Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jeter and Long Make Some Adjustments

This was written by Ben Shpigel a few days ago, but for some stupid reason I missed it.

“That’s why we’re fixing his stride,” Long said of Jeter. “If we can get him to be more direct to the ball, this could be scary. He’s still going to have slumps and struggle here and there, but we’re both pretty excited about what’s going on.” Molitor recorded 3,319 hits in his Hall of Fame career. Jeter has 2,926, most of which have been collected with mechanics that, according to Long, are slightly flawed. All hitters have a mechanism that they use to time pitches, and Jeter has always taken a stride toward the mound with his left leg. Long figured it would need to be addressed at some point, but for more than 15 seasons Jeter has overcome it with a preternatural ability to let the pitch travel deep and then get his hands through the hitting zone.

“It would have been asinine for me to go in and try to change him before,” Long said. “He’s been so good for so long, what really needed to be done?”

But that stride grew longer and drifted toward the plate, which caused Jeter to lean over. It altered Jeter’s bat path, and his timing suffered.

“Now,” Long said, “he starts to get jammed a little more. Maybe his bat slows down just a hair, but that’s significant. We can say age all we want, but I’m not buying into that. I think if we fix this, that age factor dissipates.”


[The tipping point came] In his final at-bat, in the 12th [on Sept 10th], he failed to drive in the go-ahead run from third with one out. His average plunged to a season-low .260, and Jeter received the next night off to work in the cage with Long, who asked him to lock his stride foot in place, a method employed by Albert Pujols, and then lift it up about an inch before bringing it down in the same spot. Over his final 28 games including the playoffs, he showed progress, hitting .311, but had yet to fully adopt the technique.

“You’re not asking me to put my hands in a different spot,” Long said Jeter told him. “You’re asking me to do something with my front foot that I’ve never done before.”

“He said, ‘K-Long, I don’t know what to do with all this extra time that I didn’t have before,’ ” Long said. “He said that he doesn’t have as many parts to get going into place before he reacts to the baseball. That’s exactly what I hoped he would say. That’s exactly right.”

If he can maximize that extra time, Long says, he expects Jeter, a superb opposite-field hitter, to become more efficient and explosive, driving balls to left and left-center.
Let's hope these adjustments work, because if not, the Yanks might begin to regret that four-year deal fairly quickly.

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