New coach’s approach a hit for KC batters

The Kansas City Royals hired hitting guru Joe Dillon to help the team's batters improve from a dismal 2023 season. Results are encouraging after the first half of the 2024 campaign.

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July 5, 2024 - 2:32 PM

Kansas City Royals assistant hitting coach Joe Dillion, right, talks with family members after a game against the New York Yankees on June 12, 2024, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/TNS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Royals hitting coach Alec Zumwalt knew just the man to call.

After a franchise-worst 106 loss campaign last season, the Royals were plagued with a lackluster offense. Strikeouts were a major issue and the entire offense looked noncompetitive at times.

The Royals batted .244 as a team with a 23.3 strikeout percentage in 2023. Six KC players logged 100 or more strikeouts, per FanGraphs.

Change was needed … and quickly.

So Zumwalt and the Royals reached out to Joe Dillon. He was highly recommended after helping develop major league stars Juan Soto, Bryce Harper and Trea Turner.

Dillon served as a hitting coach for the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies, among other teams. But he was familiar with the Royals’ organization after being selected in the 1997 MLB draft.

And he also had an existing relationship with Royals manager Matt Quatraro.

“Joe is someone that I have always had just a high regard for,” Zumwalt said. “In all honesty, I wanted to bring Joe on a long time ago. But this was an opportunity where we were able to get him and he’s been tremendous.”

The Royals added Dillon to their coaching staff in November. He joined in an assistant role alongside fellow assistant hitting coach Keoni DeRenne.

KC is among a handful of MLB teams that employ three hitting coaches. The strategy has worked as Dillon has seamlessly integrated into his new role.

“I feel like his bedside manner with the players has been really good,” Zumwalt said. “He’s a positive-energy guy. You know the good thing about him is that he’s completely aligned with the things Keone and I, and our entire hitting department all the way down in the minor leagues, believe in.”

So far, the Royals offense has seen significant growth this season.

Entering Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Royals ranked second in triples (23), 10th in RBIs (381) and 12th in runs scored (393). They have also lowered their strikeout percentage to 19.2% and own a 95 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) as a team.

Dillon has played a role in KC’s improvement. He works closely with hitters to help improve their swing path through the strike zone. In the batting cages, Dillon offers hitting tips and advice from his perspective.

“I think the more and more we learn about skill acquisition, we can make environments for guys to give them an external cue where they can get in there and execute the drill,” Dillon said. “It lets them know if they are doing it right or not.”

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