Ex-hitting coach Seitzer says no hard feelings for Royals’ Yost: ‘I’d say hello to him’
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Enough time has passed, apparently, for former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer to forgive and forget.
Seitzer was fired after the 2012 season, mostly because skipper Ned Yost and the Royals said they were looking for more power from their young corps of offensive talent, and they wanted a hitting coach who encouraged the long ball more.
Seitzer, now in his first year as hitting coach with Toronto, admitted to being puzzled and upset at the time of his firing. But that is all in the past, he said.
If he were to bump into Yost over the next few days?
"I’d say hello to him," Seitzer told me. "The game is a business. You have to do what is in the best interest of the organization. I get that.
"I was released twice as a player. I’ve been fired twice as a coach. It’s a part of the game. I try not to let it affect who I am. I try to learn from it."
But Seitzer never agreed that his hitting philosophy — a middle-of-the-field approach — was detrimental to the Royals’ hitters.
And Seitzer had his doubts that the hitting philosophy preached by Jack Maloof and Andre David to start 2013 — more of a pull-the-ball mentality — would be a success.
And, as a matter of fact, that pull-happy approach didn’t work. The Royals’ offense was dreadful, Maloof and David were reassigned in late May, and Pedro Grifol and George Brett came on as hitting coaches. Ironically, Grifol and Brett both began preaching a more middle-of-the-field philosophy again.
Seitzer believes that there is no way for the Royals to suddenly manufacture home runs.
"Not with how young those kids are and not in this park," Seitzer said. "There is a ton of talent over there and they will mature into great hitters. But fast forward the maturing process, and the power part comes last in that process.
"You have to learn how to hit at this level before the power comes. They’ll get there. And this park is made more for gap-to-gap and situational hitting. Now, I’m not saying you can’t hit home runs here. You definitely can. But you can’t try to hit homers — home runs happen because your mechanics are good."
Seitzer had a suspicion the Royals’ hitters would struggle last season.
"I had an idea, especially if they had the approach of trying to catch the ball out front in order to get power," he said. "That’s hard to do (the pull approach for home runs), even for established, power-hitting run producers. If you try to pull the ball, you’re going to hit for a lower average. Your on-base percentage is going to go down.
"There are a lot of things that will decrease if you’re trying to catch the ball out front all the time because the pitching is so good at this level. They change speeds too well at this level and they locate their pitches. The more you try to pull the ball and get out in front, the more vulnerable you are.
"I thought they might try it (pull approach) and see how it went, but then I thought they would go back to middle-of-the-field hitting and try to stay gap to gap."
Grifol indeed has been trying to get the Royals to go more gap to gap, especially with hitters such as Mike Moustakas, a notorious pull hitter.
"I feel like when you get guys to not be so pull happy and try to be more middle of the field, their mechanics will be better," Seitzer said. "And when their mechanics are better, they will put the barrel of the bat on the ball more often. And when you barrel it, you’re going to hit more long balls, more homers."
And Seitzer is convinced guys like Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Sal Perez will begin delivering the long ball again, along with veterans Alex Gordon and Billy Butler.
"I think so. Absolutely," he said. "I think they got 20-25 in them in this park and even more in other parks. But not trying to generate power is really the key to getting there for all those guys. Focus on the middle of the field, and then if you’re early, you’ll pull it and maybe hit it out. If you’re late, you may hit it out the other way. But as long as you are putting the barrel on it, good things tend to happen."
Seitzer inherited a veteran group of hitters in Toronto who hit a lot of home runs. Last year’s Jays were fourth in the American League with 185 homers (the Royals were last with 112), led by Edwin Encarnacion’s 36 and Jose Bautista’s 28.
"The funny thing is, when I first started seeing these guys, I had known they had a reputation for being a power team that can hit a lot of homers," Seitzer said. "But you see what they work on, and it’s all about driving the ball up the middle and being gap to gap. Honest to God, that’s what they focus on. And I think that’s why they hit home runs.
"They have a reputation, too, as just being pull hitters, but they aren’t trying to pull the ball. It happens because they are trying to drive the ball to center, and because they are quick to the ball and short to the ball, they tend to pull the ball. It’s the product of a good approach."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.