May
22

Alex’s leg kick

By

Alex Rodriguez got off to a gloriously hot start to the season. In the first eleven games he hit .405/.511/.865 with 4 home runs, sporting an OPS of 1.376. Unfortunately, this hot start came to a screeching halt in Texas. On April 16th in Texas the Yankees removed Rodriguez from the game with a mild oblique strain. He avoided the disabled list, but he didn’t return to the lineup until April 20th. Whether the oblique strain was still bothering him or simply disrupted his timing is hard to say. What is clear is that Rodriguez went through a massive slump when he returned, hitting .188/.263/.294 with 2 home runs and 22 strikeouts in 22 games.

When the Yankees finished getting swept by Boston at home, they headed to Tampa. At the time talk surfaced of hitting coach Kevin Long working hard with Rodriguez to fix a mechanical flaw in his swing. They weren’t able to rectify it immediately, and in fact it seems that Rodriguez had difficulty implementing the change. In his first game in Tampa Alex went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts against Price. But they may have gotten a handle on it shortly thereafter. YES scribe and fan favorite Jack Curry had the details on this fix in a piece published May 18th, a day after Rodriguez clubbed two homers off Big Game James.

Long determined the cause of Rodriguez’s struggles, detecting that the third baseman hadn’t been using the lower half of his body to ignite his swing. Rodriguez called it a “disconnect” between his lower and upper body…

“We’ve diagnosed the problem,” Long said. “It’s vivid. We know what it is. But Alex said there’s been some hesitation. He knows he has to use his legs and he’s telling himself to use his legs. But when it comes time to do it, he hesitates. It’s all about fixing mechanics.”

Several hours after Long spoke to me about Rodriguez’s missing swing on Tuesday, Rodriguez corrected his mechanics and found that smooth swing again. Rodriguez blasted two homers off James Shields to help guide the Yankees to a much-needed 6-2 win over the Rays.

By taking a look at Rodriguez’s swing against the Red Sox Sunday night against Beckett and comparing it to his swing against Shields in Tampa, one thing stands out quite clearly: Alex almost completely eliminated his leg kick. Courtesy of friend of RAB Richard Iurilli, we can use .gif images to get a good slow-motion look at the difference. The first .gif is Alex striking out against Josh Beckett. (Update: Added the jump for site loading reasons)

 

Should of swung earlier. As you can see, he has a fairly pronounced leg kick, raising his left thigh nearly parallel to the ground. You can also notice his back leg collapse as he swings through the pitch, a clear sign that his timing is off. So what did the swing look like in Tampa against Shields?

 

 

These .gifs are from Alex’s two home runs. The change is obvious. In both swings Rodriguez has nearly eliminated his leg kick. It’s likely no coincidence that Long’s work with Rodriguez resulted in him eliminating the kick. How this relates to Alex using his legs more is a little unclear to me. Perhaps lowering the kick gives him a better sense of timing on rotating his legs in conjunction with his torso. I’m no expert on hitting mechanics, so all I’ll note is that before the Curry piece Alex was rocking a high kick and struggling, and now he’s barely using a leg kick and is hitting a lot better. It’s only been four games, but he’s 7 for his last 18 with a .778 slugging percentage.

If my memory serves me correctly, Rodriguez has always featured a high leg kick. It’ll be interesting to see whether this is just Long’s way of helping Alex fix his timing issue as a temporary remedy, or whether cutting down on the leg kick is a permanent alteration to Alex’s swing. Maybe he’s not as quick as he used to be. Baseball is a game of adjustments, so either way it’s a positive sign to see him be able to fix his mistakes on the fly.

Categories : Analysis
  • http://twitter.com/SteveH_MandAura Steve H

    Always nice to see an aging superstar admit that he’s struggling and go to the (very highly regarded) hitting coach for some help.

