Friday, May 27, 2011

BuggyWhip Bugaboo: Why Coaches Feel Weird About the Domonic Brown Swing and Why They Shouldn't

This photo looks eerily similar to Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam".  Coincidence?  I think not.
Domonic Brown’s return to the majors this week gives fans their first, real, big league look at the young outfielder with some semblance of normalcy.  No longer is his growth encroached upon by injuries, phantom platoon issues, spotty playing time or brainless coaches tinkering with his swing.  He has carte blanche to kick some ass without his development being infringed upon.  Despite the fact that Brown has been smashing balls with extreme prejudice this week (his low BA is the result of bad luck in a small sample.  It’s not his fault he’s crushing balls that Drew Stubbs is intercepting like some sort of government defense missile) baseball pundits are still uncomfortable with his swing and are expressing it in TV broadcasts, post game shows and radio spots.  They’re wrong.  They have Swing Xenophobia.  Let me quell your doubts, if you have any, about the viability of Brownie’s swing at the big league level, by breaking it down piece by piece. 

You should refer to the above video several times while reading through this paragraph to look for the things I’m talking about.  It’s a nice, long at-bat from the Arizona Fall League of 2009, so click play and let it run as you read, taking peeks back to the video when the pitches are about to be thrown.  

Let’s start with Brown’s stance.  A fuss is made about the height of his hands, which start up around his eyes.  Take a second to get into your own batting stance.  Where are your hands?  They’re probably up around your shoulders.  Move them up to your eye level.  Does that feel incredibly uncomfortable?  Probably not, and it certainly doesn’t for me.  Even if his stance was incredibly unorthodox (which it’s not) it’s not as if people with weird stances haven’t succeeded in the past.  Hell, Cal Ripken Jr. had more batting stances than Arnold Schwarzenegger has illegitimate children and he was a no girly-man at the dish.  So we’re over Brown’s stance.

Now let’s look at the beginning of his swing.  It appears Brown starts his swing, at least a little bit, during just about every pitch.  It was a concern for me at first.  I thought maybe he had trouble with pitch recognition and was constantly checking his swing.  Turns out it’s just something he kinda does.  It’s not without its benefits.  It allows him to spoil pitches he’s late to recognize as strikes because his bat is already half way there. 
If Brownie decides he wants to let loose with a full swing, he accelerates his bat at such an impressive rate that it makes up for that slower start.  You can see it in the video.  His bat starts slow and then explodes through the hitting zone.  He is well balanced and rotates his hips, an indication of power potential.
Brown’s swing is a little unorthodox, sure, but he is so freakishly athletic (he had a scholarship to play baseball and football for The U but opted to sign with the Phils) that he makes it work.  So Greg Gross, there’s no reason to try to change something that Brown’s been successful with for the past 5 years just because you can’t wrap your head around it.

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