Jul 5, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) is congratulated by hitting coach Kevin Seitzer (36) after defeating the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Royals beat the Blue Jays 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Confidence, Coaching and Kevin Seitzer

Dayton Moore’s recent comments in an interview with FoxSportsKC’s Jeff Flanagan drew strong criticism from Royals fans and bloggers when he said the Royals “are ahead of schedule.” Based on the plan he drew up seven years ago, he’s technically correct, so this post will not lay into him about off-season moves that made the fan-base believe the “schedule” had been accelerated. At least the Royals are in a position that might allow them advance to the playoffs if catastrophe strikes a few teams. Until this year, fans didn’t even have that hope. So, for now, let’s set aside Dayton Moore’s rather malleable schedule.

What’s more troubling is that he has no answers for why the team’s offense is struggling. “I don’t know. I really don’t,” he says.

Well, this is exactly what former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said would happen if the Royals continued their coaching approach.

Before the 2013 season even started, Seitzer prophetically stated that the new approach touted by Yost and Maloof would be a huge mistake. In a Pine Tar Press interview, he said:

To have guys go up there and look to cheat and pull fastballs at the big league level is a recipe for disaster. I mean, guys are not going to have good at bats, they’re not going to score runs. You know, if you go hunting a three-run homer through the course of the game at the big league level…you’re in trouble. And when you have a young club, they need to get the experience and that’s hard to fast-forward the experience-factor.

Royals Blogger Extraordinaire Rany Jazayerli posted a wonderful article about the mess Ned Yost created when he couldn’t get along with Kevin Seitzer and it deserves to be expanded on. In 2011, I said that Seitzer was so valuable to the team that they “should never let him leave.” Not only did the Royals let him leave, they shoved him out the door. This is among the worst decisions by Dayton Moore to date.

He was essentially fired because Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas weren’t producing. Most Royals fans don’t realize this, but before Ned Yost demanded that Seitzer magically extract more pull-power from the offense in early July 2012, thus derailing said offense, Moose was fine and Eric Hosmer’s swing was already fixed.

After a debilitating breakdown in Hosmer’s confidence, after hitting into bad luck for weeks, he developed hitches in his swing. Yost wisely benched him for a few days specifically for the purpose of working with Seitzer on his swing. After missing two games, he rejoined the lineup on May 19, 2012. From that date all the way through July 2, Hosmer hit .302/.372/.460 in 156 plate appearances. Moustakas entered the All-Star break hitting .268/.327/.490 with fifteen home runs.

Seitzer was critical of thrusting a new hitting philosophy on young hitters mid-season. He was right.

After Hosmer’s temporary resurgence, he hit .226/.304/.325 for the rest of the season.

Moustakas hit .211/.261/.325 after the All-Star Break.

Alcides Escobar hit .313/.352/.422 from Mar-June and .276/.315/.365 from July-Oct.

Chris Getz hit  .290/.327/.380 from Mar-June and .258/.295/.337 from July-Oct.

Frenchy lost 30 points of SLG that he couldn’t afford to lose in the first place.

Salvador Perez didn’t really play in the first half and Seitzer wisely left Alex Gordon and Billy Butler alone. Seitzer was originally hired to make Butler consistent and make Gordon better. He did and left well-enough alone.

The Royals fired Seitzer because he couldn’t manufacture the power they wanted (which, according to Moore, is the ballpark’s fault, anyway). They followed up by hiring Jack Maloof and Andre David, hoping to find more power. They thought they had the right guys because Maloof said things like this in October of last year:

“Basically, we will hunt for our pitch. And when we get that pitch, we will want to turn on it early. If you turn on it early, you will hit it to the plus side of the field. That is where we can get production…There won’t be an attempt to manipulate the ball to any specific part (of the field), such as the bigger part of the field, which is to center or left-center and right-center.”

