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.
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.
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.
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.