Every spring, players will come back with changes to their swing. Some are minor, some are dramatic, but all are done to try and find success. Unless you are supremely gifted like Ken Griffey Jr., you rarely keep the same swing your entire career. It has to evolve and adjust.
"Sports at the highest level it’s about survival and adjusting," said shortstop Brendan Ryan. "The guys competing against you, they’re doing their homework. They are looking for you weaknesses, you just try to give yourself the best chance."
So during Monday's first full workout, both Ryan and Dustin Ackley had noticeable swing changes, which were mentioned here.
Both players discussed the changes a little today.
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For Ackley, the change is noticeable at the beginning. He starts with his shoulders almost facing the pitcher. And as the pitch goes into his motion, he slides them back to parallel to the plate.
Said Ackley: "That’s something I’ve been doing a lot this offseason, just trying to get my swing in a good position to hit. It’s been working all offseason, so I’m going to take it into the spring, and hopefully the season, and see where it goes from there."
What does it do for him?
"It just puts me in good hitting positions," he said. "Last year, with the old stance I had, there was no separation, my hands, and everything. I worked on it a lot this offseason just to get that feel of maybe what it used to feel like, as opposed to last year, when I didn’t really know what was going on. I think that was important for me this offseason.
Ackley has a collection of friends and coaches he trusts that he hits with in the offseason that helped him with the changes. Last year was the worst offensive season of any point in baseball career.
"That was really the only season I’ve ever hit that low," he said. "It’s tough. That’s a tough road. You always expect to do well and to expect good things from yourself. And to not do that is pretty tough. I think going through that is probably going to be important for me for my career - to know that I’ve been there and know how to handle those situations. It was bad last year but I think it’s going to be a good thing for me in the long term."
For Ryan, something had to change. I hit .190 last season. And while it didn't affect him in the field, the struggles at the plate wore on him daily.
"I think last year I was just making it more difficult on myself," he said.
So he simplified everything up. He has moved his hands up and out away from his body pre-swing. It's not as drastic as Ackley in some ways.
Said Ryan: I want to get my hands away from me, away from my body. I don’t want to get myself tied. I can kind of get myself tied up being so close to my body. (Michael) Morse actually does it too. He’s got his hands way out from his body. And then they come back and get in a natural hitting position. As long as I’m in a good hitting position, I will say with it. Dave (Hansen) likes where it’s at. We’ll stay with that. It feels good."
This is a change that Ryan made on his own. Hansen also agreed with it.
"It was just something I was thinking about in the offseason something I’ve been talking about," Ryan said. "I wanted to see how it would feel and what it would like when I wanted to attack the ball. It seems like its getting me in a good hitting position."
It's actually a simple premise. He tried to uncomplicate with his swings.
"The idea was to get more simple," he said. "More simple is more repeatable and more repeatable is headed to being more consistent. That’s where I need to be. Something can be confident with and be able to repeat. I felt like looking back at my swing last year during the offseason, it seemed like a lot of things had to be aligned for it to work. I wanted to be more basic and get back to the fundamentals of hitting. Less is more. "
Will the changes help Ackley and Ryan? It certainly can't hurt to try.