Inside the Game: Plate Adjustment has Alex Rios Back on Track
Let’s face it; Alex Rios didn’t have a very good year in 2009, matter of fact, Rios might consider “not very good” to be a compliment.
Rios went through his worst season since his second full major league season, with Toronto in 2005. He posted career worst splits in ’09, including an embarrassingly bad .296 OBP. Things went from bad to worse as the season progressed for the former two time All-Star outfielder, things which ultimately resulted in his being released in August.
They didn’t get much better for him after being picked up by the White Sox on August tenth; on the contrary, the downhill slide seemed to escalate. Over the final six weeks, a period in which Rios played 41 games and accumulated 154 PA’s, he posted a .199/229/.301 split and was eventually relegated to a pinch-hitting role.
I’m parked on the sofa last night, watching MLB Network’s highlight show, when they turned on the White Sox/Royals game. Rios hit a two run homer, but that wasn’t made me sit up and hit the rewind button.
Here’s a couple of videos for you to look at, you’ll either agree a big change is taking place, or totally think I’m nuts, but either way it’s better than reading about a hypothetical terrorist attack on Yankee Stadium.
The first link is Rios hitting a homer in May of 2008. Notice where his hands are and the flex in his knees.
The second video is of Rios with Chicago last year. You should notice his hands are a bit lower, but his crouch has become more exaggerated and his feet have become more open.
This final clip is of his homer last night; look where his hands are. About halfway through you’ll see a side view of his swing, notice how his hands don’t move as he starts the swing.
It drives me crazy to see guys crouching in the batters box like some ballerina. Look at video or pictures of the all-time great hitters, almost all of them are upright in the box. I don’t mean extreme upright like Adam LaRoche or Evan Longoria; there’s just enough flex to be balanced.
Smaller guys like Pete Rose and Rickey Henderson crouched, but they used the crouch as a trigger. Everyone, when they swing, goes up. When you’re bat passes through the strike zone, and hopefully makes contact, you’re front leg should be stick straight. You’re taking the energy from the knee flex and using it to transfer the energy in the body to your upper body; this is where the term “balanced swing” comes from.
If a hitter is too upright, or too crouched, and their upper body, specifically their hand position, doesn’t match, you become out of balance, no matter how pretty you look.
Alex Rios is 6’6”. The more he crouches, the MORE he has to come up during the swing.
Say Roy Halladay is on the mound. The dude is tough enough to hit if you’re doing everything correctly, right?
Halladay is 6’3, he is pitching off a ten inch mound, making him now seven feet tall. At the point of release, his hand is probably a good six inches to a foot above his head, he’s STILL seven feet and a couple of inches high.
And he’s throwing DOWNHILL.
So a guy with an extreme crouch, especially a tall guy with an extreme crouch, will ultimately swing OVER every pitch, even those right down the co…never mind, the middle.
Unless he makes a compensatory move with his hands.
We’ve all heard the old adage that baseball is a “game of adjustments”, which is certainly true. Players switch leagues, they sometimes switch positions; they certainly get older and lose skills as they do. One idea why some guys with a seeming endless supply of talent have short careers is because they, for some reason, don’t make adjustments.