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August 12, 2014

BP Unfiltered

Sveum's Unheard Guide to Fixing Royals' Offense

by Robert Arthur

In late June, I wrote about the Royals’ hiring of Dale Sveum as their new hitting coach. I noted at the time that Sveum gave an unusually specific critique of the Royals’ hitters:

The bottom line is we've struggled with elevation and we've swung at pitches down in the zone probably way too much,' he said. 'From thigh high to the top of the strike zone, we're not doing enough damage.

Sveum proposed that a serious issue with the Royals’ hitters was their propensity to swing at low pitches. Using Pitchf/x data, I confirmed Sveum’s assessment: the Royals really were swinging at an inordinate number of low pitches, and their swing choices may have impacted their increased groundball rates this season.

However, at the time, there wasn’t enough data to see whether Sveum had succeeded in fixing that problem. For this BP on Fox article, I’ve revisited the question of whether the Royals have altered their preference for low pitches, and whether that might be behind their resurgence in the standings. Read the full article to find out whether Sveum was able to follow his correct diagnosis with the cure to the Royals’ offensive underperformance.

Robert Arthur is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Robert's other articles. You can contact Robert by clicking here

2 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Good stuff, Robert - enjoyed the original article, and the follow-up was an interesting read.

One thing - although overall the team's swing height did not increase, nor did all the changes tie to improvements in OPS, Moustakas and Hosmer, the two who increased their swing height the most, also saw the largest increase in OPS.

Is it possible only a few listened, or that Sveum narrowed his approach to these two specifically?

Aug 15, 2014 15:55 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Robert Arthur
BP staff

Thanks, glad to hear that.

Yeah, it's definitely possible Sveum only meant that to apply to a few guys, or that he could only get through to a few guys. A couple things though: although Hosmer and Moustakas increased their swing heights, it wasn't by very much, especially compared to the change between years (2013 -> 2014). Granted, I don't know how much higher Sveum wanted them to swing, but since both are doing poorly relative to last year's performances, I would think Sveum would want them to swing a lot higher, rather than only a little bit higher.
Second, I think the failure to get Billy Butler, in particular, to buy in is a pretty substantial one. Butler has had a serious loss of swing height over the years that has manifested in tons of grounders. Moustakas and Hosmer and others are doing poorly, but Butler is undershooting his projected TAv by an immense 40 points, and, because he is Billy Butler, he can't contribute value in any other way. So I think that, whatever Sveum's list of people with swing height problems was, Butler had to be at the top of that list, and he hasn't changed his behavior at all.

Aug 16, 2014 09:19 AM
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