The Royals have rearranged their coaching staff in order to make their third base coach Dale Sveum the team's new hitting coach. This move comes a year to the day after the Royals fired hitting coach Jack Maloof and his assistant Andre David, the men who were supposed to redeem the offense from the perceived failings of 2009-2012 hitting coach Kevin Seitzer. It happened then because the bats just weren't getting it done, and it was making general manager Dayton Moore's decision to trust his young lineup look silly. It's happened again, with Pedro Grifol, the coach who assisted during George Brett's temporary stint and then succeeded him, now reassigned.
When Grifol took over last year, the Royals were hitting .261/.314/.375, with the team struggling against right-handed pitching more so than lefties. In the calendar year of Grifol's employment, the Royals hit .257/.312/.370. Fair enough: he didn't solve the problem. Neither did Moore, though, and no one is reassigning him.
I'm not suggesting Moore needs to be evicted from his office instead: The problem here is likely bigger than who the hitting coach is, is all, so seeing Grifol hit the unemployment line is maddening. Like with managers, there are great hitting coaches, and there are bad hitting coaches, but most of them very likely fall into a middle area where they do a good job of keeping their hitters from screwing up for too long. We don't know where Grifol lies on that spectrum, because the Royals' lineup is much the same as it was when he took over: all we know is that he was effective as his predecessors -- one off whom, by the way, is now the hitting coach of the Blue Jays, who are first in the majors in OPS+ and just three runs behind the Rockies for the major-league lead.
Did Seitzer finally figure out how to be a fantastic coach? Was he never bad at his job to begin with? Or do the Blue Jays just have superior bats to the Royals? The first two are possibilities, sure, but the only one we can look at with certainty is the last of the trio: the Royals don't have enough good hitters, and trying to find the hitting coach who can change that will be just one more thing in the Moore era that likely takes forever to sort out.
The Royals sit last in the American League in OPS+. Lorenzo Cain is hitting at an above-average level in center, while Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon are right at the average for their respective positions. Other than that, things are ugly. To be fair to Moore, Billy Butler is a mess after half-a-decade as a reliable, high-quality designated hitter. Eric Hosmer has once again slipped after a successful campaign. Nori Aoki hasn't been the upgrade offensively it was believed he would be in right. Omar Infante has been as expected, and that's good, but it's also kind of sad when a below-average bat represents one of your most significant offseason upgrades.
Mike Moustakas has been awful in his career, and has never been worse than in 2014. The Royals had no viable, dependable backup plan in place in case this was finally the year when he got demoted -- it ended up being that year, but not before they suffered two months of some of the worst hitting in the league. Consider that the unreliable Moustakas, light-hitting shortstop Alcides Escobar, a no-power right fielder in Aoki, and a below-average bat at second were an intentional part of the plan for 2014. The Royals could survive all that offensively so long as the rest of the team was at their best, but instead, we've seen almost the complete opposite. In case you were wondering why the Royals have just 21 homers all season long, I mean.
So yeah, maybe Grifol is part of the problem. Maybe Dale Sveum can get Gordon and Butler back to where they need to be, and revive this offense so the Royals can continue to chase their first playoff berth since 1985. The better bet might be on upgrading somewhere in the lineup, though, because right now, it barely matters who is giving out the pre-game instruction.