Is Kevin Long Helping Ichiro Hit For Power?

It’s officially been a month since Ichiro Suzuki played his last game with the Mariners. On July 22nd, the right fielder was batting just .261/.288/.353 in his 12th year in Seattle. After the trade to the Bronx, Matt made the case that these poor numbers were largely impacted by a pitcher friendly ballpark, platoon splits, some bad luck BABIP, and he might do better with a change of scenery. Indeed, in 97 plate appearances with the Yankees, Suzuki has produced a .315/.337/.489 triple slash. There is a big boost in batting average, which is a little surprising, but what’s even more impressive is the power.

Yankee batting coach Kevin Long has developed a reputation of harnessing power from left handed hitters. Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson remain his most outstanding pupils, and currently rank as the top two homerun hitters in the Yankee lineup. It would be no shock if Suzuki and Long have been working on drawing out some of his own power from his left handed swing.

Suzuki's swing with the Mariners (Left) and with the Yankees (Right)

The pitch on the left was taken in his last game with the Mariners, and resulted in a groundout, while the pitch on the right was taken Sunday evening, resulting in a homerun. When looking for any possible changes to the swing, the leg timing mechanism appears similar, and for the most part, most of his swing mechanics appear to be exactly the same.

Ichiro's swing slowed down

Although the pitch on the left is located slightly closer in to Suzuki, his bat appears to be more extended than his swing on the right. The Yankees have been all about more compact swings with Kevin Long at the helm, particularly with their left handed hitters. For those interested, watch this video of Long talking about working with short bats with Alex Rodriguez, and forcing Robinson Cano to stay tight using a net drill. The goal was for both hitters to have less extended swings, in order to hit towards right field.

Suzuki's Slg% July and August

The table above shows Suzuki’s slugging percentage based on pitches in the strikezone from a catcher’s point of view. From July to August, there is a jump in power numbers from pitches on the inside of the plate. The goal of Long’s net drills is to pull pitches thrown on the inside part of the plate. The results seems to indicate just that. But can these results last longterm? If Cano and Granderson are any indication, there is is potential. We are still dealing with small sample size though, but for now it appears that Long can teach an old dog new tricks.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.

3 thoughts on “Is Kevin Long Helping Ichiro Hit For Power?

  1. roadrider

    Oh, please. A guy who never hit for power before and has been in serious decline for the past two seasons (his wRC+ before joining the Yankees was something like 75) is going to become a born-again slugger? The “power surge” is much more likely to be a SSS fluke. This is baseball, strange stuff happens – doesn’t mean it’s a trend or even on purpose.

  2. YankezFan

    The pitch on the left was inside, thats why the swing was more compact, maybe you should look at videos that have a similar location on the plate to try to help Long out as a hitting coach. Ichiro has always had the ability to hit long balls, its been reported in BP that he launches a lot of balls, but playing in that Ocean of a ball park in Seattle, he went after hits, kinda like Boggs. When he played the Yankees he went yard several times in the past. Now that the short porch is a higher probablity for him, i see him hitting for the HR especially when he comes up with 2 out. Dont give Long any credit for changing his swing, Ichiro’s been doing this for a LONG time he knows what he’s doing, JUST like JETER knew what he was doing LAST year.

    • roadrider

      You know I’m getting tired of hearing this story about how guys like Boggs and Suzuki could hit HR if they wanted to but chose not to. Homers are more valuable than singles (or doubles and triples for that matter), especially infield singles. If Suzuki really had the ability to hit HR in games but chose to slap the ball instead, he was cheating his team. I am not really a fan of Suzuki, in fact I dislike him, but even I do not believe that one. The much more likely story is that the (and Boggs) had five o’clock (BP) power – so do lots of guys. That doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to hit for power in games. For one thing, to hit for power in games you need patience and be willing to take hittable pitches while you wait for the ones you can really drive. Suzuki has never had that ability or inclination as shown by his low walk rate.

      I’m not buying into a rebound by Suzuki. His numbers over the past two seasons have been terrible even with his recent surge – worse than Jeter’s in 2010 and remember he’s a corner OF not a SS.

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