As Pirates fans, we are all aware of Don Long’s strategy with the Pirates hitters when they struggle. Long has been known to shorten the swing of the hitters when they are struggling. Does it work? I can’t tell and we will never be able to tell what a hitter would do if he hadn’t changed their stroke.
He has shortened Garrett Jones who was a monster last season. Jeff Clement was thought to have a hole in his swing. It became more and more evident at the beginning of the season. Long has worked with Clement. In fact, he ‘reworked’ his swing and after Clement launched his fifth homer yesterday, it has obviously helped. [Here is the video]
Clement is stinging the ball, he is 6-for-his last 17 with a double and a homer, and hit well in the Atlanta series. The power is in Clements bat. Everyone in the game knows that. But can Long be the hitting coach to finally solve the power riddle for Jeff Clement?
Speaking of power, how about Jose Bautista? [Pardon me while I scream my eyes out for a minute] Ok, I’m back. When I saw Bautista launch homerun number 16 yesterday, it was obvious something had changed in his approach. I knew he had power, but not at this pace. Last season, Bautista hit just 15 bombs and drove in 40 runs with over 400 plate appearances.
The Pirates drafted Bautista in the 20th round in 2000. He came alive when he was 25 years old in 2006 and blasted 16 homers. It took 469 plate appearances to achieve that production. It’s been a different story this season, he has crushed a league leading 16 homeruns in just 217 plate appearances.
Bautista has kept his walk and strikeout rates similar to what they were last season. But his slugging is .600 and OPS is .969 this year, compared to .408 slugging and .757 OPS last season.
So what’s the difference? My friend Mat Germain (a fellow veteran who I thank for his service) took a look at the new approach Bautista is using in this excellent post. I cut a portion for you, but if you are interested in a team with power, sort of the anti-Pirates it’s definently worth a read.
From what I gather, it’s simply the approach at the plate that has changed under Dwayne Murphy (the Jays batting coach) and Cito Gaston. Their philosophy of “when you see a pitch you like, hit it as hard as you can” is going a long way to making the Jays into a herd of Adam Dunn like hitters at the plate. Hack and hope. You can agree or disagree with the theory, but you can’t argue the results. According to Fangraphs, the Jays now have 88 HRs on the season – 19 more than the next highest team, the Red Sox who have hit 69 HRs. Sweet. Keep it up guys, I see no reason to change the mystery that lies behind the power stroke because it has made opposing pitchers wonder at how to stop the flow of HRs coming off of Jays bats.
If hack and hope is the Jays motto, what the hell is the Pirates?