Kevin Long: 21st Century hitting guru

Kevin LongKevin Long has been the Mets batting coach since the 2015 season. Previously he had been the Yankee batting coach from 2007-2014. Long so far has been the kind of batting coach who can make good hitters even better. Some of his specialties include wringing more power from hitters, and helping left-handed batters improve against lefties.

As to power, the 2014 Mets team did not have much, the team SLG was .364. Long then arrived, and 2015 saw a bump up to .400, and the 2016 season saw a further rise to .417. Of course, there are plenty of other factors in the power increase besides the coach including the arrival of Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline in 2015.

There are some interesting individual cases to look at with respect to Long’s reign. Curtis Granderson had been signed by the Mets after the 2013 season. Previously he had played with the Yanks, where the batting coach had been Long, and where Granderson had been a feared power hitter. Granderson’s 2014 season with the Mets had been a disappointment, with a slash line of .227/.326/.388 with 20 homers. Then in 2015 after Long’s arrival with the Mets, the slash line looked much better with .259/.364/.457 with 26 round-trippers. In 2016 the results were .237/.335/.464 and 30 home runs. Note the SLG and home run totals increased every year, despite Granderson aging out of prime baseball production years.

Another example is Daniel Murphy. Murphy had been a good hitter prior to Long’s arrival, but mainly as a base hit machine, lots of singles and doubles, but not much in the way of homers. Long and Murphy worked together to change his swing to provide more power. It’s not always easy to get a veteran, especially a successful one, to revamp his swing, but Murphy was willing to give it a try.

Basically, Long had Murphy stand closer to the plate, lower his stance, tweak his hand positioning and use his legs more to pull and drive the ball. At first, the results were not good, Murphy had a slow start with an SLG of only .346 for April of 2015. Things began to improve as Murphy caught fire, for the last 50 games of the regular season his SLG soared to .533.

Then came the post-season where for the NLDS and NLCS Murphy had a combined slash line of .421/.436/1.026 and seven homers to lead the Mets into the World Series. Although his World Series stats were not impressive, Murphy had a tremendous batting year in 2016 with his new approach and finished second in the NL MVP voting, unfortunately wearing a Washington uniform. Murphy credits Long and assistant batting coach Pat Roessler for significant help in his make over into a slugger.

Other Mets who have have been influenced include Lucas Duda who in 2015 saw his batting against left-handers improve, Neil Walker, and even Yoenis Cespedes. Long did not change Cespedes’ swing, but rather emphasized pitch selectivity, using video to show Cespedes the futility of chasing the high hard one. Consequently, in 2016 Cespedes saw his OBP rise to .354 from .328 the previous year, and saw his strikeouts decline from 159 in 2015 to 108 in 2016.

There have been other hitting gurus in the past, notably Charlie Lau from the late ’60s into the 1980s. Times were different then, and Lau’s philosophy was different as well. Lau emphasized hitting down on the ball and going the opposite way on outside pitches. That approach worked then, one reason being that there were significantly more astroturf fields in those days, including Kansas City where Lau spent much of his time, being credited by George Brett for dramatic improvement. Hitting hard grounders on artificial turf can work very well especially when the fielders were not quite as agile as they are today. Long’s power approach is perhaps more appropriate for the current age where getting the ball in the air is the key to batting success.

There has been talk on these pages and elsewhere of extending the contracts of some of the Mets young starting pitchers. Maybe it’s time for the front office to think about extending the contract of our 21st century hitting guru?

Yankees MiLB Spring Training Lineups – 3/22/16

Yankees

Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders (Triple A)

  1. Williams, DH
  2. Fleming, 2B
  3. Ford, DH
  4. Bichette, 3B
  5. Payton, RF
  6. Culver, SS
  7. Krill, 1B
  8. Diaz F, C
  9. Robertson, CF
  10. Diaz C, LF

Pitching

  1. Keller
  2. McNamara
  3. Montgomery M
  4. Bisacca
  5. Kamplain
  6. Ruth

Substitutions/Bench

Report: Yankees Release 8 Minor Leaguers

Sean Carley earned his second save of the season. (Robert M Pimpsner)

Baseball America has reported that the New York Yankees have released eight minor league players from their contracts.  They are Sean Carley, visit site to read more]

Did Ty Kelly hurt his chances of making the Mets?

