Jun 2, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Kansas City Royals hitting coach George Brett (5) smiles in the dugout during the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Royals Hitters Before and After George Brett

The Royals have won 13 games in the 18 since George Brett was brought in as the hitting coach. The knee jerk reaction is that Brett, a Hall of Famer and the best third baseman ever (if you allow my bias to creep in) turned the sluggish Royals offense around and now, combined with competent pitching, they’re combining to recover from a terrible May.

By now, Sam Mellinger has weighed in and pointed out that the offense hasn’t performed better with Brett around. Instead, the Royals have seen excellent pitching and defense and that’s the source of their winning.

But that’s not to say that Brett’s efforts have been in vain. I think seeing a legend in the dugout every day, passing on advice and showing how he did it can have a positive impact on a club. When he talks, he has the resume that few others have, so they ought to listen. If the players don’t listen to George Brett, who will they listen to?

So I looked at how the Royals have done since Brett took over. I went on the assumption that a hitting coach can affect change quickly but that it’s probably going to be seen among individuals more than over the whole group. His biggest targets need to be Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, obviously, but everyone can have things to work on.

Here’s where everyone was on the last day of the Maloof Era:

to 5/29 G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP BA OBP SLG OPS
Perez 41 156 151 12 47 10 1 1 15 3 25 1 .311 .327 .411 .738
Hosmer 48 190 172 18 45 7 1 1 13 15 31 1 .262 .323 .331 .654
Getz 34 119 108 17 22 5 1 1 10 8 16 0 .204 .259 .296 .555
Escobar 50 221 210 18 53 8 0 3 18 8 24 0 .252 .279 .333 .612
Moustakas 43 167 150 13 28 7 0 4 12 13 23 2 .187 .257 .313 .571
Gordon 50 224 209 33 71 12 2 6 31 14 43 0 .340 .379 .502 .882
Cain 46 185 163 25 46 10 2 1 23 14 36 4 .282 .346 .387 .732
Francoeur 44 159 152 15 33 7 2 1 10 5 37 2 .217 .252 .309 .561
Butler 50 202 171 18 45 9 0 5 31 28 31 2 .263 .371 .404 .775
Johnson 32 76 73 8 18 1 0 1 3 2 22 0 .247 .267 .301 .568
Tejada 16 40 37 5 11 1 0 2 7 2 8 1 .297 .350 .486 .836
Kottaras 18 45 35 5 5 2 0 1 6 10 16 0 .143 .333 .286 .619
Dyson 18 42 41 8 11 5 2 1 8 1 6 0 .268 .286 .561 .847
Lough 9 30 29 3 10 2 2 3 1 6 0 .345 .367 .552 .918
Totals 1856 1701 198 445 86 13 28 190 124 324 13 .262 .314 .377 .690

In that stretch, they’d averaged four runs a game.

From May 30th to the present, after Brett stepped in, they’ve averaged 3.78 runs per game.

since 5/30 G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP BA OBP SLG OPS
Perez 14 59 56 10 16 1 1 2 11 2 4 1 .286 .322 .446 .768
Hosmer 18 78 71 12 21 5 0 1 11 6 11 0 .296 .346 .408 .755
Getz 11 32 27 2 7 0 0 0 2 3 1 0 .259 .313 .259 .572
Escobar 17 64 60 6 14 2 2 0 4 1 6 1 .233 .250 .333 .583
Moustakas 15 47 44 3 8 0 0 0 0 2 7 1 .182 .234 .182 .416
Gordon 17 74 64 7 10 2 0 0 5 7 16 2 .156 .257 .188 .444
Cain 16 65 59 6 15 5 0 2 7 6 16 0 .254 .323 .441 .764
Francoeur 10 24 21 4 4 1 0 2 3 3 7 0 .190 .292 .524 .815
Butler 18 72 61 4 19 6 0 0 7 10 13 0 .311 .403 .410 .813
Johnson 14 37 34 8 9 1 1 1 5 3 10 0 .265 .324 .441 .766
Tejada 8 23 22 3 7 1 0 0 2 1 2 0 .318 .348 .364 .711
Kottaras 4 9 9 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 6 0 .111 .111 .222 .333
Dyson 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Lough 16 62 61 4 15 3 0 1 7 0 7 1 .246 .258 .344 .602
Totals 646 589 68 146 28 4 9 66 44 106 6 .248 .303 .355 .658

Six batters have improved. Six have declined. Chris Getz has been about the same and Jarrod Dyson has been in Omaha on a rehab assignment.

But look at the names who improved their OPS:

Four of those six are key parts of the lineup, in fact, since the Royals rearranged the batting order, those are your 2 through 5 batters most nights. Johnson has at least earned a split, if not a majority of the playing time at second, and Francoeur has hit two homers since Brett arrived while ceding time to David Lough.

The names who fell back (by OPS):

Kottaras and Tejada aren’t big concerns. Kottaras has played in just four games and he’s facing a small sample size problem. He still hasn’t been good, but whatever he does is just a bonus since Perez will play most nights. Tejada has played more frequently and pinch hit a number of times, but he had a great start before Brett, and really only saw a significant drop in his slugging numbers.

Lough was at a .918 OPS before Brett and while I like Lough as a fourth outfielder type, he’s not a .918 OPS player, so he could only come down. Similarly, Alex Gordon was hitting .340/.379/.502 before Brett, so he was also due to fall a bit. Now, he’s been very bad since Brett got there, so is that a problem due to Brett or is that just a slump? He’s had iffy pitch selection and pitchers are living down and away on him. He hasn’t made the adjustment, but of these six, he’s the least worrisome player and he’s still walking, so I don’t think he’s lost up there.

Johnson specifically mentioned working with Brett as a key to his upsurge in Tampa (I think some personal fire was involved too, but he still got the swings working for him). He may not be a strong everyday player, but he’s capably filling the role when he’s in there for now.

Jun 12, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer (35) connects for the game winning single in the tenth inning of the game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

But Hosmer is the key. The story on Hosmer has been to bust him inside. He’s either not going to catch up or he’s not going to hit it farther than the infield. Since Brett arrived, though, he’s seemingly gotten through. ESPN had a heat map last week that showed how Hosmer was hitting the inside pitch and the difference is startling. On top of that, Hosmer’s hitting for more power. Before: 9 extra base hits in 190 plate appearances. After: 7 in 78. That’s nearly twice as frequently.

He’s hitting less infield choppers that don’t get past the pitcher. His hits aren’t all flaring to left field. Hosmer pulling the ball with authority makes him a much tougher out.

Hosmer’s hit charts before and after George Brett. (data from TexasLeaguers.com)

You could have nearly cut off right field up until June, but now, he’s hitting to all fields and even better, there are hardly any pesky outs right in front of the plate. I think I was finally convinced when Hosmer ripped a double in Tampa. The pitch came from lefty Matt Moore, a fastball just inside off the corner. Hosmer turned on it and ripped it into the corner. It’s a pitch that, if he’d swung at it in May, would have been a popout to left.

The best thing that I see is the middle of the lineup impact Brett has (seemingly) had. The run scoring is down, yes, but how many more runs would the Royals have if Alex Gordon hadn’t slumped? And if the gains made by Hosmer, Perez, Butler, and Cain hold while Gordon heats back up, it could turn into a really interesting 1-5 lineup.

*note: I’ve omitted Adam Moore since I don’t expect him to reach Kansas City again this year as long as everyone stays healthy and his plate appearances just aren’t enough to draw any conclusions. He did get three hits in two games, though.

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