As you'll no doubt recall, at the end of May the power-averse Royals fired their hitting
coach coaches and replaced them with George Brett and somebody nobody's ever heard of. Now it's almost six weeks later, so why not check back and see how Brett and Anonymous are doing? Here's Baseball Prospectus's R.J. Anderson with ssome statistics and images and stuff:
As far as players turned hitting coaches go, it's hard to find a larger contrast in career achievements than Brett and Grifol. Brett, a legend in Kansas City, led the American League in OPS three times over his 21 seasons in the majors Conversely, Grifol never reached the majors, and finished with a career minor-league OPS of .599. However uneven Brett's and Grifol's playing careers may have been, they joined the Royals with the same endgame in mind: fix the offense and, by extension, put Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas back on the right path.
Six weeks later, it's unclear if Brett and Grifol have accomplished their goals. Evaluating coaches, even through a results-based prism, remains a next-to-impossible task.
Brett and Grifol have succeeded in their efforts by the most rudimentary of measures. The Royals have averaged 4.19 runs per game under Brett and Grifol after scoring 3.98 per game under Maloof and David. Individually, both Hosmer and Moustakas have improved. Hosmer, who had nine extra-base hits under the old hitting coach duo, has eight home runs since Brett and Grifol were appointed. Moustakas, on the other hand, went from being one of the league's biggest disappointments to batting .299/.341/.455 over the past four weeks.
Okay, there's a lot there to chew on. Let me take a few bites.
- The difference between 4.19 runs per game and 3.98 runs per game is hardly worth mentioning. Considering that hitting typically heats up as the weather heats up, the Royals essentially have not improved at all. By the most rudimentary of measures, Brett and Grifol have failed.
- Which is exactly what I would have expected. Actually, it's worse than I expected. The Royals' hitters were so terrible in the first two months of the season, especially in the power department, that you had to expect them to improve with new coaches, or the old coaches, or no coaches at all.
- Still, by my measure, Brett and Grifol have been immensely successful.
Look, this season was never going to work for the Royals unless a lot of good things happened. But two of those good things were Eric Hosmer hitting and Mike Moustakas hitting. Sure, maybe you could live with just one of them hitting. But considering the other weak spots in the lineup -- right field, shortstop, and second base were basically lost causes beginning on Opening Day -- the Royals basically needed Hosmer and Moustakas, so promising just a year or two ago, to contribute in significant ways.
When the old hitting coaches were fired, here's what Hosmer and Moustakas were doing:
Hosmer's actually been quite good since the switch. Moustakas hasn't been good, but he's been significantly less terrible. Both players have made significant adjustments in their batting stances: Both have raised their hands, and Moustakas has opened up his stance as well. Are their apparent improvements the results of these adjustments? Nobody can say. Would they have improved regardless of the batting coaches? Nobody can say. As Anderson notes, "Evaluating coaches, even through a results-based prism, remains a next-to-impossible task."
Actually, I'm not sure it's really so impossible. I'm not sure that anyone's really tried particularly hard. But yeah, it's really, really tough. Almost every time you find a batting coach who's supposedly had a huge impact, you'll find the same batting coach getting fired a year or two later because his charges aren't hitting. So, go figure.
My take on batting coaches is that if you're lucky, your coach is able to really help one or two guys on the roster. Ideally, without hurting any of the other guys on the roster. Looking just at the results (and the adjustments), it seems that Brett and Grifol might have helped Hosmer and Moustakas. Which is big news for the Royals, especially if the "help" has lasting and salutary effects.
But what about the other guys? You might think things would be easier, with two batting coaches. But I'm not sure that a dozen batting coaches would make a real difference. It's one thing to find a batting coach. Like psychologists, there are thousands of them out there. But like psychologists, the trick is finding just the right one.