An Unpopular Stance
Remember last year when Mickey Brantley was history’s greatest monster for his “swing for the fences” philosophy, and having two walk-or-strikeout guys in the middle of the lineup was every hack’s favorite reason for why the team couldn’t hit with RISP? (even though they could). Shorten that swing, keep things moving by spraying balls to the opposite field, that’s the way to run an offense! Boy did a lot of fans get their wish, and boy does a team that can’t hit home runs to save their life suck.
Anyway, the poster boy for the Jays’ power outage this season has been Alex Rios, who is single handedly breathing life back into the home run derby curse. In 569 at bats since he came in second last year, he has 10 home runs. Not that the homer is everything, but his power has completely vanished to the point where he is a substantially below-average right fielder at the plate (OPS of .708 compared to league average of .824). To put things in perspective, Vernon Wells’ OPS was .706 last year. We are looking at a Wellsesque collapse in the outfield, again.
So, in a series of posts over the next few weeks I’m going to painstakingly analyze Rios’ contact, misses, HR and BABIP rate for every quadrant using pitch f/x…no, wait. I’m just going to rip off Fox Sports:
Maybe we should start calling him the “little hurt”, because just a hunch- he might be having trouble reaching the outside half of the plate.
As everyone has noticed this year, Rios is starting his swing from a much deeper crouch. Now I’m no batting coach (and I think it’s stupid the way people think they can sum up all his mechanical problems with a hitting cliche like “weight transfer” or “driving off the back foot” from TV replays), but I’m pretty sure the idea of the power crouch is that you end up in the same hitting position on contact that you would normally. But look at Rios’ front leg and torso on this upper deck drive from last season:
And then this one (his pinch hit HR) that just crept out over the wall this year:
Again, I’m no hitting coach but I don’t think that can be good for a power hitter. This was in no way an outside pitch, and it looks like he’s bending over rather unnaturally to reach it instead of leaning over the plate. It’s a slightly different camera angle so it’s hard to get an idea of how far he is from the plate (and that’s going to be a matter of inches anyway).
These two things have to be related. I would give my right arm for a sit-down session with Gary Denbo to talk about what he’s changed with Rios since last season, why he thinks he’s slumping so far and where to go from here. Forget Gibby and his wacky lineups- if you really want a goat, go for a much more important (but still probably meaningless) figurehead, the guy who is shepherding what should be a franchise player hitting his prime on his way to a 6 HR season.