(picture courtesy of i-Yankees)
While the Yankees are still looking for another left fielder to compete with Brett Gardner in 2010 season, the Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long is getting ready to prepare for war.
Kevin Long is responsible for Robinson's Cano turn-around season in 2009. Cano improve his production (HR, AVE, OBP, SLG). Long took some time-out with Cano during the 2008 off-season. The two met in Dominican Republic and did batting practice.
This year Long will be working again with the Yankee sluggers. Here is a list on the players that needs improvement:
Nick Swisher was great during the regular season but he vanished when the play-offs began. Opposing pitchers saw a flaw on Swisher's batting mechanics.... off-speed pitches.
Swisher's performance dip to a low of .083 in the World Series. That is not acceptable for the Yankees. And that captured the attention of Kevin Long.
Long’s first stop was to meet with Swisher in December of 2009 at Pinnacle High School in Phoenix, where the switch-hitting outfielder continued adjustments that were sparked during the World Series against the Phillies, quieting his movements and allowing him to better respond on offspeed pitches.
“To Swish’s credit, he wanted to get it right and he wanted to start early,” Long said. “He’s a man on a mission. I think the playoffs opened up his eyes to how pitchers can throw offspeed pitches over and over again to expose you. He was ready to take another step forward.”
Swisher’s postseason was one of frustration, best identified by his bases-loaded popup against the Angels’ Brian Fuentes in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. “Swish is a fastball hitter, and in the playoffs, he got a steady diet of offspeed stuff,” Long said. “They were able to throw them for strikes, and Swish’s swing has a lot of movement to it. The new mechanics are going to control some of those movements and put him in a better position.
“We’ve got his hands closer to his body, and we’ve got to get him consistent with his lower half. If we do all of those things, you might see a guy who’s able to react better to an off-speed pitch.”
Needs to improve on: Off-speed pitches
Granderson is a great addition for the Yankees. His power numbers will be felt and might see a career high in home runs with the Yankee Stadium short right field porch.
The problem is Granderson's weakness against lefties.
He's obviously more productive against right-handed pitching, but he's had productive years against left-handed pitching -- and a lot of non-productive years," Long said. "My job is to try to get him to feel as comfortable as possible, without forcing it. I don't know what he's done in the past, but I'd really like to get a sense of his mentality against left-handed pitching."
Needs to improve on: Batting against left handed pitchers
Gardner is visioned to be the Yankees starting left fielder and batting in the 9th hole. To maximize the speedster's talent Long has to improve on Gardner's batting consistency and on-base percentage to get on base. When he is on base he can create havoc with his speed.
Bunting is a skill that Gardner needs to use a lot to be more effective. He doesn't need to hit home runs, his goal is just to reach 1st base and let his quickness do the rest.
Needs to improve on: Getting on base to maximize his speed
I already mentioned that Cano has improved in almost every category. What he needs to develop is Runners in scoring position (RISP). Cano is poor in RISP forcing to end an inning with men on base. That is why Cano is batting in the 7th hole because of this flaw.
If Cano improve on this he can be position in the 5th hole giving protection to A-Rod.
Needs to improve on: Runners in scoring position
That's 5 regular players that Long needs to give attention to be more competitive in the 2010 season. Long also needs to spend some time with their reserves. Guys like Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena, Juan Miranda (possibly), and Jamie Hoffmann.
Kevin Long is also waiting for the coming of the Yankees new outfielder. As of now the only available free agents that the Yankees are interested in are Johnny Damon, Reed Johnson, Jonny Gomes and Rocco Baldelli.
That is why it is important to get one if this guys on board so that Long will have enough time to condition them and develop their weakness.
It's going to be a busy off-season for Kevin Long. For most people Spring is the best time to have vacation. For Kevin Long it's work, work and work.