As we are all aware, Brennan Boesch has struggled at the plate for pretty much the entire season. We’re all equally frustrated by his Delmon-esque lack of plate discipline or strike zone recognition, but to be honest with you all, I had come to accept that much from Boesch so long as his overall hitting outweighed such shortcomings. Going back about 3 weeks, Boesch hit a quite a remarkable skid. He wasn’t getting hits, the balls he made contact with were extremely weak-hit, and his plate discipline/strike zone recognition were as poor as ever. A lot of people chalked it up to “pressing” at the plate, a phenomenon commonly known as being stricken with Raburnism; but I wasn’t so sure that “pressing” was Boesch’s total issue.
Fast forward to last week vs. Cleveland. Boesch began to take much better swings and make significantly better contact in the series finale, and that success continued into Cincinnatti prior to a minor ankle injury. Rod Allen tried to point out what Boesch changed with his swing mechanics so as to gain success, but he didn’t do a very good job of explaining it clearly.
I will attempt to explain Boesch’s resurgence from a mechanical perspective, but bear with me, this stuff is kind of hard to put into written word.
Boesch’s swing has always had holes, as most power hitters’ generally do, but he was usually able to cover up those minor flaws because overall, his swing was pretty solid. The first thing I noticed about Boesch’s swing during his recent slump was in his hands. Boesch has a pretty upright stance, and his hands are generally just above the same height as his back (left) shoulder. In recent weeks, Boesch’s hands had begun to drop a little bit in his stance, down about 3-4 inches, to about dead even with his back shoulder. This can have numerous negative effects on a hitter, most notably that is causes you to “hitch” when swinging. You hands should always take a single path to the baseball when swinging: Forward. “Hitching” is when you have to draw your hands back and up, and then start your swing. Boesch had been hitching with his hands, leading to wasted movement in his swing, which in turn lead to his inability to reach pitches on the inner third, as well as weak contact in general. Watch Boesch tonight, his hands will be back where they should be (just above his back shoulder), and when he swings they will not travel backwards or up (hitching).
I also noticed something else with Boesch’s swing that was troublesome, and this one will be a bit harder to explain via written word. Boesch was, as coaches/scouts/etc refer to it, “wrapping” his bat. This means that instead of the bat being on a straight plane parallel (or nearly parallel) with his feet, and directly perpendicular to his hips; his bat was being “wrapped” around his head, moving towards more parallel with his hips rather than his feet. Still with me? I know it sounds complicated. This “wrapping” of the bat is caused by issues in the hands (again!), and is easily correctable once caught. Wrapping the bat causes the hands and bat to take a longer path to the baseball, resulting in late/weak contact. Watch Boesch tonight, the bat will be back as it should, more or less parallel with his feet and nearly perpendicular to his hips.
Now, neither of these mechanical flaws accounts for poor plate discipline or strike zone recognition, but with Boesch squaring up more baseballs and just generally making better contact, I can live with the less than ideal approach.
Boesch still does have one mechanical flaw in his swing the bothers the holy blue hell out me. His swing is “loopy.” This does not mean “long” or “slow”, it means this:
Notice how the bat is looped up into the air, with only one hand on it? This is called a loopy swing, and in my experience means that Boesch does not always “finish” his swing, which can in turn mean that he is stopping his swing at the ball, rather than continuing through it. I was always taught, and will always teach, that the bat should make contact with your front shoulder with both hands on it following a swing, because this means that you have consciously trained yourself to “finish” the swing. As a rule, “finishing” a swing generates more power, because instead of stopping once you make contact, you DON’T stop the swing until you are completely through the baseball.
All in all, Boesch is one of my favorite players to watch…..at bat. Defense aside, I find Boesch to be one of the more exciting players to watch at the plate, mostly because it’s a beautiful thing when such a violent swing as his works in unison with perfect hitting mechanics. Such harmony between raw power, talent, and fundamentals can result in the hardest feat in all of athletics: Hitting a round baseball with a round bat perfectly square.