Braves hire disciplined Seitzer as new hitting coach

Former All-Star expected to bring less-pull approach to free-swinging Atlanta squad

Braves hire disciplined Seitzer as new hitting coach

ATLANTA -- While Kevin Seitzer understands he might never have the fortune of having a player who possesses the pure hitting skills that led George Brett to Cooperstown, the former All-Star third baseman is coming to Atlanta with the desire to improve the Braves' offense by instilling a mindset that was influenced by the time he has shared with Brett.

After evaluating Dave Magadan, Bill Mueller and a few other candidates, the Braves announced on Monday that they have hired Seitzer to fill the hitting-coach role that was vacated when Greg Walker resigned at the end of this past season.

"In talking to him a few times, [Seitzer] came across as a guy who had a good plan," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's organized and detailed. He's worked with different kinds of hitters. He has his own mindset or skill, and that's that he wants to keep the ball in the middle of the diamond. I think he was the perfect fit."

Seitzer became a candidate for the Atlanta job last week, when he was not able to come to terms on a renewal offer made by the Blue Jays, who employed him as their hitting coach this past season. The 52-year-old has ties to both Braves president John Schuerholz and John Hart, Atlanta's president of baseball operations. Schuerholz promoted Seitzer to make his Major League debut with the 1986 Royals, and Hart served as Cleveland's general manager as Seitzer played the final two seasons of his career for the Indians.

The Braves have also hired Juan Castro to serve as their assistant hitting coach. Castro, who worked with Gonzalez in the Marlins' organization, spent this past season as the Cubs' quality assurance coach. He has more than 25 years of experience as a hitting instructor at the Minor League level.

"It's a very exciting time for me," Seitzer said. "I'm going to miss Toronto very much and everybody that I worked with. But this is something I'm very excited about and looking forward to here in Atlanta."

Seitzer was blessed to spend the earliest days of his career playing alongside Brett, and he was reunited with the Hall of Famer while serving as the Royals' hitting coach for four seasons (2009-12). During one of his earliest days on Kansas City's coaching staff, Seitzer said he was shocked when Brett approximated he tried to pull the ball in just 2 percent of his career plate appearances.

Brett's approach mirrors the mindset of Seitzer, who has established himself as a hitting coach who attempts to fight against the urge his players might have to pull the ball. He consistently preaches the value of hitting the ball back up the middle and to the opposite field.

"The more guys try to stay in the middle of the field, it seems like the more home runs that they hit, the more they hit for extra-base hits and hit for power, better [slugging percentage] and better OPS," Seitzer said. "That generates more runs. Frankly, this is all about scoring more runs.

"I'm a big fan of a home run too. I might be the biggest fan on the planet in that I love homers. But I know how you get homers and how you don't get them. Going up and trying to hit homers is exactly the recipe for not only not hitting for power, but for not hitting for average and striking out more and walking less, and being in terrible hitting counts."

Seitzer's approach might prove beneficial to an aggressive, young Braves lineup that scored the National League's fourth-most runs in 2013 and then scored the second-fewest runs in the Majors in '14, when they hit 58 fewer home runs than they had the year before.

The Braves, who have produced the franchise's four-highest strikeout totals over the past four seasons, hit .251 with runners in scoring position in 2013, and .236 (third-worst mark in the Majors) this year.

During Seitzer's one year in Toronto, the Blue Jays ranked fourth in the American League in runs, second in OPS (.736) and 11th with a .250 batting average with runners in scoring position. While belting the third-most homers in the AL, the Blue Jays struck out once every 5.36 plate appearances. The Braves notched one strikeout every 4.43 plate appearances this year.

"When you talk to hitting guys, you're going to get the same wording or terminology," Seitzer said. "We're going to all say we want to be aggressive and disciplined at the same time. We're going to focus on situational hitting and really having a good approach. But I think the real key is to give guys different thoughts and ideas in order to be successful in all of those situations and scenarios. That comes from the experience I've had not only as a player, but working with different guys as a coach and being able to share some of those experiences."

Gonzalez said he spoke to Chipper Jones as he began his hitting search, and the manager is hopeful that the Braves great will venture from his Texas ranch to occasionally lend his hitting expertise to some of the Braves players.

But Seitzer, who also served as Arizona's hitting coach in 2006 and the first half of the '07 season, will now serve as the primary voice for the Braves, who certainly appear to be a club that could benefit from an improved offensive mindset.

"Kevin was with John Schuerholz as a player, and John loves him as a person," Gonzalez said. "That for me was very big to have a high-character guy. That was a big reason we hired him. I got three or four texts since we released [the news] from former players that said, 'Great hire. We loved him. He changed my career.'"

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.