Lets jump in the way back machine Sherman, and Mr. Peabody, get in here as well...we are going back to...March 2006! (Insert Time Travel noises here)
Wow! Its a whoppin' month and a half ago. I sure do love this way back machine Peabody...Peabody? Sherman? Where'd they...?? Oh well, I guess it is just me now. Wow!!! Look, it is me...and I am excited reading about Rondell White! Oh to be so pleased with a signing. Well, enough of the way back March 2006-ed-ness...back we come to April 17th, 2006.
Currently, the #4 hitter in the line-up, and the man who I was personally VERY pleased to see signed is hitting .085 on the year. To put this in perspective, my Welsh Corgi (small herding dog) is currently hitting .197 in Beloit. Of course Leon, the Corgi, is facing Low-A ball pitching...but he is a dog. And he barely weighs 25 pounds. A major league hitter, and a "professional" hitter should probably have a higher average than my dog. I think this puts a good analogy to the fact that nobody at the MLB level, let alone a clean-up hitter, should be hitting .085. The boos have fallen on Rondell, and he has accepted them, stating "I asked to be a DH" and "there is no excuse for my performance." So the big question is...What is going on with Rondell??
Rondell has been a .287 (or there abouts) career hitter. A swing between .287 and .085 indicates a few potential factors: 1) injury 2) lack of comfort in surroundings 3) A change of approach at the plate. From all reports, Rondell is healthy, and from other reports, he truly enjoys his teammates/playing for the twins; that being said, numbers 1 and 2 are out of contention. This leaves a change of approach, and this gels with what I have been seeing/saying since opening day. Lets examine Rondell's poor hitting mechanics, and how he can adjust out of it.
First and foremost, I feel that the new hitting coach Vavra needs a call or an email. As the coach, he should be working on this hitting issue of Rondell's. If I can see an error in his stroke, from the upper deck, left field seats (section 237 for anyone scoring at home) then Vavra, sitting approximately 20 yards away should be dealing with this. Anyway, on to the analysis...
I found a few video clips of Rondell hitting last year in Detroit, and then I watched a few clips of his AB's this year. The major difference is the timing between Rondell's lead foot, and his hips/front shoulder/hands. In his Detroit footage, Rondell had the bigger leg kick as he does now, but that was starting his body/his bat through the zone. From last season's footage, Rondell started his leg kick and as his front foot hit the ground, his hips and his hands were already moving. By doing so, Rondell was giving himself the proper balance and timing to meet the ball as it came through the zone. Now lets fast forward to April 2006, with Rondell the twin.
The leg kick remains the same, but the remainder of the swing is just plain ugly. His lead foot is being set down and there is a split second hesitation between his hands/arms/hips being set into motion. That split second of lost "fluidness" is where Rondell is getting all out of whack. Instead of torque-ing his body through the hitting zone, he is off balance. His hesitation is hindering his timing, and his ability to hit the ball as he has in the past. With this "hitch in his giddy-up," Rondell can't meet the ball whatsoever, because he needs to basically lunge at the ball to get his bat moving at a speed which would allow him to make contact with a major league pitch.
This explains his high quantity of pop-ups, balls driven into the ground, and his checked swings. Thus far in 2006 White has not been in control of his bat. To compensate for his delay in this swing motion, he seems to be throwing his body at the ball, throwing off timing, and clearly frustrating the player and fans alike. By lunging or throwing himself at the ball, his arms are moving faster than his body, and he must slow them down, hence the check swings. And when he does swing all the way through, his bat, as aforementioned, is out of his control resulting in those pop-ups and lazy ground balls due to lack of fluidness. It is time to go back to the basics.
The solution to this issue for Rondell is to simply hit, hit and hit. Get out there with Vavra and make him watch his hands. This is a simple mechanics/timing problem. As soon as that lead foot is working with the body, instead of working against it, those doubles will return. The talent is there, and the swing will come back. But it seems that a very bad habit has been learned and the only way to fix it is by correcting/un-learning that habit. It will take work, but if he can just start his hands/hips as his lead foot hits the ground...we will be seeing the kind of AB's that Detroit was seeing for many years.
Don't give up on Rondell yet...but Mr. Gardenhire, if you are reading, maybe drop him in the order until he and your hitting coach get this remedied.