Tonight, the 2013 Major League Baseball season begins, with the Texas Rangers playing the Houston Astros. The most beautiful thing about the baseball season is that it changes how I spend my leisure time. Nothing on TV tonight? They always play baseball. Can’t think of something to do after work? Call a buddy and watch some baseball. Don’t know how to spend time on a sunny afternoon? Upper deck tickets are cheap on Stub Hub and the 4 train moves fast. 162 games plus the playoffs means something to do, something to watch and something to talk about for half the year, and in terms of weather it’s the better half of the year.
After the gift of always having something entertaining to do, my second favorite thing about the baseball season is following story lines. Most Yankee fans are upset because the team enters 2013 in the weakest state that it has been in since 2008. Not only is the team not favored to win the AL East, but many believe the team will miss the playoffs. Win or lose, challenging seasons at least give fans like me more story lines to follow. When the Yankees put a juggernaut on the field and it demolishes its opponents every success was essentially scripted and only the failures make headlines. When the team is predicted to struggle, as it is this year, then new story lines will emerge, not only about failure but also about unexpected success. If the Yankees are going to make the playoffs they’re going to need to get strong performances from a number of players who are not household names, especially while household names Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are on the DL. Here are some of the story lines I’ll be following during the first month of the season:
As I watched Brett Gardner extend his hot start in Spring Training last night, I wondered how the slap hitting outfielder could be making such good contact. I watched a few of his 2013 at bats, and then went back to 2012, and then I realized that he’s made a key change. Take a look at the GIF below and see if you can spot it.
Gardner is no longer keeping two hands on the bat, and is taking a one-handed follow-through immediately on point of contact with the pitch. In 2012, Gardner’s two-handed approach at the plate was more reminiscent of a power hitter, rather than the contact and speed he usually uses at the plate. Prior to 2012, Gardner used this same one-handed approach, and it’s a mystery as to why he ever changed.
At first I thought it had to do with injury, but he was keeping both hands on the bat prior to his injury in 2012. Perhaps it was to get more power, as it’s understood that you can generate more energy from your hips with a two-handed follow-through. The benefits of the one-handed approach include keeping your head steady on contact, and thus a better ability to keep your eye on the pitch, as well as keeping your torso in the hitting zone. Coach Dan does a great job of explaining the benefits here.
Over at Bio-Kinetics, they compared a 3D skeleton swinging the bat with the one-handed approach (in this case Mark McGwire), and that of a two-handed approach. Although the timing is different, you can see that in the follow-through, the head area stays in a much more stable position.
What’s the better approach? It’s been debated, but in the end it’s about the batter’s preference. For Gardner, a one-handed follow-through makes the most sense since he’s looking for contact over power.
The outfielder is now 11 for his last 19,. Yes, it is Spring Training, but there are few hotter hitters. Correlation does not imply causation, and we can’t assume that his decision to go back to the old swing has made him a .579 hitter. This hot streak obviously won’t go on forever, but at least he looks incredibly comfortable with the change in his approach. Hopefully it’ll help him return to 2010 type numbers.
(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) Getting Brett Gardner back is going to be a huge boost for the Yankees this year. His count-working ability and speed on the basepaths brings back a key missing element to the team’s offense and gives Joe another lead-off option, and that same speed makes him arguably the team’s [...]
Yankee spring training has gotten off to a rough start. By now everyone knows that Curtis Granderson will be out until early May with a fractured forearm. That’s a huge loss for the Yankees. Granderson’s 2012 may have paled in comparison to his 2011, but he’s still a critical bat in the Yankee lineup. His [...]
Joe Girardi recently announced that Brett Gardner will be taking over in center for Curtis Granderson. On the surface this seems like a logical baseball decision. By all measures, Gardner isn’t just the better defensive outfielder, he’s the best defensive outfielder in the game. The real question, from a baseball perspective, is why the Yankees [...]
In my last two pieces talked about building the lineup. To quickly test the potency of these lineups, I ran them through the lineup analysis tool from Baseball Musings. I used the PECOTA and ZiPS projections to get the players’ OBP/SLG. Remember, though, these projected OBP/SLG numbers are NOT split adjusted. Here are the results: [...]
(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) ESPN NY’s Spring Training countdown series got off to a pretty crummy start, but he’s been a little better lately. Earlier this Sunday morning, Wally Matthews took a break from handing out fictional punishments on Alex Rodriguez to discuss the 2013 outfield, which is actually a worthwhile topic. The Yankees [...]
You’ll remember that last week, I mused about the possible lineup construction for the 2013 squad. Let’s revisit the idea of the lineup one more time, with something else in mind. If you’ve read this site, then you’re probably familiar with the Replacement Level Yankee Blog and its CAIRO Projections. The last iteration of them [...]
(The following is being syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod) “Platoon” is a word that’s slowly worked its way into the collection of words typically associated with the Yankee lineup over the past few seasons, right next to “patience” and “power.” Older veterans on the downside of their careers who are drawn to New York [...]