When a team is not performing on offense, one of the first targets for fan ire is the hitting coach. A being that is generally forgotten about when a team is hitting, the hitting coach becomes a convenient scapegoat when an offense is performing below expectations. Given the Royals dismal offensive production this season, it seems inevitable that Pedro Grifol will become the team’s next sacrificial lamb when they decide it is time to shake things up.
Yet, how much should the hitting coach be blamed? Since the beginning of the 2012 season, the Royals have seen Kevin Seitzer, Andre David, Jack Maloof, George Brett (albeit temporarily) and Grifol at the position. Meanwhile, the Royals offense has been less productive each season, decreasing from an average of 4.17 runs per game in 2012 to 4.00 in 2013 to a mere 3.73 this season. Any semblance of power has completely vanished, as the Royals are on pace to hit a whopping 62 home runs this year. Is this really the fault of the hitting coaches?
While the people in the position have changed, majority of the players on the Royals have not. Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer are still considered key components of the lineup. Gordon has performed well, yet none of these players have produced as expected this season. Mike Moustakas has been a mess, and was sent to Omaha. Yet, for those failures, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar are producing at what would be a career best rate if the season was to end today. How is it that Pedro Grifol is making progress with Cain and Escobar, but not the others in the lineup?
Maybe, just maybe, it is not the fault of the hitting coach. Even though the general approach may be the same, having five different voices in just over two seasons critiquing one’s hitting technique has to be confusing. Having a hitting coach who could provide something resembling stability to the role by lasting longer than a season may go a long way to improving the Royals offensive production over the long term.
Instead, Grifol is likely to be blamed for the Royals lack of production. This does make sense in a vacuum; however, how much longer can the hitting coach be the fall guy? How much longer will it take before the Royals realize that the problem may not actually be the hitting coach, but the players themselves? How much longer until actual wholesale changes are made, instead of a cosmetic fix that changes absolutely nothing?
With the Royals lineup producing at such an astonishingly poor level, Pedro Grifol is likely to see the axe swing down in his direction. Yet, the lack of offensive production is also indicative of a systematic problem with being able to develop players and construct a roster. Meanwhile Dayton Moore, the architect of this roster, seems to be relatively exempt from blame.
The end is likely coming for Pedro Grifol in the somewhat near future. However, getting rid of Grifol will not really change anything. The Royals need legitimate changes, not just cosmetic ones to appease the masses. Getting rid of the hitting coach would not be enough.