Jan
22

Kevin Youkilis, Kevin Long, and a new stance

By

(Tasos Katopodis/Getty)

Kevin Youkilis is famous for many reasons, including his rather unique batting stance. He bounces around with his hands separated and high above his head … it’s not something you would teach to kids in little league. Let’s put it that way. It worked for him so it stuck, but that’s going to change next season. With his production declining, Youkilis and hitting coach Kevin Long have examined some old tape and worked on a new setup this offseason.

“We looked at old film and compared it to 2012,” said Long to Dan Martin earlier this month. “We saw some considerable differences, mainly in his stance and it looked like the adjustments had an impact … I think we can get him back to being an all-star caliber player.”

Jack Curry followed up by reporting that the specific adjustments include a wider base and deeper crouch at the plate, as well as a lower hand position. Dropping hands is a classic adjustment made by older players losing bat speed because it helps get them into the hitting position sooner. Rather than having to bring his hands down and then start to load the swing, Youkilis’ hands will already be down and require less movement to begin his load. Make sense? It cuts out a step. The wider stance, on the other hand, creates a bigger base and helps balance. Albert Pujols has a very wide base at the plate, for example.

Since Youkilis has continued to annihilate left-handed pitching in recent years, I assume these changes are geared towards helping him hang in better against right-handers. With some help from the indispensable Baseball Heat Maps, here are Youk’s heat maps against right-handed hitters over the last three seasons…

I highly recommend clicking the image for a larger view, but from left to right that’s 2010, 2011, and 2012. The red is good (above average production on pitches in those spots), the blue is bad (below average), and the green is about neutral (average). Youkilis has always been a dead pull hitter, so it’s not a surprise that he’s had the least success on outside pitches these last three years. You can kinda see the blue spots gradually drop within the strike zone over the years, which makes sense given the position of his hands and the assumed loss of bat speed. He simply has a long way to go to reach those pitches and can’t do it as well as he once did.

Here’s the thing though: Youkilis never was and most likely never will be someone who can consistently take that outside pitch the other way. He’ll do it on occasion, no doubt about it, but given his struggles against down-and-away pitches last year, the goal is more along the lines of “well at least now he has a chance.” If Long and Youkilis can do enough that those down-and-away pitches become something other than automatic swings and misses, it should help him get better pitches to hit because we know he has the eye to lay off stuff out of the zone and can still do an okay job against pitches on the inner half.

The Yankees were painted into a bit of a corner a few weeks ago when news of Alex Rodriguez‘s hip injury broke, as the free agent third base options included Youkilis, Mark Reynolds, and a bunch of utility infielders. They opted for the most accomplished of the bunch, but unfortunately they’re not acquiring the Youkilis of 2008-2010. He’s still a serviceable hitter though, especially against left-handers, and it’s good to see he and Long are putting in work this offseason in an attempt to improve his overall production. Long as helped turn Curtis Granderson into one of the game’s best power hitters and Robinson Cano into an elite all-around hitter, now all he has to do is get Youkilis back to being himself.

Categories : Analysis

56 Comments»

  1. WhittakerWalt says:

    Ugh. It’s going to be really hard to root for this clown.

  2. Drew says:

    Well if anyone can do it, its Kevin Long. I can see the trend of optimistic articles around baseball (since we are less than a month away from P&C reporting) has begun!

    • Herby says:

      Just like he helped Jeter change his batting stance. Long is greatly overrated.

      • Drew says:

        Just like he did Granderson and Cano? Nobody knows exactly how much a hitting coach helps, but Kevin Long is regarded by his peers as one of the best in the game. Also you can’t just name one example and expect to make a point.

      • FanSince'65 says:

        Agree. How smart was Long in last year’s playoffs? How did get a pass on that disaster?

  3. MannyGeee says:

    “Kevin Youkilis is coming into camp in in the ‘Best Shape of his Life’” articles and Tweets in 3……2…..

  4. Ethan says:

    I read somewhere that the way he holds his hands makes him look like he’s masturbating the bat. Thought that was a pretty hilarious analysis.

  5. Daren says:

    Ok, so if dropping the hands is something older players do to compensate for lost hand speed, what is the downside? Why wouldn’t younger players also do it to make their bats quicker? There must be a trade-off, no? Decreased power? Decreased control? What is it?

