The Batter's EyeMarch 31, 2007
Cleveland's Promising Left Side
By Jeff Albert

Jhonny Peralta and Andy Marte make up the young and talented left side of Cleveland's infield. Peralta started off with a bang in 2005, and it has been noted this spring that he revived his physical condition and also corrected a vision problem. Marte has been followed by the hype associated with a top prospect, and now is the time for him to show if he can live up to the expectations.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to Rich that Peralta was a guy who I immediately liked in terms of his swing. Short and powerful, it looked like the type of stoke that would support the type of numbers he was putting up as a rookie. In 2006, however, Peralta hit a bump in the road, but as I monitored his swing, there did not seem to be a significant physical difference. Here is a look:

Both of these clips are home run swings that are synched to contact, with the 2005 version on the left and 2006 on the right. Being rather picky, Peralta appears to carry his hands a little higher in the clip from 2005 and perhaps this allows him to get to the ball slightly quicker. Toe touch and foot plant occur at about the same time, which indicate that his overall swing timing is very similar, but it does look like his hands start a little earlier in 2006. It is a very small difference, costing maybe a slight amount of power. It is not a major red flag, in my opinion.

As part of one of my winter classes, I did research on vision and timing during the baseball swing and this made me think coincidentally of Peralta. Was it possible that he was just not seeing the ball the same way? Apparently, this was the case . Peralta went through with a Lasik surgery procedure this off-season to correct myopia (near sightedness). Now that his vision has been restored, I will be looking for Peralta to bounce back for some solid numbers at the plate. Indians GM Mark Shapiro recently said, "He [Peralta] just needs to be closer to the guy he was in '05," and I agree with the boss here that this can be done.

In Marte's case, reaching his potential with the bat might be more of a painstaking process. Bryan Smith gave me a heads up on this one by sending me an email from Florida after watching the Indians during spring training. He commented that Marte's swing looked long and dominated by the action of his arms. I happened to have a shot of J.D. Drew, whose swing looks quite similar and shows which adjustments might allow Marte to become the power bat that Cleveland is hoping for:

Both swings are home runs to the pull gap, again synchronized to contact. Let's look at images from each segment (launch, middle and contact) to see a bit of cause and effect, and hopefully how some adjustments at the beginning of Marte's swing might translate into more consistent, powerful contact. Here is the launch of the swing at the time where the stride foot is landing:

Of interest here is that Marte has more external rotation of his rear arm going into footplant. Both players are rather quiet in terms of loading the hands (shoulder-scapula region, really), but Drew stays quieter for longer, which I think it a good thing. In other words, Marte is starting to unload his shoulders-hands-bat earlier than Drew and this may be costing him efficiency and power. Moving forward a few frames, this still image gives an idea of the developing problem in the swing:

Although the angle is slightly different, Marte's hands appear further behind his back shoulder. I think Drew is in a better position that is more indicative of his ability to transfer rotational momentum from his hips and torso into contact, where it really counts. Now we come to the moment of truth:

The early disconnection in Marte's swing shows up here as he pushes his hands forward in more of a linear move than what Drew is showing. A graphic in Robert Adair's The Physics of Baseball explains this concept most simply: the idea is that the knob slows and changes direction which transfers energy to the bat head for maximum bat speed. Drew is essentially showing a more effective release of the bat head into contact.

Because the duration of a player's swing time (actual time he is unloading) is so short, roughly .2 seconds, it is virtually impossible to recover from any early breakdowns in the swing. Many hitters talk about getting into good positions to hit, and this is time factor is why those good positions are so important. A possible step 1 for Marte would be attempting to tighten up the load-unload that launches his swing and see how that affects the release of his bat into contact (easier said than done).

If nothing else, this would allow him to be a bit quicker to the ball and perhaps improve plate discipline and batting average. Consistent power could very well develop if Marte is able to finish off his swing in a more Drew-like manner.

In an effort to foster Marte's development at the big league level, Cleveland will be batting him in the 9-hole to reduce expectations. This might very well pay off if the message gets through that Marte does not have to be the man, but can focus on making necessary adjusments. Often times, players need opportunities to "fail" (take one step back before taking two steps forward) and this appears to be Marte's chance. He can now focus on the day to day process of refining his swing, and hopefully for Indians fans, the results will fall into place.


Neat posts, one observation.

In the very first set of images on Marte and Drew I would say Marte's head moves a lot more than Drew's around the time of contact.

Do you think this might be part of the reason for his batting average struggles?

yes, good observation. The head moving back is usually an indicator that the axis of rotation is not stationary (it's moving back in this case - rather early, I might add). This presents problems not only in tracking the ball, but also forces more of a reach/push with the hands, which you can see is different in Marte and Drew. These things are all very related.