KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Royals manager Ned Yost fired hitting coach Kevin Seitzer at the end of the season, he made it clear something was lacking to the Royals’ 2012 offense:
On Wednesday, Yost and general manager Dayton Moore put two men on the job to find that power: new hitting coach Jack Maloof, who had been serving as the team’s special assistant to player development and minor-league hitting coordinator, and assistant hitting coach Andre David, who had been the hitting coach for the Royals’ Arizona League team, the Surprise Royals.
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Maloof, 63, said by phone from his home in Chandler, Ariz., that he will preach a different approach to hitting than Seitzer’s hit-it-up-the-middle philosophy.
“Basically, we will hunt for our pitch,” Maloof said. “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.”
That, of course, was Seitzer’s philosophy to hitting – using the big part of the park. The strategy worked in terms of average: The Royals were fourth in the league at .265.
But the Royals were tied with the Twins for the fewest homers in the league at 131. And the Royals were 12th in the league in runs scored.
“I’m not going to disrespect Kevin’s philosophy,” Maloof said. “Look, I know Kevin. He’s a great guy. I’ve gone to dinner with him. I like him very much. And he worked very, very hard at what he did.”
But Maloof believes there is power potential in the Royals’ lineup that may be untapped.
“We’ll see how well the guys adjust to some new techniques and work habits,” Maloof said. “What I’m hoping to get from this group is a better response to the ball.”
The implication there is that too often last season Royals hitters got the pitch they were looking for but didn’t pounce on it.
“When you go hunting for your pitch, not the pitcher’s pitch,” Maloof said, “you need to have a good response to the ball when you get that pitch. That’s what we’ll be working on.”
Royals fans likely will notice the switch to a more power approach in another way – more strikeouts. Last season, the Royals struck out fewer times (1,032) than any team in the league.
“With more production and a different approach,” Maloof said, “you’re going to have the occasional swing and miss.”
The switch in approaches, however, may help the Royals in another category – walks. The Royals walked fewer times (404) than any other team in the league. That may change if the Royals’ power numbers go up simply because opposing pitchers may fear throwing as many strikes.
Maloof’s other pressing task will be trying to fix first baseman Eric Hosmer, who many observers thought would be a .300 hitter with 30-homer potential. Hosmer instead had an awful year in 2012, hitting just .232 with 14 homers.
“There’s no magic wand that will fix him,” Maloof said. “I think with Eric, what I saw the times I was in Kansas City and the times I watched on TV, was that he got overwhelmed by all the adjustments.
“Early in the season, he did square a lot of balls up and unfortunately they got caught for outs. Then he got frustrated and began making adjustments. He got very long in his stride, in his front side, his lead arm, even his hands were positioned higher. Really, as the season went on, he was all over the map.
“What needs to happen with him is to get him back to doing what he does naturally, what he did in high school and in the minors with us. Just let him get comfortable with what he does best, whatever that is. He’s got a lot of talent.”
As an assistant hitting coach, David will not be allowed to be in the dugout during games because major-league rules only allow six coaches, including the bullpen coach, in uniform. But Maloof welcomes David’s presence.
“He’s going to really help,” Maloof said. “A lot of teams are going with two hitting coaches now. It’s no different of a relationship than having a pitching coach and a bullpen coach. Andre and I are on the same page.”
Maloof was the Marlins’ hitting coach from 1999-2001. David, 54, was the Royals’ hitting coach for parts of the 2005 and 2006 seasons.