Editor's Note: Stuff like this deserves front page notice. Great work! -Nico
Grant Green is a guy I've spent way too much of my time analyzing and thinking about over the years. I was very pleased when the A's drafted him back in 2009, and he's got the natural hitting ability of a future batting champion. Many around here are lukewarm on Green mainly due to his poor K/BB ratios in the minors and because of his loss of power in 2011 when he saw his slugging percentage drop over 100 points.
Green has the look, hand-eye coordination, and wrist strength of a pure hitter, but his mechanics were always a bit stiff and he has struggled to unlock his power. As an amateur, Green's swing was decent but his success was mainly due to his God-given ability to hit. In pro ball, after a stellar debut in Stockton in 2010, it's probable that the A's player development staff didn't want to alter things too much in his swing, despite there being some major flaws in his hitting style that would be sure to cause problems at higher levels. After his relatively lackluster 2011, he has re-worked his swing to unlock that elusive power and to increase his balance at the plate, which is key to making contact, adjusting to offspeed pitches, and recognizing pitches.
Below are a series of images, the above images are from the 2011 Futures Game, and the below images are from the 2011 Arizona Fall League where Green debuted many of these changes.
[Todd Steverson] noticed Green’s performance early on and approached the player and the club on an idea to work on the player. At the moment, Green is hitting .308 in the Arizona Fall League and he has four home runs from 22 games. He believes the adjustments are working.
"We completely changed my swing," said Green.
Though he was .291 with the bat when he played for Double – A Midland this year, Green described the change as an improvement for the future.
"He thought I was too narrow with my stance, so we widened it. He thought I was static with my load. He said we're trying to generate power. ... It's easy to see that it's working so far."
Notice how he has widened his stance, and is far less upright in the below shot. The blue line on the bottom is key, as his head/hands are much further back than they were before. This allows for better balance, longer time for pitch recognition, and more leverage to create power. It's hard to get any power with a stance as upright as Green's was (more leverage means more torque. Imagine jumping without bending your knees, then jumping out of a crouched position... which way allows you to jump higher?)
His hands are much further back and closer to the load zone in the bottom picture. Before, his hands were a little noisy, which can cause contact issues.
Much more hip rotation at the bottom. Considerably more lower body coil that is the key to leverage and hitting for power. Notice how much more closed his hip is at the bottom, and the position of his left knee. He's positioning himself to plant his front foot and place his weight against that left foot to create leverage. Having your front knee/foot in that position above his a power killer. The above pic is an example of a weak front side that you'll often see with such an upright swing. It's very difficult to create power with such a weak leverage point. (FYI: Leverage in a baseball swing pretty much means the front side, it means the force against which you're rotating your hips to create torque/batspeed.)
Here is where it all starts to take shape. Look at how upright he is in the above swing. The fact that he slugged .520 in Stockton with that above swing is a testament to his wrist strength and hand-eye coordination. That's about as upright and weak a body position as you'll ever see a hitter have through contact. Green is a tall, strong guy who can really add to his bat speed if he uses his body the right way, and he looks to be doing that in the image below. He's keeping his shoulders and hands level despite his new body angle at contact, which is key to hitting line drives.
If you want to know what power through contact looks like then look at the king of power hitting, Barry Bonds.
And here is Ryan Braun.
You will notice that Green's front foot in the AFL picture is much more closed than Bonds' and Braun's front foot above, which are both completely open. It's worth noting that the swing of Green's that I have been analyzing resulted in a line drive to the opposite field, and that the front foot positioning is likely a result of him staying closed and taking an outside pitch to the opposite field.
In all, Grant Green has reworked his stance and swing to increase his balance and torque. I believe the changes are very real, and that he's set to take off. It might take a bit of time for him to convert those mechanics to muscle memory, but he won't be needed in Oakland for at least another 12 months so there's plenty of time. Look for his power to increase in a big way.