Designated HitterAugust 11, 2006
The Shifting Swings of A-Rod and Andruw: Part 2
By Jeff Albert

I started posting these comparisons of Major League hitters on my blog, and they usually show how a player's swing has changed or how player A might be better off if he could swing like player B, but with the opportunity to write a guest article here, I wanted to take a different approach. Coincidentally, after JC Bradbury of Sabernomics kindly posted a link of my Jeff Francoeur analysis, he (Bradbury) emailed me a question about Andruw Jones. It became clear that Jones' adjustment affected his swing in a way contrary to what can be seen in A-Rod's, so now we can not only look at the impact of an adjustment on one player, but we can see how a general concept applies in a specific way to completely different hitters.

Analyzing Andruw

What happened to Andruw Jones after 2004?

This article went straight to the source to find out:

Thus, Andruw began widening his stance in September last year. It was a stance that had provided him much success in the Minors and one that he abandoned early in his career..."When I got to the big leagues, I wish that thing wouldn't have gotten in my mind to change my stance."

With the widening of his stance, this was the new look at the beginning of Jones' swing:

The result was a significant increase in power output, most notably an increase of 22 home runs, that produced the 2005 NL Home Run leader:

Before you start thinking that all players will have similar success if they just widen their stances, we have to take a look at cause and effect. We have a cause (changed stance) and a result (more HRs, fewer Ks) and now we'll try to identify the effect of the changed stance on the swing.

Here is a look at Jones' full swing:

The clip shows a 2004 swing on the left and 2005 swing on the right, synchronized to contact. Each swing from its corresponding year is the same swing shown from different angles - front and side. The pitch is similar speed, similar location and the result is the same - home run to right-center. (I want to make a small editorial note, in that the side shot from 2004 appeared choppy, as it was missing some frames. The view from the front matched up well, so I added duplicate frames in the 2004 side view to fill in for the missing frames to match up to the front view. Each duplicate frame on the 2004 side view is noted with an asterisk* and there are no duplicate frames in the sections of the clip that will be used below.)

The segment of A-Rod's swing that I stated to be the most significant was his move into footplant and the same holds true for Jones:

Due the different camera in a different stadium, I left the number measurements off of this one. If you do want to see them, click here, but after spending time explaining what to look for in A-Rod's swing, seeing a difference becomes clearer here.

First thing I thought when I saw the difference in Jones' stance was that he would have less lateral movement forward (weight shift) since his feet are spread out so much more to begin with. This does not appear to be the case, however, when looking at this video. The overall forward movement of the hips shown in the full swing above is actually very similar, as it is in the segment of his movement into footplant. Spreading his stance did not necessarily cut down Jones' lateral movement, but what it did do is allow him to use his hips much more effectively. If Jones' wider stance did not have much impact on his actual movement forward, how does it help him use his hips better?

We see in the side view that his weight and upper body are distributed more toward his front leg which will provide a more stable base (as described in part 1). The description of spinning hips in part 1 also asserted that good movement into the front leg will help keep the front hip from "pulling off" (remember the pen example?). Judging by the stripe on his pant leg in the front view, this is the case for Jones. I do not imagine that Jones hit 22 more HRs because he had became significantly stronger over the off season, but he did figure out a way to get more out of what he already had. Strength is relatively useless if it is not applied through an efficient swing.

We now have an idea about the new position he was in that enabled him to hit with more power, but there has to be a reason why his position in 2005 is better than 2004. This is another area where the front view is helpful because it shows Jones with a little more flex in the knees and more loading in the area of his hips and upper legs. If you want to get a feel for it, stand straight up with your feet directly under you. You can stand there all day because your muscles are basically doing nothing. Now spread your feet out and squat slightly and there will be much more tension created by active muscles that are now working to support your stance. When you do a squat in the gym, this is why it is much more difficult to get up from the bottom of the squat than it is to just stand straight up with the bar across your shoulders. It's the difference between your muscles being eccentrically stretched/loaded as opposed to doing nothing.

So if A-Rod's weight shift and Jones' stance are the major visible changes in their swings, how is that related? The answer is in the effect the change has on their swings - how the change enables (or disables) them to maximize their swing efficiency. With A-Rod's more upright stance, a leg kick allows him to first load the hips and the weight shift is an indicator that his hips are being loaded until it is time to unload the swing. For Jones, a wider stance is what gets the hips loaded. This is the general effect we're trying to identify that is caused by individually specific adjustments which result in a more productive hitter.

