It can be assumed that most casual fans wouldn’t know the name Robert Van Scoyoc. It’s likely that most fans would not have even heard his name come up. Van Scoyoc is a hitting instructor, but there are plenty of those around the country. But the recently-blossomed careers of Chris Taylor and J.D. Martinez are are why he is known in baseball circles.
Van Scoyoc owns a facility in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Clarita. His name first surfaced in the media in October of last season. While for good reason, you would have had to gone looking for it.
Wallenbrock and Van Scoyoc teach a hitting philosophy that can often run counter to long-held beliefs in the game. They do not believe in swinging down at the ball…emphasize hitting the ball in the air…believe fastballs should be hit to the opposite field and breaking balls to the pull side.
They want hitters to get their bat “on plane” in the hitting zone for as long as possible, creating swings that are capable of handling a variety of pitches. But they also believe every hitter is unique – some are taller, some have shorter arms, some have better vision than others – and the coaches say they believe in discovering the most effective swing, not producing cookie-cutter actions for everyone.
Therein lies the magic. I heard mention of ‘swing plane’ more last season in conversation than I had in my entire 30 years prior. An all-time record for home runs was set in 2017, and by a wide margin. It’s possible the talk of juiced baseballs should be replaced with discussion of taskmasters like Van Scoyoc teaching their craft.
The New York Times provided a detailed profile of Taylor’s work with Van Scoyoc last October too. Taylor went from having the reputation of a fringe-player to a semi-star by taking a leap of faith in Van Scoyoc’s swing philosophy.
The Arizona DiamondBacks recently announced the hiring of Van Scoyoc to their staff:
Robert Van Scoyoc, the hitting consultant who revamped Chris Taylor's swing, has been hired by the Diamondbacks as a "hitting strategist." #Dodgers
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) February 2, 2018
Van Scoyoc has a new title, and will be working exclusively with Arizona players from now on. With that, he leaves behind in Los Angeles the greatest of gifts: a 27-year old leadoff hitter who slashed a .288/.354/.496 in his first year of extended duty. Without the teachings of Van Scoyoc, the Dodgers may still be searching for true leadoff hitter. Taylor remains one of the Dodgers’ most valuable assets moving forward with his offensive skill and defensive versatility. The team will always attribute part of their 2017 success and beyond to him. After all, he was a major reason for Los Angeles’ first World Series appearance since 1988. Thanks a million Rob.