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Swingology - Brett Jackson's adjustment and rotational hitting unwrapped


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#1 preacherman86

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 09:39 AM

Now to preface this in depth look at something I self-named “swingology”, I want to end a few disagreements before they arise. In this article we are going to discuss the art of hitting as it pertains to the hips and hands predominantly, as well as the back elbow. In that you will come to understand a part of hitting that has long been confused is the little league concept of keeping the back elbow up.
So first things first, let us dethrone this myth of hitting. Now as youngsters keeping the back elbow up accomplishes some very good things, and this theory holds true for super athletes all the way through minor league ball. First, it keeps the hands from dipping in the zone, helping hitters to swing on a level plane or “down at the ball”, in essence preventing pop-ups and fly ball swings. It is a technique designed to help promote line drive hitting, and for that it does work. Where the mistake comes in, enter Brett Jackson, are that it makes a swing very loopy and long, and forces a hitter to come around the ball. We will get to that more later, but as a premise just remember that keeping an elbow up keeps a hitter from dipping his hands in the zone, but also forces that hitter to come around the ball rather than directly to it.
Let us get to Brett Jackson then as it pertains to his swing change. As Jackson progressed through high school, college, and the minor leagues there was always this understanding that Brett could be an outstanding player with speed, arm, average, power and defense, a prospective five-tool player, but he always struck out so much. And in doing so held his offense back a lot, even though he drew walks and seemed to have a good batting eye. Well, quite simply put, he always hit from an elbow up, hands back approach, probably as he was taught as a youngster. What the Cubs’ did, as you hear Jackson reiterate, is change where Jackson’s hands are when he starts his swing. The side effect of this is his elbow being down and closed to his side as opposed to high and back as it used to be.
Let us take a side bar real quick to analyze the swings of a few big time hitters in baseball history. Beginning with Ted Williams, here is a video of Teddy Ballgame: , showing a few things, hands tight and elbow in at the start of his swing, as well as his hips leading his hands. Notice in his swing how he loads in his hips for power and his hands stay tight to his body as his elbow stays tight to his body. This rotational swing generates power from the hips and enhances the amount of power a hitter generates as well as elongates the time the bat stays in the zone.
The reason the elbow in and hands following hips swing keeps the bat in the zone longer, is because the hands really never leave the zone so for nearly the entirety of the swing, and the bat maintains a level plane and keeps itself in the hitting zone. The simplest way to understand this method of hitting is letting the ball meet the bat as opposed to bringing the bat to meet the ball. When a hitter tries to meet the ball with his bat, he has to adjust his bat speed, plane, and hands. As far as Brett Jackson, and many other phenomenal athletes, this works well for a long time until the pitchers are as good or better than the hitter. That is the majority of the problem Brett Jackson has encountered in his career. His ability has always allowed him to be just good enough to project well and move up with out too much concern. But as he advances his K numbers continued to increase and his production dipped. This happens because when going against guys with major league stuff he could no longer adjust the bat to meet the ball, resulting in that same good eye at the plate, but many issues and difficulties making contact. When he did make contact he was successful but that was minimal. This very simply why scouts across the board said nothing about his hit tool or his power or plate approach, but simply that if he can make more consistent contact when he swung he would stick.

#2 preacherman86

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 09:42 AM

I want to address this and give some video links to show what I am referring to. What I am not talking about is the hitter’s stance before the pitch or in the box, a la Gary Sheffield, or timing mechanism, a la Barry Bonds, but where they end up with their elbow and hands when they begin their swing. Gary Sheffield video here: and followed up by Barry Bonds swing analysis here: . Notice in both players swing before the bat begins to enter the zone the hips lead and the elbow stays tight with the hands in close to the body. And the results speak for themselves in the exemplified hitters in power and torque with low strikeout numbers and high slugging percentage. What we could see from Brett Jackson with his retooled swing is a comparable stat line, albeit not hall of fame numbers necessarily as those guys are above par players. However, with a retooled swing for Jackson, where he leads with his hips and follows with a tight elbow and close hands, would be more consistent contact and hard contact where drives the ball where it is pitched. Strikeouts will come down and his numbers will go up.

#3 preacherman86

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 09:43 AM

I want to draw attention to two former centerfield prospects in the Cubs’ organization that suffered a similar fate as Jackson faced before the new regime worked on him, that being Felix Pie and Cory Patterson. Two fellas who were highly touted and rated, and whose long “armsy” swings played well with their supreme natural abilities and led to a subpar major league performance and flame out for both players. Both guys who were higher rated than Jackson for their time and didn’t hack it in the big leagues because their swing was tailored on a false premise of using their athletic ability to move the bat to meet the ball. With a good hitting eye and quick swing, where the hands stay tight and keep the bat in the zone longer, a professional hitter will know when the ball is going to be in the zone and let the bat meet the ball, and the result is a hitter who hits the ball to all fields and makes hard contact often. Quick reminder, a great hitter only does this successfully 30% of the time!!!! Here is video of both Felix Pie and Cory Patterson so you can see what I am talking about: Felix Pie here and Cory Patterson here and I apologize for the Patterson video as it is hard to really see how far from his body his hands are during his swing. It is a shame that the old regime didn’t pick up on this and salvage two promising young outfielders’ careers, but then again most of baseball fail to pick up on this tick much of the time.

