Rusty Kuntz on Scouting Opponent’s Hitters and Outfield Defense

Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz recently sat down with Baseball Prospectus to talk how he scouts hitters and how that plays into aligning his outfield defense. Kuntz discusses multiple other things as well, such as the 162-game grind for coaches, the enduring process of shrinking books of data down to the most important details, and other duties as a first-base coach in the Bigs. I found his advice for younger coaches particularly interesting.

I tell young coaches, when you’re looking at a guy for the first time—like, I looked at Ozuna for the very first time. There’s a couple of things you want to look for right off the bat if you’ve never seen the guy and want to know where to play this guy. Obviously my pitcher’s velo is going to play in. Ventura’s throwing 101, I’m going to play you oppo. I don’t give a shit if you’re dead-pull.

Once I get past a pitcher’s velo, now I look at the player. The first thing is if he’s got an elbow or shin guard on. The elbow means he’s close to the plate, and the shin is he likes to pull. If I don’t see either one of those, that means he’s off the plate and likes to go the other way. Why would you have a shin guard on if you stay inside the ball and go that way, and why would you have an elbow guard on if you’re not on the dish? Those are the first two things I look at. If I see those two things, he’s a pull guy.

The next thing I look at is, where is that third-base coach or first-base coach? If Big Papi gets up, where is Ruben Amaro, Jr.? If he’s back [on the dirt], this guy’s a pull guy. That isn’t going to lie. If he’s not comfortable here [in the coach’s box], he’s back there—probably because [the hitter] pulls.

You look at the guards and where that base coach is standing, and that gives you an idea.

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