Playing Hitting Coach: Fixing Ryan Flaherty’s Swing
Buck Showalter has made it clear that Ryan Flaherty continues to get playing time due to his performance at second base. At .133/.228/.233 on the season, he’s certainly not in the lineup because of his offense.
Flaherty’s early season struggles have been often discussed on sports talk radio (when football isn’t discussed) and Twitter (through many profanities) all year long. I certainly don’t think Flaherty is a .300 hitter, but have seen some clear mistakes that could improve his numbers at the dish.
In Spring Training, Flaherty homered three times and drove in 10 in just 51 at-bats over 28 games. So far in the regular season, he’s hit just two homers and has six RBI over 90 at-bats in 29 games. I’ve speculated that his power stroke in the Spring may have led to his regular season slump. Perhaps Flaherty sees himself as much more of a power hitter than he actually is. Below are a few GIFs to help illustrate my point.
Jason Marquis didn’t shy away from Flaherty, throwing him a 92 MPH fastball in the middle of the zone. But watch Flaherty’s head as the bat moves through the zone. It’s tough to make contact when your swing is so violent that it jerks your head.
Both of Flaherty’s home runs from this season are bad examples of smooth swings. It seems that he ran into fastballs with that violent swing and happened to hit two balls out of park. I looked back to last season to find a smoother swinging Flaherty.
Here’s a grand slam he hit on September 28, 2012 on a pitch in a similar spot in the zone. Watch Flaherty go down with the bat to meet the ball and fluidly swing his hips and head through the pitch.
Here’s a homer he hit with a shorter swing in Anaheim on July 5 last season.
Again, watch Flaherty’s head move as he reaches to crush a pitch with two strikes.
For the most part, Flaherty is seeing the same pitches this season that he saw last year. 47.3 percent of the pitches he sees are fastballs, compared to 52.6 percent last season. He sees 12.9 percent sliders, 11.0 percent in 2012. 4.8 percent cutters, 6.9 percent last year. 20.7 percent changeups, 15.4 percent a year prior.
So it’s the swing more than how he’s being pitched.
I’m certainly not a hitting coach (I did, however, stay at a Holiday Inn Express), but I’d love to see Flaherty shorten up his swing, choke up on the bat and go for more slap hits. The Orioles don’t need him to hit 40 home runs (that’s what Chris Davis is for), they need him to get on base. He should follow Nick Markakis‘ lead, choke up and make contact. Especially with two strikes.