Note: I have discussed some of this information before in previous articles. But I am going to reiterate it again in context to Part One of this article. Also, I am going to just keep talking about this stuff until someone in the A's organization contacts me to help Daric Barton (half-way serious).
Last time, we looked at how left-handed hitters achieved their success in the strike zone. The data showed to be a successful left-handed hitter, the player really needs to be able to hit the down-and-away strike just above the knees. The reason for this is simple; this is where pitchers throw the majority of pitches to left-handers. This heart of the plate is emphasized below.
Left-handers in a way have it more difficult to hit than righties. Lefties see more pitches away than righties, and pitches away are hard to hit. So what do we need to look for to determine if a player can hit the pitches in heart of the strike zone? Fortunately (and unfortunately) the A's have two perfect examples in Daric Barton and Brandon Moss. Barton is one of the five worst for his career hitting the outside pitch, Moss is the second best. Let's take a look.
Here is Barton on a pitch thigh-high and on the outer third of the strike zone. Result: weak ground ball off the end of the bat.
Another pitch in the heart, another ground ball.
Notice something? Barton hit both pitches off the end of the bat. He barely even got his bat to the ball, and the ball is in the strike zone! Let's look at Barton at contact.
See how Barton's posture is nearly upright? His body is far away from the ball, meaning he has to extend his arms early to make contact. This is the kind of contact pitchers dream about and gets hitters sent to AAA.
So what should Barton be doing differently? Well fortunately, we have Brandon Moss. Let's take a look at how Moss handles a pitch in the heart. Result: home run.
Here is another one. Result: home run.
Now let's look at Moss at contact. Notice the difference in posture from Barton. Moss brings his body to the pitch and clears his hips. This allows him to bring the bat to the ball and keep his arms from extending too early.
For pitches on the inner half, Moss simply adjusts his posture to have less bend and gets the bat out in front of the plate.
Warning: hitting instructor rant. This is why I do not like the term "balance" when talking about the swing. Looking at the hitters' swings, you would say Barton has the most balanced swing. But his balance is what is holding him back. As I tell hitters, Barton needs to get comfortable being in an uncomfortable position.
I thought I would spend a couple minutes (literally) looking at a couple prospects in the A's system. Below are some stills of Max Muncy on outside pitches. He looks OK. Muncy goes down and gets the outside pitch but doesn't clear the front side near as well as Moss however.
Below is Shane Peterson. He does a good job of bending to get to the outside pitch. But he is so far away from the plate he gets both arms extended at contact. Peterson needs to scoot in on the plate and get into a little more uncomfortable position.
(I was really interested in Matt Olson but there wasn't much video.)
I would like to finish this series with two acknowledgements that I was wrong. First, I once wrote an article about how I wouldn't have predicted Moss to have success based on swing mechanics. After doing the analysis for this series, I now think/hope I would have been 50/50 on Moss. Moss has the best plate coverage of anyone I can think of, but he also has a usually deadly rear-arm flaw. I now see the former can trump the latter. Second, during the World Series Tim McCarver remarked that teams should have two hitting coaches: one for lefties and one for righties. McCarver's reasoning is that the swings are different. At the time I thought it was one of the more stupid things I had ever heard. McCarver, you may have been on to something.