In 2011, the Royals finished sixth in the American League in runs scored. In 2012, they fell back to 12th in the AL in a year that many felt the Royals would develop into a legitimate threat. As a result, something had to change and that something was the ouster of hitting coach Kevin Seitzer
The former Royal had rejoined the organization starting in the 2008 season and has been credited with helping Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur to resurgent 2011 seasons. In 2012, though, Francoeur fell back down to earth while Gordon continued to hit. Eric Hosmer struggled all year and never really got back into the groove and Mike Moustakas‘s offensive production fell steeply after the All-Star Break.
Part of the change seems to be a change in philosophy. Ned Yost mentioned that the offense was dependent on a lot of singles and doubles to create runs, while many of the players on the field could be strong power hitters. Seitzer’s approach is generally to go up the middle with an emphasis on avoiding trying to pull the ball too much, as he said on The Program on 810 Sports this afternoon. Yost told Seitzer in August that he wanted to adjust that approach and wanted the players to pull the ball more, according to Seitzer.
In some ways, this move isn’t a big deal, and in others it is. Generally, I think managers and coaches can get a lot more credit than they deserve for what the players do on the field. Sometimes, they can also take more heat than they deserve for what players do on the field. All the work in the world isn’t going to change Jeff Francoeur from who he is – a guy who loves to swing at whatever he thinks he can get to. He probably helped Alcides Escobar hit better, and it’s notable that Salvador Perez has a career average of .287 in the minors but has a .311 batting average in 437 at bats in the big leagues.
Again, though, where do you draw that line? Did he help Gordon or was it a notorious work ethic and the first healthy season as a big leaguer that put Gordon in position to shine? How much did he help Butler and how much is his own development? We can’t know the answers because we can’t go back and see how they may have done in those productive seasons under the watch of a different coach. Is Seitzer to blame for Hosmer’s struggles? Moustakas’s? And where does Melky Cabrera fit in? He came to the Royals in an effort to stay in the big leagues and ended up having a career year – until he followed it up with what was headed towards an even better career year with the San Francisco Giants. Sure, his performance has a disclaimer attached to it after his admission of using performance enhancers, but how much of that was his weight loss (the more significant element to his PED usage, in my opinion) and how much was Seitzer’s lessons? He kept hitting in San Francisco after leaving the Royals and Seitzer.
After a year where two of the marquee prospects in the system fought against themselves and big league pitchers through most of the season, and after another 90 loss year, something had to give. I don’t think anybody should be surprised about this development nor should anybody be outraged over it either.
Going forward, the Royals said they want to look from within the organization to fill the gap. Some names that were mentioned today were Terry Bradshaw, who’s been with the organization for years and currently is the hitting coach for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Tommy Gregg, the hitting coach in Omaha, and minor league hitting coordinator Jack Maloof. If Yost gets his way, the Royals may stick with the pull-happy approach in an effort to hit more homers. Ideally, that approach combined with some additional walks could increase the Royals offensive production. Ironically, as Rany Jazayerli points out, Kevin Seitzer was one of the most patient Royals hitters in history, but couldn’t impress upon his hitters the importance of being patient. We’ll see if that changes now.