Seitzer criticizes Royals’ new plate approach
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer holds no bitterness toward the organization that fired him last October after four years on the job.
But Seitzer does take issue with some of manager Ned Yost’s comments regarding his overall hitting philosophy.
“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. “
Yost also suggested that new hitting coach Jack Maloof might be able to get Royals hitters to pull the ball more, which, in theory, could lead to more home runs in a big ballpark such as Kauffman Stadium.
Seitzer issued a warning that a pull-the-ball philosophy could be disastrous for the Royals’ young hitters.
“Personally, I think it’s a recipe for disaster,” Seitzer said. “And there aren’t too many hitting coaches who wouldn’t agree. You start committing yourself too early on pitches and a lot of bad things can happen. You’ve got less time to react and you’re going to see a lot of foul balls or weak ground balls.
“It’s just not me who thinks that. I used to have George Brett come in once a year during spring training to talk to my hitters. I asked George one time in front of the group how many times during his career, what percentage of pitches throughout his entire career, did he actually go up there trying to pull the ball. And what George said amazed everyone. George said of all the pitches he ever saw in 20 years, only 2 percent of the time did he actually try to pull the ball. I asked him why that was and he said ‘Because the results were never good when I did try to pull it.’ Now, that’s a Hall of Famer saying that — not Kevin Seitzer.
“Really, if you ask any good hitting coach or any good hitter if a dead-pull approach is a good approach and we all know what the answer will be: No.”
Yost’s contention was that any middle-of-the-field approach would lessen the chances that Royals hitters could hit home runs at Kauffman Stadium where the ball doesn’t traditionally carry well and where the dimensions are 387 feet to the power alleys and 410 feet to straightaway center.
“Look, I agree with Ned in that I want home runs, too,” Seitzer said. “Of course I want home runs. But this is a tough ballpark to try and hit home runs. Ned used to sigh whenever someone flied out deep to the warning track. But that’s what it is when you’re playing here.
“I can’t help that we played half of our games in the Grand Canyon. We may not have hit home runs the way some people wanted, but we did hit a lot of doubles and triples.”
True, while the Royals were tied for last in home runs in 2012, they were third in the league in doubles with 295 and second in the league in triples with 37.
“You take what you can get in this park,” Seitzer said. “And I thought we did that. Plus, we have a lot of young hitters who are still growing and still maturing. They are only going to get better. They’re going to get stronger and eventually they will hit more home runs. That’s just physics.
“But they won’t if they’re trying to pull every pitch.”
In his four seasons in Kansas City, Seitzer had his share of success stories. He resurrected Alex Gordon’s career, and he also helped Alcides Escobar go from a .242 lifetime hitter to a .293 hitter last year with a career-high 30 doubles.
Seitzer, though, admits he was frustrated by not being able to help Eric Hosmer or Jeff Francoeur last season. Hosmer hit just .232 and Francoeur hit just .235.
“I hope Alex and Alcides continue their success,” Seitzer said. “I hope they all do, of course. Sal (Perez) was really making strides. Billy (Butler) is just Billy — he’ll hit no matter what. Moose (Mike Moustakas) will only get better.
“I hope Alcides doesn’t change too many things. We made a lot of progress. It was hard work to keep him disciplined because Alcides has some juice in his stick and he wants to jump on every pitch and pull it. But he was a better hitter when he didn’t.
“As for Hoz and Frenchy, those are my regrets. I wish I could have come up with some kind of magic formula to help them and I didn’t. I guess those would be regrets. But sometimes guys are going to have off-years. I was a .295 hitter in my career, but I had four years where I didn’t hit at all. I don’t remember the hitting coach getting fired because of those four years.”
Seitzer interviewed with the Pirates and the Mariners this offseason but didn’t get any offers. He will continue to live in Kansas City and work at Mac-N-Seitz, the baseball academy in Kansas City he runs with former Royals catcher Mike Macfarlane.
“Kansas City is my home,” Seitzer said. “And the Royals are my team. Nothing will change that. I want to get back to the big leagues obviously but I am happy to be helping young hitters at Mac-N-Seitz. And I will be watching my Royals and rooting for their success. They mean a lot to me.”