Slowing things down with video and making different comparisons can be very useful. Then again, the information is only as good as what you are able to do with it. Go tell A-Rod he needs to shift his hips 6 more units forward like he did in '05 and please record his response because I would love to hear it. I did not play in the big leagues, but I played enough to know that a hitter does not want to hear all that analysis much less think about it. To quote Manny Ramirez, "the more you think, the slower your bat gets." A hitter wants to hear something insanely simple like "spread your stance a little more" and then he will think about all of the home runs that it will help him hit.

A coach does not have to avoid showing this type of video and analysis to a player, but the player just has to understand what is going on. Which cause will create what effect to produce what result? Things like weight shift, leg kick and stance can be merely cosmetic in that they are all things that can change - more like a band-aid than a cure. A band-aid is useless if it does not help heal the wound. The real significance for A-Rod's and Jones' adjustments has much less to do with how far they are moving forward or how wide their stance is and much more to do with how those things allow them to initiate the swing. A-Rod and Jones can change their stance, stride, or anything else they want as long as they are prepared to launch their swings like they did in 2005. Once this is established, the right phrase or thought can bridge the gap between graphic details and actual on-field adjustments that produce major league results.

Jeff Albert is owner and operator of, which is a site dedicated to baseball training and analysis. The focus is not only to identify potential areas of improvement for players, but also to simplify sometimes detailed and complex concepts so the player can do less of the thinking and more of the doing. Jeff draws from his own experience of pursuing a professional playing career, as well as working with players ranging from Little League to elite college softball to minor league levels.


I saw this comment on an message board:

"It appears that AJ is getting into the hitting zone a little more quickly with the new stance (hence the need to add frames to the old swing)....Which means he gets a wee bit more time to see the ball...with the results of fewer K's and more HR's."

I want to clarify that the 4 duplicate frames (marked with an *) that I added to the 2004 side shot do not necessarily mean that the 2005 swing is 4 frames quicker. It means that the 2004 side shot video was missing 4 frames and if I would have syncronized it without adding the frames, the video clips would not have matched up. This is also why I included the front shot - because it was not missing frames and it provides another reference to compare the side shots to.

If there was an actual 4 frame difference, then that is not just a "wee" bit quicker - that would be a monumental difference.

If you want to see how much difference one frame makes, see the Francoeur comparisons to Manny Ramirez and Vernon Wells

That said, Jones' changes in '05 did give him the opportunity to be quicker and more powerful. Even if it would not have shown up in the stats, his '05 swing was significantly better than '04.

I think an important thing that you did not mention, too, is that the widened stance has changed the position of his head and eyes.

With the wider stance he does not move his head vertically anymore, which allows him to see the ball on the same plane throughout the entire swing. Andruw was often victimized by the down and away breaking ball with his more upright stance, but he doesn't really suffer from that anymore, and I believe it is largely due to him being able to pick up the spin, break and angle better due to his more fixed perspective.

Around a month ago Andruw started rotating his back foot moreso than he had previously, which was allowing him to get more tourque without moving his head. Remember all of those homers he hit while "falling down?" Pitchers started coming inside on him to compensate for the longer extension of his hands and the loss of balance, and he has since stopped doing that.


those are definitely the kind of observations that are worth consideration

I will say first that there have recently been some very successful hitters with considerable vertical movement of the head. Griffey Jr., Giambi and Sir Barry Bonds himself all come to mind right off the bat.

The issue in my opinion again ties into what is going on in the hips. While Andruw's head was being lowered vertically, his hips and other large muscles were not being prepared to direct his bat to its final destination (contact). His swing efficiency is sigificantly better in 2005.

If you count the frames on the side shot and look between frames 20-23, 2005 Andruw is able to keep his hands/bat back a little bit longer but he still makes it to contact at the same time. This is another indicator of improved swing quickness as a result of his hands working more in unison with his body so that more energy can be transferred to the bat....leading to more consistent contact and power.

