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Jason Giambi: Practices What He Preaches

Jason Giambi is off to a good start with his former team.  Thus far, look at how he's done:

2009 - Jason Giambi 7 26 5 9 2 0 0 3 2 5 0 0 .346 .452 .423

Now I'm well aware of the small samples sizes refrain.  And I know that no matter what I say, people will be screaming it in the comments.  But truthfully, I wanted to look at something else. 

Giambi said this when I interviewed him during spring training:

Blez:  There's been a lot of speculation that you changed your swing when you were signed by the Yankees.  People said that as a left-handed hitter, you were tempted by the short right field porch.  Did you alter your swing to try and pull more pitches when you played there?

Giambi:  Yeah, a little bit.  I used to hit the ball all over the field in Oakland because the gaps are very reachable in Oakland, so I used to use the opposite field a whole lot.  When you look out at the way Yankee Stadium is configured, it just makes a lot of sense.  Early in the season, when it's cold the gaps seem so far away and I was hitting a lot of balls out there and not getting much for it.  It gets tempting when you look out there and you have 300 feet down the right field line.  You do kind of change a little bit.  But I think I can change back.  I've been working on my swing a bit and working on hitting the ball the other way.  So I think it should come back.

Blez:  Did the pitchers adjust to what you were trying to do and realize that you were trying to pull balls?  Essentially did they change the way they would pitch you and try to hit the outside of the plate more than anything?

Giambi:  Yeah everyone makes adjustments.  They'd mix it up.  Go outside and inside.  The only thing that they changed in New York was that they played more of a shift on me where I didn't really have that here in Oakland because I pulled the ball a lot more (in New York).  I think that's what teams do a lot more now for guys like myself and Big Papi who pull a lot of balls through the hole.

Blez:  Speaking of stadiums, you always seemed to hit pretty well at the Coliseum whereas the stadium has reputation for being a place where most hitters dread hitting because of the huge foul territory and the dead air at night.  Do you like hitting at the Coliseum and if so, why?

Giambi:  I love it.  I don't know why, but I've always had that feeling.  It's kind of like where you grow up and you go to that little league park and everything is so familiar.  Even as a visiting player when I went to New York, I loved coming to Oakland and hitting there.  I like to look out there and see all that green grass everywhere.  It just feels like I can get a hit anywhere.  I really enjoy hitting there.

Blez:  Is it just because it feels more spacious to you?

Giambi:  Yeah when I look out there I feel I have plenty of places where I can get a hit.  Like you said, there is a little bit of dead air, but most of these guys don't realize I played in the old Oakland Coliseum.  Talk about spacious, now that was spacious.

Blez:  You mean before Mount Davis.

Giambi:  Oh yeah.

Blez:  Experts have also speculated that your batting average could go back up because of the change in parks and your willingness to use the whole field again.  Do you anticipate that happening?

Giambi:  I hope so.  I've been working on it since I got back.  I went out and tried to purposely hit the ball to left field more.  I tried to get back to being more of a complete hitter.

And yes, his hitting so far has proven that he's at least trying to be more of a complete hitter, hitting to all fields.

It's one of the things that I'll be paying attention to this year just because it's fascinating to me that someone can be talented enough to actually adjust their swing based on what stadium they're hitting in.

So I looked at his spray charts so far.  At Angel Stadium, he had three singles to right field and a ground out.  But of the 10 balls that he put into play, six of them were to the left side of second base, meaning that he was consciously trying to think more opposite field.

As for the efforts in Oakland, he's put 10 balls in play and seven of them have gone to the left side of the diamond, including three singles and one double.  I think he's definitely making the adjustment so I think smart teams will catch on this quickly and stop putting the shift on Giambi.

I think it's something that A's fans should pay attention to this year because hopefully what will happen is that teams shift back to playing a bit more of a traditional defense against G and then he can start pulling the ball again and get hits all over the field.  It's early, so it will be interesting to see if it continues, but I definitely think there is an effort on Giambi's part to consciously follow through with what he and I discussed.  It will be interesting to see if pitchers start trying to pound him more inside again too.

My question is, will this ultimately cut down on Giambi's home run power?  And if it does, does it matter if he's getting on base a ton and hitting opposite field doubles?  I personally don't think it does because he'll get his home runs, especially if he's making good contact wherever he happens to be pitched.  But what do you think?