    • Esteban

      *shotsfiredatJeter*

  • Esteban

    Good post. I hadn’t noticed the change in the leg-kick, and I too wonder if getting rid of the leg-kick is temporary. If it’s permanent, that would be a rather radical change for an all-time great player pretty late in his career. Also, if it’s permanent and Alex instituted it in such a relatively short time, that would speak to his incredible work ethic.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/billreichmann breich315

    What happens sometimes with a high leg kick is that your foot does not get down in time and the ball almost beats you before the foot gets down. In the strikeout gif he gets his foot down late, realizes he’s late and actually launches the hands first and the legs/hips go when the foot lands. In the homerun gifs he gets his foot down early and is able to launch the legs/hips before the hands. It definitely seems like a timing thing based on what I see.

    • http://twitter.com/stephen_mr Stephen Rhoads

      That’s good analysis

  • China Joe

    Watch that home run he hit last night. He’s so damn strong, all he needs to do is make decent contact and the ball flies 400 ft.

    That’s why I hold out hope A-Rod will age somewhat gracefully: his almost-unparalleled physical gifts combined with his surprisingly humble trait of working with coaches to improve his game.

    (And, for the love of God, I’m not knocking Jeter. I’m praising ARod…seriously, how many superstar players ask coaches to help improve their game in their mid-30’s?)

  • Across the pond

    For some reason my post wont show but the point was that we go through this narrative every year.

    /removed links to articles from the last few years about the leg kick (including one from RAB itself)

    • http://twitter.com/stephen_mr Stephen Rhoads

      I checked the spam filter and didn’t find anything pending, not sure why the comments aren’t going thru. Sorry!

  • http://twitter.com/bryanl26 Bryan L

    I think over the years A-Rod’s leg kick has been a critical measure to his success. I remember in 2007 when he worked in the offseason to lower his leg kick, and then went on to his his monster MVP season. As long as he keeps his leg kick low, he’s historically had a good amount of success at the plate.

  • Rahul

    I have to ask an honest question. Could you show A-Rod’s homerun against the Mets and compare it to these 3 in your next post? I’m pretty sure he brought the leg kick back into the mix for his latest homer.

    • http://twitter.com/stephen_mr Stephen Rhoads

      Sure, good question. I cant make a .gif (Richard Iurilli put it together for me) but I can link you to the video – http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play......k%3D287586

      To me it looks pretty similar to Tampa, maybe slightly higher, but still looks like a low leg kick to me. Thoughts?

  • Dave Moore

    I also notice that he’s gone back to keeping the bat off his shoulder while waiting for the pitch.

  • Pat D

    Eduardo Perez said on Baseball Tonight last night that ARod is locked in again and he expects him to have 15 home runs on the year within 2 weeks.

    That would be nice, especially considering that they have several games coming up in pitcher’s parks in Seattle and Oakland.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Anything that gets his hips turning and hands coming forward so that he can drive a fastball deep in the gaps or over the fence will be fine. If it is lowering his knee-lift so he can plant his front foot sooner-doesn’t seem so hard to fix.

  • Bug

    Jeezus, still with the “should of”?

    • http://twitter.com/stephen_mr Stephen Rhoads

      oh go away

      • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

        Sorry dude this jumped out at me too. This site is better than that (and so, I believe, are you). Thanks for the analysis, great stuff.

        • http://twitter.com/stephen_mr Stephen Rhoads

          It was intentional. Glad you liked the piece.

  • special kid

    but you didnt address cano’s problem? fail.

  • Rob Thomsen’s Chili Farts

    Alex should of figured this out by then.

  • ClementG

    He was having some problems with his lower half last year and it wasn’t fixed until the session with K-Long in KC, after which A-Rod has that three HR game and finished strong. With some age and the hip surgery, maybe he’s more prone to issues with his hitting mechanics that he was able to fight his way though more easily in the past. As least with A-Rod, his issues seem fixable when identified.

  • Have Mice and Typos

    “Should of swung earlier”

    This is happening far too often among Yankee bloggers. Step your collective game up.

    • http://twitter.com/stephen_mr Stephen Rhoads

      Sigh. Probably the last time I do satire on RAB.