We’ve been hearing about Brett Jackson’s new swing since last November. It was a revamped approach, designed to cut down on Jackson’s contact issues, which plagued his 2012 season, and which have long limited his professional upside.
By all accounts, the revised swing has been a success. Jackson says he likes it, and can repeat it. Dale Sveum says it cut down on the contact issues. Our look at the swing, at least in batting practice, showed it got him more quickly to the zone, which would theoretically cut down on whiffs.
But we hadn’t yet heard an outside evaluation from someone who’d sat and observed the swing. ESPN’s Keith Law took on the challenge, and although it was a very limited sample, he was prepared to offer an extensive opinion. Part of what Law had to say (in an Insider piece that also discusses Javier Baez, Kyuji Fujikawa, Edwin Jackson, and Trey McNutt, so it’s well worth checking out):
Jackson used to have a very short stride without much of a load, and his hands, which have always been quick, would always seem to start forward from a different position. Now, he’s definitely more consistent, starting from a consistent spot with a slightly deeper load, but his stride is very long, leaving him with a wide base before he even gets his hands started, and producing a swing that looks unnaturally long for him. The stride doesn’t get his weight transfer started early enough, and he tends to roll that front foot over through contact. Everything we liked about Jackson before, from the speed to the athleticism to the bat speed to the arm, is still present, but I wish I could tell you I thought this new swing would solve his contact problems.
To my extremely untrained eye, Jackson’s swing has gotten any longer – but I haven’t seen him in game action yet. If it has, however, then some of the changes may not address the underlying issue. That said, Jackson’s been working with some of the best hitting coaches in the game for several months, and, although you can’t guarantee a swing change is going to take hold and make a guy better, you can guarantee that the Cubs aren’t going to be pushing him toward an approach that actively makes things worse.
As has always been true with Jackson, we simply aren’t going to know much about the efficacy of the changes until he gets in several months of work at Iowa to start the year. You hope to see the strikeout rate reduce, but the ability to make hard contact remain (i.e., not sacrificing the authority in his swing just for the sake of making weak contact).