On Thursday afternoon, the Royals announced that George Brett was stepping down from his interim hitting coach position and resuming his role as VP of Baseball Operations within the organization.
The biggest surprise in the shift is that it happened in the middle of the season. I think many figured Brett, once he’d surpassed his one month trial, would finish the year as coach. In a press conference, Brett expressed that he didn’t feel he was a good teacher, citing an inability to show how he had hit in his Hall of Fame career. Dayton Moore and Ned Yost, though, pointed to the lift he gave the team when he took over during the end of a miserable stretch in May.
In the end, we don’t always know how much a coach really does, but we can look at individuals and see what changes are made and what works. In the Royals case, Brett and (now full-time coach) Pedro Grifol really needed to get something going with Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas and they’ve done just that. To an extent, they may have just gotten to Moustakas at a low point and he could only improve from there, but the change in Hosmer is evident.
After May 29’s loss, Hosmer was hitting .262/.323/.331 and had one homer. Entering Thursday’s game, Hosmer had hit ten homers since May 30 and has a line of .309/.349/.531 in 209 plate appearances. They’ve worked on minimizing his leg kick and getting his hands to stay still and he’s been quicker to inside pitches (on Wednesday, Hosmer homered twice at home against lefty Wei-Yin Chen on inside fastballs and they traveled a combined estimate of 860 feet).
Overall, since Brett and Grifol took over, the Royals offense actually performed worse than before, but some of that was inevitable regression from David Lough and a then-surging Alex Gordon. Lorenzo Cain regressed some as well so the gains from Hosmer and Moustakas (.266/.309/.385 with Brett in the dugout) basically balanced out.
Brett says he wasn’t a good coach and moved praise on to Grifol but I think he had an impact. When a Hall of Famer talks to a player, I’d imagine most of the time they listen. Maybe it’s just a matter of talking approach or giving some tips here or there, but those things had to carry more weight.
Below are some of Brett’s comments from the press conference: