Long helping Swisher’s swing
Apparently, Kevin Long, the Yankees’ hitting coach, has a busy winter ahead of him.
From the great Bryan Hoch (MLB.com):
While the rest of baseball clings to its last weeks of Hot Stove hibernation, Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long has already rolled into the new season, logging frequent-flyer miles to put in batting cage hours with several players.
Long’s first stop was to meet with Swisher in December at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, where the switch-hitting outfielder continued adjustments that were sparked during the World Series against the Phillies, quieting his movements and allowing him to better respond on offspeed pitches.
“To Swish’s credit, he wanted to get it right and he wanted to start early,” Long said. “He’s a man on a mission. I think the playoffs opened up his eyes to how pitchers can throw offspeed pitches over and over again to expose you. He was ready to take another step forward.”
Swisher’s postseason was one of frustration, best identified by his bases-loaded popup against the Angels’ Brian Fuentes in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. But Swisher liked some new tweaks so much, he brought them into the World Series and was rewarded with a home run and a double in Game 3 against the Phillies.
“Swish is a fastball hitter, and in the playoffs, he got a steady diet of offspeed stuff,” Long said. “They were able to throw them for strikes, and Swish’s swing has a lot of movement to it. The new mechanics are going to control some of those movements and put him in a better position.
“We’ve got his hands closer to his body, and we’ve got to get him consistent with his lower half. If we do all of those things, you might see a guy who’s able to react better to an offspeed pitch.”
I’m eager to see the results of Swisher’s new stance throughout the course of a full season (especially since he’s a switch-hitter). His former stance utilized a toe tap and then a long stride, which seemed to hinder his ability to react accordingly. This is documented via pitch value data, as Swisher has always been an above average hitter against fastballs while the slider and the curveball have historically bested him. Though Swisher was a very effective bat in 2009, through the alterations to his lower half, hopefully we will see a much improved offensive weapon in 2010.
Of course, Swisher is not the only Yankee that will attempt to benefit from Long’s offensive tutelage.
According to Hoch, Long is currently spending the week promoting plate patience with Alex Rodriguez and, next week, he will actually visit Curtis Granderson so as to cultivate his comfort level and assess his “mentality” when facing left-handed pitching. In addition, Hoch also states that Long is expected to meet with Nick Johnson early next month in Arizona. The one player that Long is not connected to, explicitly, in Hoch’s report, however, is Robinson Cano.
I had hoped that Cano and Long would continue their successful winter workouts following the second baseman’s particularly productive 2009 campaign, but it appears as though the two may not be meeting. I asked Hoch about the situation and he said Cano’s agent had already requested that Long meet with Cano in the Domincan Republic, just as he did a year ago. However, and unfortunately, the agent was told that Long’s current schedule may not permit such a meeting. While this is a bit troubling, I suppose we can find solace in the fact that Cano at least tried to meet with Long, and that he has not grown disconcertingly complacent after a great season and a World Series win. The Yankees know just how beneficial Long’s last trip to the DR was for Cano, so, with any luck, the two will find time to meet again.
Photo by Reuters