make the stance change.
Need more proof? How about Royals prospect and now major leaguer Nick Pratto prominently featured in this 2021 Athletic article by Alec Lewis. His stat line below features similar staggering gains in BB%, ISO (which is power), HR and reduction in K%.
What about Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez?
Jorge Soler hit 48 home runs for the 2019 Kansas City Royals. In fact that season accounts for 3.5 of his career 4.0 bWAR. This was before Tosar’s appointment as part of the “Hitting Program”, in fact he started working with Soler before he was even employed by Kansas City. He was still a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, but also took on private clients. Per the linked article Tosar claims his work with Soler was nearly 90% mental. Although he also noted wanting Soler to “swing the bat — hard.” Seemingly a significantly different approach than that with which worked for Melendez.
Salvador Perez’ transformation was more holistic. With him working on his hitting with Tosar and his catching with Grifol. The tag team at work helped to combine in Salvy’s best years of his career. Most of Perez’ hitting transformation was approach. Again, different from the keys to the aforementioned Soler or Melendez.
That’s Great…but could Tosar even help Maikel Franco?
In doing this deep dive on Tosar, I found this blog by Royals Reporter that focused in on Maikel Franco. You are probably saying, “Hey Beef, FUCK Maikel Franco! Tosar helped AL home run champs and top 100 prospects, why the fuck do we care about Maikel Franco?” Look, for me, finding at least one example of Tosar, in short order, helping a scrap heap guy become boringly league average was something I was elated to find.
The White Sox seem to sign lots of these types of guys (I guess many teams do) and they don’t always seem to turn out that well. A little evidence that the KW / Teflon Hahn class of ugly bargain binners can turn out don’t hurt. If you are a die-hard baseball fan (read loser) then you probably have heard of Franco, a top prospect with the Phillies that just sort of never turned out. He made his way to KC in 2020 and had his best season since his rookie campaign and it ain’t since been replicated.
Franco’s 2020 COVID season success appeared to be related to swinging more freely. That’s right, the inverse of what you normally hear. This lead to a higher line drive percentage, lower infield fly ball rate and a higher BABIP, driving his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Again, a different approach for a different hitter.
What about Adalberto Mondesi?
Yea, what about the former top prospect, turned everyday shortstop for the Royals? If anyone could use a hitter transformation it would seem to be him. I mean 7 to 1 K to BB rates don’t grow on trees. From what I could find, Tosar was supposed to work on a plan with Mondesi last off-season, but like many things MLB Owners found a way to fuck that up. However, I would have to go ahead and assume they crossed paths in the 3+ seasons in KC and below you can see nary any improvements in Mondesi’s prowess at the plate. Including the short 2022 season (Mondesi got hurt, again) being his worst by all measures.
Personally, I was thrilled to find this and even more excited to share it with the near dozens of White Sox fans that will read this. A failure in this case (of which I am sure there are many) to me, is proof of authenticity. If everything being sold to you is a success, you should check your pockets.
So Where Do We Stand on Mike Tosar?
After going through this journey, I see a wide variety of individual accomplishments. I also see a coach who exhausts a variety of methods and approaches to achieve the desire results. From fixing mental approaches, to physical ones, to advising hitters to be more patient and in some cases less patient.
Not your typical NFL style “here’s my system, everyone must fit it”, but a real coach, in the traditional sense fitting the learning to the pupil. I also see failures that make the body of work feel all the more real. And a overwhelming sense that despite the individual triumphs there has never been enough of a foothold to allow for clear Alpha in the investment sense at the Major League Team level.
Will the White Sox be the ones to either allow him enough autonomy to make that happen or even have enough of the individual successes flip the script on their situation. I don’t know. But hopefully we’ll make it to Monster Joe’s Truck and Tow unscathed.