Kings of Kauffman Mailbag – Ep. 2


It’s the first Monday of the month so that means it is time for another Kings of Kauffman Mailbag. As always at KoK, we’re trying to give you a little bit of everything, from a bunch of different perspectives, in an effort to provide you with a number of ways for you to get your Royals coverage. Whether it’s the Royalman Report (have you listened to this week’s yet?), our coverage of the Royals prospects, or why we just don’t like some Cardinals fans, hopefully there’s enough here to keep you coming back for more. And we appreciate it.

This month’s mailbag will be a little shorter than last because I got two questions that called for rather long-winded answers, and I didn’t think pushing 2,000 words to answer questions was something people would want to read. I’m not that other guy.

As always if you want to join in on the fun, drop us a line at [email protected]. Now, on to the emails:

Should we worry about Eric Hosmer taking a step back? – Josh, Austin TX

I’m starting with this one for two reasons: 1) because Josh is a fellow blogger and a must-follow on Twitter (@oldmanduggan). Be wary however of the Saturday night back-and-forths between he, Michael Engel, and myself though. Usually it’s about The West Wing or how unfunny How I Met Your Mother really is, but he’s a must follow nonetheless. And 2) because this topic goes back to something I posted last month that got slammed a little bit on Twitter.

Eric Hosmer is not a sure bet to go .293/.334/.465 again next year.* He’s just not. There’s really only a handful of players in baseball that you can reasonably say they will produce “xx” numbers year in and year out, and be fairly accurate. Eric Hosmer is not one of them. Yet.

*In reality, for all the attention he received this season for bursting onto the scene and showing what an incredible talent he is, his .342 wOBA suggests he really wasn’t as good as the narrative suggested. Just don’t go telling anyone I said that, it will really anger the masses.

Allard Baird used to use a phrase all the time that I think is appropriate when we look at the Royals for next season, and the amount of young players on the roster that we’re all expecting/hoping for big things from next season: plan for the worst, hope for the best. Those eight words could not be more poignant in regards to the 2012 Royals, and Eric Hosmer.

It would be irresponsible to just assume that next year Hosmer will dominate the American League and blossom into a superstar level performer. The truth is he will still be just 21 at the start of next season, and no one has any idea what to expect from a 21 year old. There just isn’t enough evidence to support a case either way at this point.

What we can do however is plan for the worst, hope for the best. Many Royals had career years in 2011 offensively. To pen them in for repeating or improving upon those numbers next season goes against everything we can objectively believe about baseball. You can hope for improvement out of Hosmer, but the more realistic, unemotional approach, is to expect there to be a slight step backwards.

Could absolutely explode and become the next Albert Pujols? Sure. It isn’t like the talent isn’t there. But the walk rate and lack of strike zone awareness this year – that absolutely came out of nowhere when looking at his minor league numbers – would suggest he’s not quite at that level. Everyone needs to take a step back and relax and let Hosmer actually become that superstar we all think he will be, before there’s talk that he’s going to be that guy.

What about Greg Holland’s mechanics allows him to be so successful? – Matt, Internet celebrity, Canada

Well first of all, there is no such thing as “mechanics”, so let’s just go ahead and never use that phrase again. “Mechanics” is a baseball buzzword that has no definition (much like “plays the game the right way”), but the user of the buzzword gets the luxury of sounding smart without ever actually being questioned of the true meaning, or asked to defend his opinion. “Mechanics” is either good or bad depending on the current level of the production of the pitcher, and is always “fixed” without any explanation of how or why.

Okay, end rant.

Holland’s delivery is pretty simple, but not in the “let’s slow him down so he can throw more strikes” kind of way, but that he hits all the necessary points in order to generate high velocity and torque. Well that, and he’s got a pretty quick arm, which helps.

I couldn’t find anything that could really show what he does well, so the first pitch in this video (from the catcher view) will have to do. If you can pause that video at the moment of front foot strike (which is almost impossible to do without a frame-by-frame but oh well) you’ll notice first the separation between the front hip and the front shoulder. That is a thing of beauty.

