The Evolution of Domonic Brown

In the comments of my post on spring training stats, Pablo requested some .gifs showing the differences in Brown’s swing over the past few years. I grabbed a .gif of Brown homering off of Justin Verlander in 2011, and of Brown homering off of Zach Nuding, which you can see after the jump.

First thought: wow, camera technology sure has changed in a couple years.

Let’s break the swing down. Here is a comparison of how he prepared for each pitch:

Brown’s stance is noticeably more closed now, and his front foot lift is more direct. His hands move less on load and are closer to his body.

Brown’s hands travel a much smaller distance. It is hard to tell from the camera angle in the 2012 .gif, but the timing between his front foot landing and contact with the baseball is shorter. Due to the closed stance, he no longer “bails” towards right field.

The 2010 .gif may look uncomfortable, but it has more to do with the location of the pitches: Verlander’s was quite a bit more inside than Nuding’s. For that reason, comparisons here are more difficult, but Brown’s swing does look more level and controlled now. He now finishes with better posture; in 2010, he popped up like a compressed coil.

Me, though, I’m just some schlub who is playing “spot the differences”. Let’s get some input from a real expert.

Matt Gelb (@magelb) posted an article earlier that discussed the synergy between Brown and Joyner that explains some other changes.

“I came in early and we started talking,” Joyner said. “I just asked him to try a couple of things and he locked it right in.”

The changes were to Brown’s hands, specifically, how he gripped the bat. At times, Brown would wrap his hands and wrists around the bat.

[...]

“We straightened his hands out a little bit, allowing his wrists to cock,” Joyner said. “He’s a big boy. He looks great. We want to take advantage of that size and leverage. That’s one of the assets that Ryan Howard has. And he uses it. He has a lot of leverage. He stays behind it.”

It is difficult to infer grip from the .gifs, but it does make a lot of sense. Hopefully, by the time spring training ends, Brown will have figured out mechanics that are both comfortable and maximize his effectiveness at the plate.

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10 comments

  1. MattWinks

    February 27, 2013 04:34 PM

    With all the tinkering over the years, it might be more interesting to see if the swing continues to look the same over the course of the spring

  2. Eric Longenhagen

    February 27, 2013 04:53 PM

    Bill asked me to comment on the post. I just want to bring up a few caveats.

    First, Swing mechanics are best judged from several angles, most importantly one perpendicular to the flight path of the pitch. It’s hard to do hardcore analysis of a swing from your couch or computer.

    Second, the camera angles in these two Gifs are different (look at how much you can see of the plate) which can cause you to see changes that may not actually be there.

    Third, I don’t think saying Brown has an open “stance” in the Verlander HR is meaningful as much as he remains open after he strides. No matter your stance, you have to come closed. Luis Gonzalez had an open stance but came closed when he took his stride. That’s all that matters. Brown stays open in the Verlander HR (as far as we can tell with the camera), not ideal, clearly impacts his balance in a bad way.

    Fourth, if his front foot does ideed touch down closer to contact with the ball, I think that’s a bad thing. I like when that front foot gets down early. Slow, quiet feet, are ideal. This requires lengthy, verbal explanation. Podcast.

  3. Phillie697

    February 27, 2013 04:54 PM

    Maybe it’s like Tiger; needs a year or so to get comfortable with the swing, LOL. But yeah, the difference is quite pronounced.

    Also, maybe it is because the pitches were different, but Brown seems to have a more uppercut swing today than back in 2011. With his plate discipline, that’s actually not necessarily a bad thing.

  4. Pablo

    February 27, 2013 06:57 PM

    Thank you Bill and Eric for the .GIFs and analysis! Great read.

  5. futties

    February 27, 2013 08:21 PM

    have had a feeling the past couple months that, given the shot, db will show a lot this year. he appears a real good kid with a ton of talent, and just a decent hitting coach/mentor away from bringing it on. i think back to the early ’50s, durocher handling mays in such a wonderful manner the kid’s raw goods developed to perfection. btw, i realize you guys need ads to survive here. but…’find a chinese wife’!?? yo.

  6. LTG

    February 27, 2013 10:58 PM

    Futties is my new favorite.

  7. Ryan

    February 28, 2013 08:28 AM

    Gripping the bat in your fingers is something that I learned in 6th grade. Why the fuck did it take this long for someone to recommend this to Dom Brown?

  8. Phan Analysis

    March 01, 2013 03:56 AM

    First point, there are definite differences between the videos; the angle is slightly off as Eric said, and the location of the pitches is making a pretty big difference. Brown (somewhat) got jammed against Verlander, as you can tell by his hand position at the end of the swing (tight to his body). That could have effected his unbalanced position after contact.

    Either way though, you can at least tell that there are differences, though they may be more pronounced because of the above situations.

    I don’t really see an uppercut on this year’s swing. Look at his back shoulder, it doesn’t come down any further than you could expect on any swing, and it come right back to square quickly after contact.

    The goal is to bring the bat straight from the load point (a) to the point of contact (b), rolling your wrists on impact, and obviously moving upward through your backswing afterward.

    As far as the hand position, I know exactly what Joyner means. I had an instructor back in High School that had me line up the first knuckles on my fingers when holding the bat. It feels weird at first, but helps with more than you would think.

    If you were to get a bat, hold it like that, take a half swing (ending in the position where you would contact the ball), then have someone push against the bat in the direction the ball would travel, then do the same thing while holding the bat in a normal “comfortable” position, you would feel the difference in power and leverage on the bat.

    It’s hard to explain without a demonstration, but it essentially puts the “heels” of your palms in line with your arms, getting more of the energy from your arms into the bat, then into the ball.

    My instructor explained by comparing it to Bruce Lee hitting with the heel of his hand instead of punching with a fist. You line up both heels by lining up those knuckles, therefore transferring much more energy to the bat.

    If it doesn’t make sense, it didn’t to me either back then, until I got in the cage. If you have a bat, or a cage nearby, try it. You will be amazed.

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