I love talking about this stuff and these are all fun issues to discuss, but had to stick to the article topic of relationship between the adjustments of Andruw and A-Rod

Jeff: Another great job.
I agree on the cause and effect.
Andruw looks like he is sitting more in his setup and is more vertically loaded.
When my students vertically load more and early, they definitely get around quicker, hit harder, and can wait longer on offspeed.
Your analysis makes these ideas clearer.
Thanks, Dave.

Tom Meagher has an interesting rebuttal as to the utility of this kind of analysis.

I respect Tom and his work, but I think he is off base here. Call me biased if you'd like, but it is my contention that Jeff's work is not "dubious" at all. Rather than writing a rebuttal based on statistical variances, I believe Tom would have been better served answering some of his own questions first.

Jeff has a library full of video clips. He is not "cherry picking" them. The limitations of space and time are such that it is impractical to do a full-fledged study showing a statistically relevant number of video clips from various seasons as part of a guest column on our site.

Changes in performance may be a function of statistical variance only, but players are living, breathing human beings and are prone to make changes, both intentionally and unintentionally. Merging what we observe with our eyes with performance analysis enriches our perspective and understanding of players and the game itself.

"Firstly, I'm not even clear on how representative the swing captures are - do all of A-Rod's swings in 2006 look like the pictured?"

No. No player ever takes the EXACT same swing over and over again. That is why I spend time explaining details about the clip to show that they are ones that I have found to be the most comparable. I won't compare a swing where a player is fooled on an 0-2 curve ball to where he nailes a 3-1 fastball.

"But if you ad hoc notice a change in statistics and decide to get all Jake Gittes on a few minutes of video"

I think you have it backwards. I am more interested than in a player's swing than in the stats, and you don't need to look at the stat page to see that A-Rod and Andruw's swings looked very very different. When you match that up with that stats, I think it only solidifies the analysis. What good is noting a player's declining OPS if you can't help him find some answers to why it is happening and/or help him fix it?

"But the explanation that the differences in numbers is just statistical variance has as much or more merit than the guess that he made mechanical changes to get more air under the ball."

Guess? This is what the video is for - so we don't have to guess. The change is his swing is as clear as can be. Not to mention the fact that Andruw himself talked about the change in his swing in the article I linked at the top of my article. And from the Yankee fan feedback, A-Rod and Mattingly have noticed A-Rod is 'opening up' early, and this comparison only gives more detailed as to why and how that is happening, as well as the impact it may be having on the field.

"The point is just that taking the performance data and trying to clarify it by cherry-picking the scouting info that would explain the fluctuation in performance data is foolish. "

The only cherry-pciking is to select clips that are as comparable as possible based on pitch type/speed, pitch location, resulting hit, camera angle and frame rate.

The articles on Giles, Francoeur, A-Rod and Andruw were done and video chosen because the issues identified in their swing can be so easily seen. I don't expect every reader to be a mechanics junkie like me, so I am choosing things that are as clearly visible as possible.

For example, I have not put out anything on Bobby Abreu. Looking at his swing before and after that '05 derby, there is just nothing that jumps out as noticeably different. There are some minor things, and minor things can often make a huge difference, but it is much easier to chalk up his declining HR rate to variance, as opposed to minor changes in his swing.

Well, well, well...Direct from the horse's mouth (as reported by Joel Sherman in Monday's New York Post):

After a 5-3 loss that diminished the Yanks' AL East lead to one game over Boston and diminished Rodriguez even further in the eyes of the fan base, A-Rod vowed the best of his 2006 season is coming.

For the first time, he revealed that during the first four months he was coping with injuries that, perhaps, should have sent him to the DL, but that he could not go due to the DL devastation already ensnaring the Yanks. He would not disclose what the injuries were. However, he said, that the problems caused both terrible throwing mechanics and a change in his swing that led him to constantly get beat with even tepid fastballs. He admits that on defense he still needs to regain his aggression, but that his swing is back and "I can see the light at the end of the tunnel."

He added, "This is the best I have felt all year" and explained that, because of that, it feels as if he "just finished spring training" and is ready to tackle the season.

Note: the emphasis is mine (for obvious reasons). Hat tip to Alex Belth.

Wanted to ask if A-Rod's mechanics have lately improved the way you would predict from your analysis given the above revelation.

I spent a while this morning looking at A-Rod's HR to right-center vs. LA Angels and it still looks like his hips are opening a little sooner than last year.