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What is a Run Prevention Coach?

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Darren Bush now holds that title for A’s, along with 3B coach

Milwaukee Brewers v Oakland Athletics
Darren Bush
Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s announced their 2022 coaching staff last week, led by new manager Mark Kotsay, and it includes a some new faces as well as a few incumbent names moving to different roles.

Among the latter category, Darren Bush is switching from hitting coach to third base coach, and in addition to 3B duties he’s also taking the position of “run prevention coach.”

Right on! Quick question though. What’s a run prevention coach?

Let’s start by getting the obvious jokes out of the way. Bush was the hitting coach in 2021 when the A’s had a disappointing season at the plate, so he’s already proven himself capable of preventing runs! If the 3B coach is also the run prevention coach, does that mean he serves as a linebacker who blocks his own runners from rounding third and going home? Or is he simply responsible for separating the laundry to protect against the colors running in the washing machine?

But seriously. First off, it’s normal to see base coaches carry a second title, especially something on the defensive side of the ball while they’re not busy coaching a base on offense. Similarly, Oakland’s new 1B coach Eric Martins is also serving as the infield coach, like Ron Washington and others before him. Some teams have an outfield coach, or a catching coach. The double-duty itself isn’t odd, it’s just a matter of what the second duty is. Haha, duty.

So again, what is a run prevention coach? As near as I can tell, it’s a new title in Oakland that hasn’t been used before, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a new role.

One possible clue can be found by looking back to the 2021 staff, when Kotsay was the 3B coach and Martins was the assistant hitting coach. Both of them also carried a secondary duty, described like this in the team’s press release: “Kotsay will also share infield and defensive positioning duties with Eric Martins.” Now in 2022, Martins has split off solo as the infield coach, but without mention of the defensive positioning part. That could mean defensive positioning was simply rolled into Martins’ new infield job (making him the President of Infield Operations?), or it could mean the term was rebranded as “run prevention” and applied to the new 3B coach.

I’m purely speculating here, and I’m sure we’ll get an answer on the topic at some point, but my best guess is that run prevention could have to do with defensive positioning and shifts. After all, somebody needs to coordinate that stuff during each at-bat of each game, and the manager can’t be doing everything at once. There might be more to the job than just defensive positioning, but based on what titles existed on the staff last year and this year, this seems like a logical starting point.

2021
  • Martins: Asst Hitting, plus infield and defensive positioning
  • Kotsay: 3B coach, plus infield and defensive positioning
2022
  • Martins: 1B coach, plus infield
  • Bush: 3B coach, plus run prevention

Or, there’s another possibility. Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy started out in Chicago as the team’s Run Prevention Coordinator, which was a job related to pitching analytics. We think of Bush as a hitting coach now because he held that role for so long, but before that he was the A’s bullpen coach for two years, and while he was primarily an outfielder as a player, he did spend some time as a catcher. If he were to get involved on the pitching side then he could work with pitching coach Scott Emerson, who previously spent four years on Bush’s coaching staff when Bush managed in the minors.

But I’m sticking with my guess that run prevention has to do with defensive positioning. In retrospect I probably should have just asked someone on the team.

***

As long as we’re talking about Bush, let’s take a quick refresher on his history.

After a minor league playing career, and a few years managing independent league teams, Bush joined the A’s organization as a minor league coach in 2005, at age 31. He started as the hitting coach in High-A, then spent six years as a manager — two each in High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, with postseason berths in five of those years and league championships in two of them. By 2013 he was in the majors as Oakland’s bullpen coach, and in 2015 he switched to hitting coach.

He remained in that position for seven summers, the longest tenure for a hitting coach in Oakland history. During that time, the club went from a rebuilding phase into a contention cycle, and the offense flourished. From 2017-21, their 106 wRC+ ranked fourth among all MLB teams, and they were ninth in scoring, with several star bats emerging. It wasn’t a surprise to see a change now after things began to get stale in 2021, especially with a new manager also taking over and putting a fresh look on the staff, but overall the hitting went well with Bush in charge.

Earlier in the winter, Bush interviewed for the A’s manager job that eventually went to Kotsay, but fortunately Bush is sticking around despite not getting that nod. This will be his 18th season in the organization and his 10th on the MLB staff, he’s got successful experience working in multiple different departments, and he’s got some managing on his track record in case the club’s rookie skipper needs any extra guidance.

Perhaps there’s no better symbol of how deep Bush’s roots have grown with the A’s than the following fun fact. His replacement as hitting coach, Tommy Everidge, played nearly half of his minor league career for teams coached or managed by Bush. Now the student has become the teacher, but the original teacher is still here too continuing to teach, which is like having your cake and eating it too, except don’t eat your teacher.

And tomorrow is his birthday! He turns 48 on Tuesday. Happy birthday Bushy, and may you prevent many of our opponents’ runs in 2022, while waving home lots of A’s runners from third base.