Will Royals’ New Hitting Coaches Help?
Can two hitting coaches succeed where one did not?
With the hiring/promotions Â of Jack Maloof and Andre David on Wednesday to replace Kevin Seitzer, the RoyalsÂ have joined a small but growing group of teams with two hitting coaches. The obvious question is, are two heads better than one?
I have to say, I like the idea. It stands to reason that in a group of 12-14 people, there are going to be communication difficulties sometimes. Having a second hitting coach seems like it would help with that problem, even though both coaches should be trying to express the same ideas. Also, having another pair of eyes to study each hitter has to be helpful. And both coaches should have familiarity with a good portion of the roster, which also figures to be a plus.
Because both Maloof (who will be the primary hitting coach) and David (who wonâ€™t be allowed to be on the bench during games but will certainly be in the video room or locker room for consultation) have been with the Royals organization for years, there will (I hope) be a built-in comfort level with the Royalsâ€™ younger players. Maloof has been the Royalsâ€™ minor-league hitting instructor for three years, which was Davidâ€™s job before he became the hitting coach for Surprise in the Arizona Rookie League.
I think there are two ways to assess this move, although neither may tell us much about the chances of this working out. Itâ€™s very difficult to teach the plate discipline the Royals need; it will really take an organizational effort to find, draft, and develop players with a good grasp of the strike zone. However, we can look at Maloofâ€™s and Davidâ€™s previous coaching jobs and see if their teams improved, and we can also look at the few teams who employ two hitting coaches and see if they improved.
Maloof served as the Marlinsâ€™ hitting coach from 1999-2001 (he also had a short stint as the Padresâ€™ hitting coach in 1990, which we will ignore in favor of a larger sample size). Hereâ€™s a look at the Marlinsâ€™ numbers for his time as hitting coach, plus the year before he started and the year after he left.
There is definitely improvement there. Itâ€™s hard to say whether that is due to Maloofâ€™s efforts, or just the normal maturation process for what was obviously a young team. Still, I see some reason for optimism there, although it is a little concerning that the Marlins couldnâ€™t be even league-average in those seasons.
Davidâ€™s only previous experience as a major league hitting coach was from May 2005 to May 2006 with the Royals. I assume most of you are familiar with the horror that was Royals baseball then, and Iâ€™m not sure we can draw much of a conclusion from less than a full season.
Meanwhile, the Royals join the Braves, Cardinals, Giants, Padres, Phillies and Tigers as teams with two hitting coaches. Obviously a few of those teams had very nice seasons, although a couple of them were not very good.
The Phillies just hired Wally Joyner as their second hitting coach, so weâ€™ll throw them out of this exercise. Also, the Tigers added Toby Harrah as their second coach during the season, so weâ€™ll exclude them as well. The other four teams have all had the two-coach setup for only one season. Hereâ€™s the before and after:
|Team||Runs/Gm||HRs||Team OBP||Team SLG||Team OPS+|
Again, this looks like there is some improvement from year to year with two hitting coaches. Only the CardinalsÂ had lesser numbers, and that probably had a lot to do with losing Albert Pujols. Itâ€™s actually kind of amazing that they didnâ€™t fall off more.
And of course, by bringing up Pujols, I bring up the weakness of every hitting coach: if you donâ€™t have talented players, youâ€™ll end up looking bad. Obviously the Royals donâ€™t have anyone of that caliber; however, they do have plenty of guys who are believed to be talented. It will be up to Maloof and David to help develop that talent.
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