2/18/2013 3:25 P.M. ET
Hosmer KISSing '12 goodbye with simpler approach
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's the old KISS theory with a slight twist. Instead of Keep It Simple Stupid, it's Keep It Simple Slugger.
Slugger in this case being the Royals' Eric Hosmer, who did far less slugging than he'd hoped last year because he didn't keep his approach to hitting simple enough. So he's going back to basics, swinging like he did as a kid in Florida.
When Hosmer went home for the winter, he enlisted the help of his brother Mike. He's five years older than Eric, born in 1985, which happens to be the year the Royals won the World Series. They haven't reached the postseason since, a 27-year gap that the Hosmers would like to close ASAP.
"I've been hitting with him since I was a little kid and basically what I wanted to do was make it as simple as possible with my swing and my approach," Hosmer said. "And that's basically what I did. Just keep it as simple as possible and let my hands do the work."
Eric moved into a home between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, not far from the Everglades, and one of the first additions was an outdoor batting cage.
There's no pitching machine, but his coach from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., Mike Macey, came over often after school to do some throwing. Some of Hosmer's buddies, including Deven Marrero, a shortstop drafted by Boston, joined in.
Brother Mike would throw BP, too, and do some analyzing.
"When I got home, I just basically told him that if he saw something that looked awkward or didn't look natural with me, just let me know. We got good work in the whole offseason and it was real productive," Eric said.
Jack Maloof, the Royals' new hitting coach, thought so, too.
"He came in here more to what I remember him being like than what he was last year," Maloof said.
Maloof saw video of Hosmer hitting even before the Royals drafted him in the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. As a Minor League instructor, Maloof was with the left-handed-hitting phenom as he struggled through vision problems in 2009 and, after laser eye surgery, as he prospered in 2010 and reached the Majors in 2011.
While 2011 was a joyful rookie revelation (.293, 19 homers, 78 RBIs in 128 games), 2012 was a fretful sophomore slowdown (.232/14/60 in 152 games).
So for Hosmer and Maloof, it was back to basics.
"It's getting back to a more fundamental way of doing things and, based on what I've seen so far, it's a good first indicator," Maloof said.
Did Maloof feel there were radical departures from Hosmer's simpler-days approach last year?
"There was a lot radical -- even in his stance, a definite rock back and forth, to a wide-open stance that crept wider and wider before the pitcher even threw the ball, so the alignment was not good. ... It got to where the kid was so confused with what he was trying to do that he didn't know where he was at," Maloof said.
Maloof detected indications of "over-thinking" and "over-responding" on Hosmer's part. The 23-year-old first baseman didn't argue the point.
"Last year, I just maybe tried to do a little too much and I just want to make it as simple as possible," Hosmer said. "I use the term, make it seem boring. Everything's quiet and you're just sitting back, letting the hands do all the work."
Early last season, Hosmer seemed to hit an inordinate number of rocket line drives and grass-scorching grounders that were caught. After his first 40 games, he was hitting a mere .177.
"It just started out as bad luck and I was getting frustrated after some tough hops or bounces or whatever and you tend to want to work out of it and get it all back in one swing and I think that's where the mistake was," he said.
It was difficult to fix a hitting problem in the whirlwind of a 162-game season.
"It's an avalanche," manager Ned Yost said. "You can't stop an avalanche once it starts. And that's what the season's like. You've just got to try to out-ski it and not get caught up in it. But during the offseason, you can go back and review and you can look at a bunch of different escape routes."
Yost has seen improvement in Hosmer already in Spring Training.
"He looks good," Yost said. "He's just going to keep it simple. Sometimes you over-think, you over-analyze, you try to do too much when you're in the box instead of just letting your natural reactions take over: See the ball, hit the ball. And that's what he's doing now."
Once again, Yost sees Hosmer, who sank to No. 8 in the lineup last season, as his No. 3 hitter behind Alex Gordon and Alcides Escobar, and ahead of Billy Butler.
"Definitely having the manager have that confidence in you is huge," Hosmer said. "I just want to put last year behind me. I've had this offseason to forget about it and just come here with a new goal in mind."
With Interleague Play coming up early this season at Philadelphia and Atlanta, Yost again is toying with using Hosmer in the outfield with Butler at first base. It was an idea that was quickly abandoned last year, but Hosmer is eager to try it again.
"Yeah, definitely, because it keeps you in the lineup," Hosmer said. "Billy's got to be in the lineup, because he's the best hitter on our team so [I'll take] any way I can stay in the lineup during that time."
And as far as 2012 goes, he'd like to KISS it goodbye.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.