#4 preacherman86

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 09:43 AM

Often times when you see a power hitter who is a dead pull hitter will come with his fair share of strikeouts and not a high average. This is most likely due to an long armed swing or a hands up/back start to his swing a la Mark Reynolds or Alfonso Soriano. These are the kinds of hitters that are homerun or strikeout, which only pan out in the major leagues if they have enough “boom” in their thunderstick to keep them in the big leagues. I am not going to take the time to review video or dwell any more on that in this article, but take time if you are enjoying this to look for yourself and comment.
On the flip side of that hitter is one who does a great job of keeping his back elbow tight and hands in as he swings, and in turn keeps his bat in the zone for a long time and makes consistent contact. Sometimes you get a guy who has such a refined swing in this way with great hips and hands action that he bypasses a severe lack of plate discipline or hitting eye. Enter Starlin Castro. As we have seen over the kid’s young career he keeps the bat in the zone a long time and makes consistent contact without drawing many walks or striking out much. This is something of an anomaly to many people, but an anomaly that comes with an easy explanation. Castro has a phenomenal swing, and very little plate discipline or batting eye. He often swings at pitchers pitches or pitches out of the zone instead of waiting for his pitch and still has managed to never hit below .280 and compile 200 hits in his sophomore campaign. This is all due to the swing and the action of the hips rotating with the hands following and staying inside the ball, with the elbow in, and keeping the bat in the hitting zone for what seems like eons! Now if you give Castro the patience and batting eye of Brett Jackson you are going to end up with a miniature Albert Pujols, great eye, great swing, hall-of-fame results. Don’t rush to judgment, I am not saying Castro will ever put up 40-50 home runs a year, but he could put up 25 consistently if he refines his plate discipline and gets a little more choosey with his swings. So as the young Starlin shows us, its easy to overcome a bad plate discipline or eye at the plate with great swing mechanics, Vlad Guerrero made a career out of it, and pissed pitchers off along the way, but the opposite can’t be said of a guy with a good eye and bad swing mechanics, namely a high elbow and hands starting away from the body and back behind the back shoulder.

#5 preacherman86

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 09:44 AM

As this article then pertains to Brett Jackson, suffice it to say that we all have very good reason to be cautiously optimistic. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but it is a true oxymoron nonetheless. For a big time prospect such as Jackson this type of transition and new methodology can take much time and willingness from the player to implement the changes. In looking at Jackson’s swing this spring it is very evident that he has begun to make the changes though he has not fully adapted to the new swing at game speed. This will hopefully be what he works on in Des Moines for 3 months or so and can get it all up to game speed with the new approach. As for his career, Jackson is certainly at a crossroads; as if he adopts this new approach he could easily turn into a .280 hitter with a .350obp and 20-25 home run pop in his bat. But if he doesn’t you are talking about a 4th or 5th outfield type not much different than previous centerfield prospects Corey Patterson and Felix Pie. Much praise is due to the front office for noticing this hiccup in Jackson’s development, as for these incredibly gifted athletes it is easy for them to compensate for poor mechanics or approach with supreme gifts. And look for this to be more of the same with this front office and new regime, being able to fix poor habits that were masked by ability until reaching the upper levels of baseball that have to be fixed to excel at the big league level.
Finally, look for Jackson to pick this approach up and be a doubles machine with plenty of power and surprising many critics along the way when/if these changes take effect. But for all you everyday fans like myself, take a minute to look at these changes, and what they can do to the contact rate for the players. And father’s if you want your young fella to have a shot at the Bigs, remember elbow down and hands tight to the body. Hitting is a fickle thing and the slightest adjustment makes monumental differences in the results, so lets all cross our fingers and hold our breath, and see if Brett can adapt and turn into a solid big league player with quick swing that stays in the zone longer and drives the ball to all fields!! Thanks for reading. Let’s go Cubbies!!

#6 CubChymyst

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Posted 11 April 2013 - 12:52 PM

Nice post, was worth the time to read. Any thoughts about Barney, he has a good contact rate but little power. Does he not generate enough power with his hips and wrists?

#7 preacherman86

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 06:53 AM

That is a good question regarding Barney, and one I had not taken the time to look into until you asked the question. But after watching some video of him this morning the answer would be yes, in short. Barney has a fairly quick bat, but rather than keeping his hands tight and using his hips to pull the bat through the zone, he sort of drops the bat head on the ball. This isn't unlike Ryan Theriot a few years back in approach. And it allows a hitter to make fairly consistent contact, but really diminishes power. He is a hands/upper body hitter and it takes away from a lot of potential pop in his bat. Look at Dustin Pedrioa, 20 pounds lighter than Barnery, but hits with such hip torque and hands tight to his body that he produces near max power for his frame. With this approach I don't think you will ever see Barney hit for power, or average for that matter, but you also won't see a ton of fly balls or strikeouts, because with such an armsy swing he is just meeting the ball with the bat and will hit a ton of lazy ground balls because the pitch is really producing the momentum, as opposed to the swing....you wanna see someone with a great rotational style with tight hands and incredibly torquing hips - check prince fielder!

#8 Cyranojoe

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Posted 12 April 2013 - 09:59 AM

Everything in this thread has me nodding, "Oh yeah!" either in discovery, realization of something that seems obvious now that it's been described, or in "I knew that" agreement. Especially that last note about Prince Fielder -- always thought something was unusual about his swing, almost delicate, and it's those hands, so tight in to the body it's almost like the wrists never move, just pivot. Thanks for the analysis, man!

#9 preacherman86

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Posted 13 April 2013 - 09:19 AM

Thanks man, I'm glad it was helpful and enjoyable. It has been fun over the years compiling video and analyzing hitting as an art form in all its components.




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