    • jjyank says:

      I would imagine there’d be a decrease in power, no? The hands being lower means less momentum through the zone. That’s my guess anyway.

      • Nice Guy Eddie says:

        Just a comfort thing, basically, if you’re hands are quick enough to get through the zone when you have them high then there’s really no sense in adjusting. Problem is, guys get old, lose quick-twitch muscles and are forced to adjust.

    • RetroRob says:

      I don’t know, but keeping the hands low worked damn well for Stan Musial from 21 through 41.

      Musial had a power spike about five years into his career, and then performed well through age 40. He clearly would be suspected of taking PEDs if his career arc took place today.

      Not sure why I just turned a Youkilis question into a Musial statement. I feel dirty.

  6. tmoney says:

    Who was the last Yankee player with a beard?

    Great story if you know the answer.

  7. trr says:

    Not sure, but younger hitters seem to need less adjustments, right?
    I’d say decreased power would be a consequence, but if Youk can get the ball up in the air in to right field in Yankee Stadium….

    • tmoney says:

      The younger you are the better your fast twitch muscles respond meaning you tend to be quicker with your hands and feet. As you get older you may still have the same strength but not the same bat speed and quickness with your feet.

  8. Vern Sneaker says:

    Yooooook — can’t wait. Oughta be cool.

  9. Ryan says:

    I wish Youk luck and I’d like to see him be successful but his batting stance has always annoyed the heck out of me. It’s almost like he watched Tecmo Baseball and modeled his stance off of that game. I hope Kevin Long can work his magic and improve Youk’s approach at the plate.

  10. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    Glad to see Youk is willing to adapt. You’d think as you age and you lose some bat speed and reflexes, you’d be less likely to overcome bad mechanics. It sure would be something to get anything close to the 2010 version of Youkilis.

    • Havok9120 says:

      It is cool that he’s willing to make changes. It’s pretty easy for a vet to dig in and refuse aid from the coaching staff.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        Cough… Teixeira… cough

        No, I kid. Tex seems like a really hard worker, but he’s got to figure out that LH swing at some point.

  11. tommy cassella says:

    now that he’s with the yanks, all is forgiven youk. have a great year.

  12. Andy E says:

    hoping for at least a solid 4 months, and really liking the 144wRC+ in 125 post season PA’s.

  13. rick says:

    hoping for the clutch guy who used to kill us. God knows this team needs more clutch hitters.

  14. YankFanSince'65 says:

    Quick: who’d you rather have at Youk or post -surgery ARod? I’ll take my chances with Youk.

  15. You should have shot Arod says:

    Wow no more doing pour some sugar on me on the strpper pole batting style?

  16. Jarrod says:

    Hopefully Youk is working with K-Long Grandy style rather than K-Long 2012 Postseason style.

    Oh and as long as he is in pinstripes, I’ll be behind him 100% – and he was easily my most hated red sock!

  17. Rizzi Walnuts says:

    What about all the times I called him Puke? Now I feel bad.

  18. aluis says:

    In adddition to the batting stance, I hope that he comes to camp in shape and dedicated to proving that he’s not washed up and plays for another contract. IF so, then this would certainly make it much easier to root for him.

  19. Michael Gianthead Kay says:

    Kevin Long has RUNINED Mark Teixiera. He WAS a near .300 career hitter, then comes to the Yankees and falls in love with the right field porch and bcomes a one trick pony. It’s UNBLIEVABLE thatother teams shift on him to the point he could bunt for a double and ‘REFUSES’ to make adjustments. Granderson strikes out more now than he EVER has before…and Jeter had to have a calf injury and get back to Tampa to his OLD hitting coach to get him back to the career .300 hitter we all know he is. Kevin Long? Regarded as the best hitting coach in BB?? Are you serious? If ANYTHING, he should have been fired after ANOTHER post season where the Yankee bats ran away and HID. The Yankees live and die by the HR…and unfortunately, we have too many players who do the same. In the post season, the pitching doesn’t allow so many HRs because you usually see their best. Someone ought to clue Girardi and Long in on this apparently well kept secret. Best thing for the Yanks would be to get Kevin Long a job hawking beer and peanuts in the stands at home games.

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