George Brett was ..."/> George Brett was ..."/>

Royals Hitters Before and After George Brett

facebooktwitterreddit

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

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 5/29GPAABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOHBPBAOBPSLGOPS
Perez4115615112471011153251.311.327.411.738
Hosmer4819017218457111315311.262.323.331.654
Getz341191081722511108160.204.259.296.555
Escobar502212101853803188240.252.279.333.612
Moustakas4316715013287041213232.187.257.313.571
Gordon50224209337112263114430.340.379.502.882
Cain46185163254610212314364.282.346.387.732
Francoeur441591521533721105372.217.252.309.561
Butler5020217118459053128312.263.371.404.775
Johnson32767381810132220.247.267.301.568
Tejada1640375111027281.297.350.486.836
Kottaras18453555201610160.143.333.286.619
Dyson1842418115218160.268.286.561.847
Lough93029310223160.345.367.552.918
Totals1856170119844586132819012432413.262.314.377.690

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 5/30GPAABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOHBPBAOBPSLGOPS
Perez145956101611211241.286.322.446.768
Hosmer1878711221501116110.296.346.408.755
Getz113227270002310.259.313.259.572
Escobar1764606142204161.233.250.333.583
Moustakas154744380000271.182.234.182.416
Gordon17746471020057162.156.257.188.444
Cain16655961550276160.254.323.441.764
Francoeur102421441023370.190.292.524.815
Butler187261419600710130.311.403.410.813
Johnson1437348911153100.265.324.441.766
Tejada82322371002120.318.348.364.711
Kottaras499011002060.111.111.222.333
Dyson000000000000
Lough1662614153017071.246.258.344.602
Totals64658968146284966441066.248.303.355.658

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.