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Inside Jeter

Derek Jeter and Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long dicusssed the changes the shortstop made to his swing for this season.  Long taught Jeter to shorten his stride so he could better handle inside pitches.

What exactly are you changing?

The issue with the stride foot is when it crosses over and goes this way (toward the plate) and the ball is coming inside, you don’t have a path to get to that pitch. Now, let’s say a cutter from (Jon) Lester is coming in at 93 mph. You’re going to try to do what Jeter does best, which is stay inside of it. So he’s going to try to do this (keep his hands and body inside) and try to stay into it. You can’t do it (when you cross over). Now, by staying square and going up on his toe and going to here (mimics the beginning of an inside swing) he’s creating an avenue for his hips to get through and to become square to the baseball.

Looking at various heat maps, you can best see what Long is talking about in a comparison of 2009 and 2010 foul balls.

Derek Jeter foul balls 2009.So in 2009, Jeter fouled off pitches away from him.

Derek Jeter foul balls 2010.In 2010, that zone for fouling pitches moved inside.  If Long's plan works, we should see most of his fouls move back outside.


Diminishing Distance

As Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles hit his prime years, he saw his slugging percentage whither away.  In 2008 at the age of 24, Nick posted his best single season marks in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging, smashing the ball for a .491 SPct.  He gave the ball a good ride, his flies averaging 332 feet.

Nick Markakis, fly ball distance, 2008.He did a good job driving the ball the other way, and seven of his fly ball home runs could be classified as going to the opposite field.

In 2009, his fly ball distance dropped to 319 feet, his slugging percentage dropped to .453, and his only opposite field home run was barely to the left of straight away center:

Nick Markakis, fly ball distance 2009.In 2010, the heat map became even cooler, with an average fly ball distance of 310 feet and a slugging percentage of .436.

Nick Markakis, fly ball distance, 2010.Again, only one fly ball homer went the opposite way.  His HR total over the three yeras went from 20 to 18 to 12.

He's not hitting the ball as far, but the question remains why.  Pitchers appear to work him the same way.  The pitch him outside, trying to get the ball to move in on the plate.  The mix of pitches is about the same, mostly fast balls and sliders, although Nick saw a few more changeups in 2010.

From looking at where he puts the ball in play, Markakis appears to be less of a pull hitter than in 2008.  Yes, fewer of his home runs go out the other way, but more of his balls in play that stay in the ball park do.  Power hitters tend to be pull hitters.  Nick appears to have adjusted to the way he was pitched by trying to go the other way, going with the pitch.   His batting average hasn't dropped that much in the three years, only about 10 points.  He dumping singles into left and center, instead of smacking the ball all over the park.  He should go back to trying to pull the ball.


Gomes Trouble Zone

Reader John Tyler Moore requested we take a look at Jonny Gomes. Gomes played more games in 2010 than in any other season in his career. This may have taken a toll on his game as he put up a league average OPS+.

Compare his 2010 heat map to his two prior years:

Jonny Gomes 2008-09

Jonny Gomes 2010

The drop in production on pitches in the upper part of the zone isn't helped by Gomes' slight tendency to swing at high pitches.

Jonny Gomes 2010

In the upper part of the zone, most of Gomes troubles came against right-handed pitching. In the zone outlined below, Gomes wOBA was 124 points lower against RHP. His K-rate was also 20.5% vs. RHP, compared to 6.7% against LHP.

Gomes will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Reds would love to see him put up his 2009 numbers over the course of a full season before possibly signing him to anything more than another 1-year deal. Look for him to work on improving his swing versus righties, particularly on pitches located up in the zone.