Brett the (hitting) savior


The Royals are on a roll of late. Can we give some of the credit for success to the interim hitting coach?

George Brett took over as the interim Royals hitting coach on May 30. Because small sample sizes mean everything, and because a new hitting coach has immediate impact, here's how the Royals have done since the Brett hire.


Table courtesy of David Pinto's day-by-day database.

If Brett can't help Jeremy Guthrie, isn't it time to blow the whole thing up and start over again?

Really, the point of the table is to mock those who want to measure the Royals recent success at the plate due to the change in hitting coaches. To do so is not only simplistic, but it's wrong. If we're going to celebrate Eric Hosmer reaching base at a .390 clip and pay tribute to Brett, don't we have to lay the blame for Gordon and his .189 OBP at his feet as well? I'm sure Brett has worked with many of these guys and I'm sure some subtle adjustments have been made. But for this entire season, the Royals hitting attack has been non-existant. That isn't going to change in 10 games.

From a team standpoint, the Royals have hit .236/.303/.325 since the Brett hire. And have won five games in a row. Sorry, but Brett doesn't deserve much credit for this. Tip of the cap goes to the pitchers. And the Twins. And the Astros.

If you're interested in reading more about teams and their immediate success following the replacement of hitting coaches, I suggest you read Russell Carleton's excellent analysis at Baseball Prospectus. (Subscription required.) The following quote will give you an idea of where his research leads.

One thing that baseball is famous for is over-reacting to small sample sizes. Often teams will go through slumps that are little more than random variation, and the poor hitting coach will take the blame. His successor gets to look like a hero when the team suddenly "improves" because of regression to the mean. This is known more broadly as the "punishment" fallacy. If you have a particularly good day, I might praise you, but the next day, you regress to the mean and it looks like my praise made you worse. If you have a particularly bad day, I might yell at you, and the next day, it looks like my yelling made you better.

Also at Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh gives a nod to Frank Ned Yost seeking out his team's statisticians in helping optimize the ideal lineup.

While some individuals are finding success of late, overall the team hasn't improved at all. Even more importantly, 10 games isn't nearly enough time to tell what's working and what isn't in the new Royals hitting program. It's a fun narrative to follow, but this is more about players moving toward their mean.

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