Blue Jays hire Seitzer as new hitting coach
Situational hitting will be key to former All-Star's adjustments with Toronto players
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have garnered a reputation across baseball as being a pull-happy team that often takes an all-or-nothing approach at the plate, but that is something Kevin Seitzer hopes to change.
Toronto officially introduced Seitzer as the club's new hitting coach during a conference call with reporters on Thursday afternoon. Seitzer spent 12 years in the big leagues and had a lot of success as a hitter who used the entire field to his advantage, and that's a strategy he would like to see the Blue Jays implement.
There are certain Blue Jays who have thrived under their current approach and Seitzer doesn't want to mess with that success, but he still believes there's room for improvement, especially when it comes to situational hitting.
"My philosophy in a nutshell is to stay in the middle of the field, stay gap to gap, and make tweaks along the way with mechanics," said Seitzer, who was the hitting coach in Kansas City from 2009-12. "Work with the guys on what their strengths are and then try to help them with their weaknesses too.
"I also have a philosophy of, 'If it's not broke, don't fix it. So, let guys continue to do what they've had success with, but at the same time be able to help them with adjustments they need to make when times are tough."
Toronto finished the 2013 season ranked fourth in the Major Leagues with 185 home runs. It was an impressive accomplishment, especially considering lengthy injuries to the likes of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie.
Seitzer's goal is to not take away from the approach that led to big power numbers but instead improve the club in other areas. One particular area of concern is the fact the club hit just .254 with runners in scoring position, which ranked 14th in the big leagues. The numbers weren't terrible by any means, but considering the amount of talent on the Toronto roster, there's a belief that they should be much better. Whether it's cutting down on swings with two strikes or going the opposite way against the shift, Seitzer believes his philosophy can help take the Blue Jays to the next level.
"I think it's something that is going to help them be better well-rounded hitters," Seitzer said. "With all due respect, they have been very successful for a long time. And even though it appears to be all-or-nothing [approaches], they've been pretty successful putting up runs. I think I can even take that to a new level just by putting more tools in guys' tool boxes, adding to their arsenal.
"Having the ability to go the other way to beat a shift to drive in a run is critical. I think a lot of times it goes with spending a little bit of time and showing guys, technique No. 1, and mindset No. 2, of what adjustments they need to make to be able to execute that in a game."
Under Seitzer's guidance, the 2010 Royals posted a .274 average, which was second-best in the Majors, while the '11 squad was ranked fourth at .275. The native of Illinois was credited for his work with Royals hitter Alex Gordon, while current Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera enjoyed a breakout season under Seitzer's tutelage in '11.
It was also in Kansas City that Seitzer developed a close working relationship with John Gibbons. Toronto's current manager was a bench coach with the Royals during that time and the two men spent a lot of time talking about the game and their various philosophies.
There's a belief that Gibbons played a strong role in bringing Seitzer into the fold with the Blue Jays, but their bond wasn't something that was formed overnight.
"I have a lot of respect for him because I felt like I had to win him over, I had to prove to him what I was doing and what I was teaching really worked," Seitzer said. "He saw the proof in the pudding for the [four] years that I was there. There was some pretty drastic changes in guys' careers when we were together, and he got to watch it on a daily basis, and I think that played a big role in him wanting to bring me in.
"I came in, I interviewed, I met with [GM] Alex [Anthopoulos] and other people in the front office, I had to share what I teach, what I base everything on, share stories and talk about things I've done in the past, how I worked with guys and helped them make adjustments."
Toronto still has one vacancy to fill on its coaching staff for the 2014 season. First-base coach Dwayne Murphy retired at the end of the season and there has yet to be an announcement regarding his replacement.
That will be taken care of in the near future, but in the meantime Seitzer is expected to hit the ground running with his new role. The vast majority of the early work will be done on his own before he starts reaching out to his players in an attempt to get things started prior to Spring Training.
"I'm going to get video sent to me by the club and just be able to get to know these guys from a swing standpoint," Seitzer said. "Then, I'll reach out to them and touch base. They've had a long grueling season and probably the last thing they want to do is talk about their swing, talk about hitting and talk about their workouts for the winter.
"But I will reach out and touch base with them -- try to keep it as brief as possible, introduce myself and let them know I'm excited, looking forward to working with them and 'holler if you need anything.' Once guys start working out, if there's a way that we can hook up, that would be a great thing, but for me it's not life or death. Once I get with guys and start building that relationship, we can make some things happen pretty quick."