According to the internet– or, if you prefer to be more specific, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star– um… what the headline says, i.e. this:
Hearing word that former #Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer is close to taking that job on John Gibbons’ staff in Toronto.
— Bob Dutton (@Royals_Report) October 16, 2013
Cue morons rushing en masse to look up how bad the Royals were at hitting under his tutelage in order to dumbly shit all over the move as though that would actually tell us anything.
Or… well… it’s practically impossible to separate a hitting coach’s influence from the actual talent on his roster, and I’d say that we should maybe not indulge in such pointlessness too much, but it’s probably unavoidable.
To start: Seitzer, who was an impressive hitter in his own right, posting a .295/.375/.404 line over his 12-year career, was the Royals’ hitting coach from 2009 through 2012. His name has been strongly linked to the Jays job right from the get-go, as I noted (via Shi Davidi) in a Daily Duce post back on Thursday, because of his relationship with John Gibbons, who was the Royals’ bench coach from 2008 until the end of 2011.
He also, then, was around when Melky Cabrera had his major breakout season, for whatever that’s worth.
Matt Klaassen wrote about his tenure with the Royals at FanGraphs last October, after the axe had fallen, and noted– for those of you who really do want to make an issue of it (which he very explicitly doesn’t)– that “the Royals offense improved every year Seitzer was on the job prior to 2012.”
Then again, in his final year in Kansas City, the promising Eric Hosmer was a disaster, and Klaassen suggested that “if his problems with BABIP this season are caused by problem with his mechanics (as Keith Law recently suggested), that is a clear (if not necessarily decisive) strike against Seitzer.”
On the other hand, he wrote at the time that he figured “Alex Gordon’s last two seasons probably make the best individual case for Seitzer’s value as a hitting coach, although apparently there are some who feel that Gordon’s drop-off in home run power this year should count against Seitzer.”
Indeed, as he explained, “from an outside perspective, it is tough to know how to weigh these things against each other. It is a sabermetric cliche at this point to say that coaching has value, but is difficult to measure, but it is true.”
That doesn’t mean that it’s a waste of time to consider what a coach brings, though. For example, Klaassen tells us that “Seitzer’s approach generally emphasizes hitters trying to go up the middle.” That would seem to jibe with the assertion of Alex Anthopoulos, in his first public comments after Chad Mottola’s firing, that he thinks his club could use the whole field a bit more– which he, thankfully, qualified by noting that “you do have to be careful, because one of our strengths is to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and if you overweigh using the whole field, things like that, it certainly can take away from some of your strengths.”
Though, Seitzer himself would suggest that’s too glib a reading of what he’s trying to do. Klaassen’s assertion likely came by way of comments from Ned Yost at the time when the move was made. In February, several months after the post was written, Seitzer countered, elaborating on his philosophy to Fox Sports Kansas City:
“I thought I left on very good terms with Ned,” Seitzer told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. “ But I will disagree with something he said when it was announced I would be let go. He said my philosophy was a middle-of-the-field philosophy — trying to get guys to just hit it up the middle and to the opposite field.
“That’s just not true. We went with the oppo-approach when we were down in the count, which is what all good hitters do. The key to being a good hitter is putting the ball in play — you increase your odds dramatically by keeping the ball in play. And we did that. I saw a lot of these young guys really start to figure things out as the year went on. “
And if you want to feel even better about the possibility of his hiring, there’s this, from a rumination on what was wrong with the Royals’ offence this season (you may recall that around the end of May, Seitzer’s replacement, Jack Maloof, was demoted, and George Brett installed as a temporary hitting coach) from Rany On The Royals:
Back in May, Russell Carleton published a study at Baseball Prospectus that evaluated hitting coaches based on whether the hitters under their tutelage improved or declined. By his methodology – and it’s only one way of looking at things – Kevin Seitzer was worth about 58 runs over an average hitting coach over the course of a season. Among every hitting coach of the last 20 years who had held the job for more than two seasons, the only hitting coach worth more was Clint Hurdle – who coached for the Rockies from 1997 to 2001, before the humidor, when Coors Field was maybe the best hitters’ park in world history. Carleton admits that the extreme conditions may have affected the numbers in a way he could not control for, and made Hurdle look better than he was.
So basically, Carleton came to the conclusion that Seitzer was, if not the best hitting coach of the last 20 years, certainly close. And that was before this season, when practically every hitter he coached last season has declined to varying degrees. I imagine the same study performed today would rank Seitzer even higher.
You want to know what’s wrong with the offense? The answer is astoundingly simple: Kevin Seitzer isn’t here anymore.
So… um… Chad who?
Crotch grab in the direction of those in the comments on the last post for the last two links.