All hard throwers are able to generate lots of torque with their upper half by creating separation with their hips and shoulders at foot strike, thus allowing the upper body to have more of a sling-shot effect during rotation. Some may worry that this may cause a “falling off” result, but ignore that someone when they say that. Falling off is almost always a misnomer that is only perceived by watching a pitcher live (remember, your eyes can and will deceive you) and not by true definition of what is really happening.

The second thing with Holland, if you go back slightly in the video to watch him at the time of his leg kick, you’ll notice just a bit of a hip slide towards home plate. Ordinarily you’d like to see a little bit more action here, but this little bit will do. The hardest thing for a pitcher to do, or any athlete really, is generate power from a standing start. The pitchers ability to use all the space he can to release the ball is the more effective way to generate higher speeds. As opposed to the “tall and fall” method which results in far more static movement than dynamic, sliding the hips forward not only forces the pitcher to be closer to the plate at the time of release, but also forces him to engage a very powerful part of the body that is ordinarily ignored until the last minute. Teaching a pitcher to stay slow and “pop” the hips at the time of release only fosters a smaller margin for error, and doesn’t allow a very dynamic part of the body to work as fluidly as it really should.

Lastly, as if this hasn’t gone on long enough, Holland has a short, quick arm action. You may hear the phrase “short arm” or “throws like an infielder” when someone wants to talk about how a pitcher has bad arm action, but you should ignore those people too. An athlete, is an athlete, is an athlete. A pitcher is an athlete. All athletes, whether they play shortstop or catcher or quarterback, should all throw the same because the intended goal is the same for all of them: throw an object as hard as possible.

The shorter and quicker the arm action (think “scap loading”, for lack of a better term) the more the shoulder and the elbow are able to work as a hinge to allow the arm to whip to the throwing zone. The longer the arm action, or the more the pitcher reaches back towards centerfield, the slower the arm and the less able it is to create the desired “hinge” effect.

And if you’re ever told that the longer the arm, or the more the pitcher reaches back will help him gain more leverage and throw harder just remember, small hinges open large doors. The shorter and quicker the arm is to release the better the arm action created. And arm action is king.

With Bob McClure getting fired, who do you think his replacement will be? Can we please get a progressive, forward thinking pitching coach? – Mike, Bonner Springs

The job of pitching coach in the major leagues is probably one of the worst jobs in all of sports. Your work is on display every night, for all the world to see, and there’s no margin for error. The pitcher is either good because he’s talented or the pitcher is bad because you’re not doing enough with him. There is seemingly no in-between.

I don’t get all the celebrating the McClure lost his job. What is it that the guy did poorly during his tenure with the Royals?

Each year McClure was handed a group of under-talented, under-funded, scrap heap style acquisitions and was asked to win games with them. If you want someone to blame for his “failures” of not getting pitchers to live up to their potentials, why are you not blaming Dayton Moore for not providing him with pitchers that actually had potential?

If your beef with McClure is truly philosophical, then fine, I get that. Sometimes a different approach, a different voice, is needed. But if your beef is with McClure’s production, or lack thereof, I really just think you’re focusing your energies in the wrong place.

That being said in regards to the question, no, we cannot get a “progressive, forward thinking” pitching coach. Remember, this is the same organization that was rumored to want no part of Trevor Bauer because of long toss and removed long toss from Mike Montgomery’s training program. This is the same organization that merely pays lip-service to valuing on-base percentage and not making outs offensively. This is the same organization that drafted a 95-97 mph-throwing Luke Hochevar and told him to throw more sinkers to induce more contact. Nothing about the Royals organization says they will hire a progressive, forward thinking pitching coach.

Although, to be fair, that sentence could also be written about most major league organizations.

‘Til next time.

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Tags: Bob McClure Eric Hosmer Greg Holland KC Royals