After eschewing Seitzer’s advice, hitting coaches Maloof and Andre David seemed to have thoroughly neutered the offense by mid-season 2013. The Royals were hopeless. Hapless. Pathetic. In desperation, Maloof had not only come around to Seitzer’s way of thinking about line drives and gap power, he had completely given up on trying to hit home runs, something Seitzer never approved of. Even though the Cardinals manage to crush home runs in a park with similar dimensions and climate, Maloof said it was hopeless in Kauffman. In May, here is what he had to say:

There is just no reward here to try and hit home runs. We try to stay down on the ball, be more line-drive oriented, and do more situational hitting, at least through the first two or three rounds [at Kauffman Stadium]. That’s why I’m not overly concerned because I think we’ll lead the league in fewest home runs again this year. We don’t have a 40-homer guy in the middle of the lineup.

He’s wrong about having a 40-home-run-guy in the lineup. Moustakas has that kind of power. Unfortunately, Maloof annihilated his swing and his power along with it by telling him that home runs were hopeless. It’s unclear how much of his power he’ll regain, but since George Brett and Pedro Grifol re-opened Moose’s stance and got him seeing the ball like he did in the first half of 2012, Moose has hit .295/.339/.443 with 13 doubles and six homers since June 10.

Jack Maloof fortunately kept saying ridiculous things in his interview with Jeffery Flanagan of Fox Sports. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had any idea how delusional he was about the team’s lack of power.

Other teams come in here from Anaheim or wherever and they have their swing already down. This park doesn’t even enter into their minds when they hit here. They have their swings, the same swings, because it pays dividends for them at home.

What we need to do with our players, like we were in April, is be better at situational hitting. We were over 60 percent then in getting guys in from third. We’re under 50 percent now. We just need to execute better. In this ballpark, go ahead and hit the ball in play (with guys on third and less than two outs). You’re not going to hit a home run anyway, for the most part.

Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

He just said that players who don’t take Kauffman Stadium into account when they bat, can hit home runs. However, players who let the ballpark get into their heads can’t hit home runs. Right after he said that, he admitted to telling his players to keep the size of the ballpark in mind when they bat, and try not to hit a home run! By his own logic, he just doomed his players. Maloof was not fired for saying these ridiculous things. He was fired for believing these ridiculous things.

For months of the off-season and halfway through the season, the young Royals players were being told, “you can’t hit home runs, so don’t try. Be situational. Get the runner in from third. Just put the ball in play. Go the opposite way.” As a result, Moustakas lost power. Hosmer lost power. Cain, Escobar, even Getz, everyone lost power. This way of thinking, compounded with the natural struggles of younger hitters, shook the their confidence as they now admit.

After turning things around with the help of George Brett and Pedro Grifol, Moustakas said, “I can’t lie about that. It was down…my confidence was down for a while.”

Some people believe that the hitting coaches probably only did minimal damage, but Maloof admitted to tooling with these young players’ swings until eventually Eric Hosmer couldn’t pull a ball and Mike Moustakas couldn’t hit a ball out of the park in batting practice! Joe Hamrahi, President of BaseballProspectus.com, said that Moustakas has one of the fastest bats he’s ever seen in person. Yet, that guy couldn’t even hit 75 mph meatballs over the fence. When a hitting coach makes those types of drastic changes, it absolutely messes with a player’s confidence.

KCkindom.com attended a Baseball Prospectus event at Kauffman Stadium last Saturday, during which Jason Parks, who heads the scouting department at Baseballprospectus.com, reiterated his long-held belief that confidence and comfort are the keys to success from a batter’s box. It is a sentiment shared by most scouts as well as reporters who cover players. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who was also at the event, chimed in:

We get stuck in this idea that because these guys are singularly talented, that all of the things that get us on a daily basis, whether it’s confidence in our job, a fight with our wife at home…just because these guys do this remarkable thing that none of us in here can do, doesn’t make them immune to all that.

Kevin Seitzer explained Hosmer’s lost confidence in the Pine Tar Press Podcast, even after he started hitting better, “Hosmer broke, and once he broke, I couldn’t get him back.” Even after correcting his swing, Hosmer did not get his confidence or comfort back until after Maloof and David were fired and the Royals abandoned the silly notion that coaches could force more power into a player’s swing.

Maybe the Royals would have struggled with their offense if Seitzer were still in the organization, but it is undeniable that when Ned Yost got rid of Seitzer and installed Jack Maloof and Andre David, everything got worse for everyone.

Tags: Eric Hosmer Kansas City Royals Mike Moustakas

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