[Dayton Moore recently gave an interview to Jeffrey Flanagan of Fox Sports where he discussed Kauffman Stadium’s negative impact on the team’s walk totals. Now, in Part 2 of Moore’s series on explaining the full truth behind park factors, he exposes another environmental culprit afflicting the Royals.]
Acreage is our enemy.
For the last 30 years, the Royals hitting has usually been bad. This year it’s more of the same, only worse. They are one of the worst hitting teams in the American League and they are having their worst offensive season in recent memory.
There is no one-size-fits-all explanation, since the Royals "War on Hitting" spans three decades and four general managers
But as Royals general manager Dayton Moore points out, there is at least one common denominator – the Truman Sports Complex parking lot.
"We have the largest parking lot in terms of square footage of any ballpark in baseball," Moore says, referring to the massive double parking lot which surrounds Kauffman and Arrowhead Stadiums. "All of that black asphalt and the hot, beating Missouri sun gives rise to a lot of heat. And that heat rises. The whole complex is a massive hot air column. And that hot air shooting up lifts balls when they come off the bat. But it doesn’t help the balls carry. It lifts them straight up . It turns line drives into routine flyballs. It turns hard hit flyballs into infield popups. When pitchers come here, they have the mindset to use that heat and rising air. They throw strikes and attack the zone to put balls in play. There isn’t the same fear factor of getting beat deep that you might have elsewhere."
"I think that plays a huge factor in all hitting statistics."
Former Royals hitting coach Jack Maloof agrees. "I took a lot of flack back in May for saying that Royals hitters shouldn’t even try to hit home runs because of Kauffman Stadium. But I’m glad to hear that Dayton Moore understands. It’s not just the stadium; it’s the parking lot too. All that heat. All that hot air. There’s so much hot air around Kauffman Stadium, you know? And the ball lightning. Don’t even get me started on the ball lightning. On a hot summer night at the K, there will be at least one time per game that a Royals batter will hit the ball really hard and then some ball lightning will come out of nowhere and just zap the ball, knocking it down and turning it into an easy out. There’s just no reward here for us to try to hit home runs, given the stadium, the parking lot and all that ball lightning."
But Moore, who is a steadfast believer in good hitting, maintains that the Royals eventually will hit better.
"There comes a point when a team has had enough and they decide to make a change. We’ve told them about the parking lot. We’ve put a bunch of pick axes and jackhammers in the clubhouse. All of the pieces are in place for these guys to take matters into their own hands and go out there and destroy that parking lot. They’ve just got to take the next step."
Noted coaching and conditioning expert, Coach February Jones says that a major side effect of the players demolishing the parking lot would be improved conditioning.
"Swinging those pick axes would take care of the chronic Flabby Arm Syndrome (FAS) on this team. And the strong base you have to maintain when using a jackhammer would really tone up those calves. And I’ve known for years that what was really holding this team’s hitting back was conditioning, especially in the flabby arm and skinny calf regions. Get those guys out there demolishing that parking lot for a few weeks and you’ll see the hitting turn around almost instantly."
Critics, though, will suggest the poor hitting is a far too common theme within the organization, top to bottom. Are the Royals perhaps not paying enough attention to hitting when drafting or developing players?
Both Moore and Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo say that’s not the case.
"Hitting is a quality you scout. No question," Moore says. "When we were in Atlanta, we very much believed in hitting. It was an area we looked at when drafting guys. We took guys like Brian McCann and Adam LaRoche and Rafael Furcal – all very good hitters.
"We also took Jeff Francoeur, who really wasn’t a good hitter, but he had a different approach that somehow worked for him. It’s more of an individual thing than anything else."
Moore and Picollo also suggest the poor hitting isn’t reflective of any flaw in the developmental approach.
"It’s more nature vs. nurture," Moore says. "Some guys can just hit, guys like Alex and Billy. It’s not something you can necessarily teach, though we do preach good hitting throughout the minor leagues. So while you can’t teach it, you can preach it. And our preaching about hitting has gotten some really good results, you’ll just see no obvious evidence of it."