A significant behind-the-scenes contributor to the Red Sox in recent years has opted for free agency.
Hitting coach Tim Hyers, who over the last four years oversaw an offense that led the majors in most key offensive categories, declined the team’s offer to return. He plans to pursue other opportunities — possibly including college, but more likely with another team or including a broader role in another organization.
“It is difficult leaving good friends. I’m bummed on one hand, but excited on another,” said Hyers. “It wasn’t easy to walk away, but it was the best thing for me right now.”
Hyers, the Red Sox minor league hitting coordinator from 2013-15, spent 2016 and 2017 as a Dodgers assistant hitting coach before the Sox hired him back as their hitting coach under Alex Cora. From 2018-21, the team led the big leagues in runs per game (5.31), average (.266), slugging (.455), and OPS (.790) while ranking third in on-base (.335).
In his first season, Hyers helped overhaul the approaches of Red Sox hitters such as Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, working with them to identify pitches they could drive on a line or in the air rather than the grounder-heavy approaches that preceded his arrival. Their resulting breakthroughs vaulted both them and the Sox to new heights, with Betts winning the 2018 MVP and the Sox 119 games.
Opposing evaluators raved about the versatile approach the Sox employed under Hyers, who was viewed as a standout both in discussing swing mechanics and dissecting opposing pitchers plans of attack. Hyers, at the behest of J.D. Martinez, started holding daily hitters’ meetings in 2018, in which position players and coaches would get together to break down the opposing starter — a setting that members of a detail-oriented team came to view as a significant contributor to the team’s record-setting season and championship.
In 2021, the Red Sox featured a less consistent offense, but ultimately ranked fifth with 5.12 runs per game, third in average (.261), sixth in OBP (.329), and second in slugging (.449). The team enjoyed one of the great six-game postseason offensive stretches of all times before disappearing in the final three games of the ALCS against the Astros.
“I feel like we did some good things. I have some great memories. It was a great run,” said Hyers. “I have so many friends in the Red Sox organization. I’m going to miss Red Sox Nation, the fanbase, Fenway Park.”
But as Hyers talked with the team about a potential new deal, he felt conflicted. Hitting coaches tend to have relatively limited shelf lives in their organization, and as he considered returning, he wondered whether his voice could make a bigger difference on a team and with an organization that had not heard as much of it.
““That sounded appealing through this negotiating process,” Hyers said. “It gives me a chance to work with some other players and keep moving the game forward.”
Still, Hyers said that the decision to leave an organization with which he’s spent most of his post-playing career remained difficult. He expressed gratitude to Red Sox owners, front-office members, Cora, players, and fans for his time in Boston.
“That atmosphere is very special. It was very special this year in the playoffs,” said Hyers. “But moving on, through the negotiating process, as my contract ended, I thought it was time to move on and look for a new challenge. I think that’s where I’m at right now. There’s no animosity to the Red Sox, no bad blood. I respect and love the organization. But me and my family felt it was time to move on, look for a new challenge.”
Even without Hyers, the team will maintain a level of continuity, as Peter Fatse — the assistant hitting coach in 2020 and 2021 — will return to the staff. Even before Hyers made the decision to explore other opportunities, he and the Sox had discussed the idea of elevating Fatse to co-hitting coach duties in recognition of their strong working relationship.
With Hyers gone, Fatse is still expected to be promoted. The Sox are still determining their precise plans, but see Fatse as prepared to lead the group.
“That made my decision even easier. I know the Red Sox are in great hands,” said Hyers. “Pete is an awesome hitting coach. I got along with him very, very well. He’s extremely talented. That made my decision to walk away a little easier. Red Sox players and staff are in great hands.”
Aside from first base coach Tom Goodwin, whom the team did not ask to return, and Hyers, the rest of the Red Sox coaching staff is expected back in 2022.