Ty KellyAt the beginning of spring training, Ty Kelly had a legitimate chance of making the Mets roster as either a fifth outfielder or third baseman.  A strong showing in camp could have made a strong case for him being with the team; instead, he opted to play for team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.  While the experience of playing in an international tournament may be a special and exciting experience a player on the fringe of making a major-league roster may have been better served by participating in a major-league camp.

As a rookie in 2016 Kelly hit .241 with one home run and seven RBI in 58 at bats.  While these are not stellar stats he still flashed some potential to produce as a part-time player.  The Mets entered the spring with a very crowded outfield, so the chances of him catching on there would be slim.  Third base, on the other hand, could have been a very real possibility to pick up some playing with the likely extended absence of David Wright.

In six games for Israel, Kelly had five hits in 24 at-bats with no home runs or RBI.  He had a .321 OBP, while a decent showing the time he missed from major league camp will be sorely missed. He will most likely start the season atTriple-AA hoping for a call-up.

While Kelly was off playing in the tournament another young Mets player fighting for a roster spot was in camp getting at-bats and making noise that player is Michael Conforto.  With the way, the roster shook out after the offseason, he was the odd man out.  Instead of pouting about likely starting the season in the minors, he worked out over the offseason and came into camp looking trimmer than last season.

He has hit his way into the conversation in a big way.  So far, this spring he has hit .356 with two home runs and four RBI in 45 at bats.  He has also been solid defensively and has flashed an accurate arm in the outfield.  He has all but secured a roster spot in the eyes of most Mets fans.  Though management could say he needs to play atTriple -A to get regular at-bats, he has proven he has nothing left to learn at that level.

The Mets should be able to give veterans enough days off to secure Conforto at least four starts a week in the outfield.  He has also been doing some work at first to give him another possible avenue to gain some at-bats.

While playing in the World Baseball Classic may seem like an enticing opportunity for young players, they are probably better off staying in camp and gaining more valuable experience.  It is better suited for veteran players, though I would prefer star players on the Mets to skip it altogether to avoid possible injuries.

Mets360 2017 projections: Jeurys Familia and Addison Reed

Last year, the suspension for Aroldis Chapman for his domestic violence case was handed out on March 1. Here it is March 21 and we’re still waiting for a decision to be announced on Jeurys Familia. You can say that the league didn’t want to take away from the World Baseball Classic but now that the Dominican Republic has been eliminated, there’s no reason to wait any longer. At the very least, let’s hope that the Commissioner’s office has notified the Mets’ brass and they know what the deal is.

Most of us have been operating under the assumption that Familia will get the same month-long suspension that Chapman did. Someone will have to get Saves while Familia is unable to go and the assumption is that Addison Reed, who was so good last year, will pick up the slack. So, here are our individual forecasts for both Familia and Reed:

Familia       Reed      
  IP ERA WHIP Saves IP ERA WHIP Saves
Dalton Allsion 62 2.57 1.175 40 78 3.28 1.245 15
Joe Barbieri 55.3 2.53 1.080 31 46 3.59 1.260 8
John Fo 55 2.35 1.150 40 80 2.25 0.950 8
Charlie Hangley 64 2.61 1.270 43 72 2.27 1.130 14
Brian Joura 65 2.71 1.222 35 77 2.50 1.120 10
Mike Koehler 60 2.45 1.200 37 80 2.15 1.100 12
Matt Netter 70 2.20 1.100 45 85 2.40 1.050 8
Jim O’Malley 65 2.86 1.180 35 85 2.80 1.100 9
Rob Rogan 53 2.85 1.250 34 76 3.25 1.200 12
Mike Ry 73.3 2.49 0.970 32 85 2.34 1.120 8
Chris Walendin 66 2.35 1.150 38 80 2.25 0.990 16

We all see Familia pitching quite well when he gets to the mound; there’s just a difference over how many Save opportunities he will receive. Joe sees him picking up 31 Saves this year while Matt has a projection of 45. In perhaps a bit of a surprise, four of our 11-person panel feel he’s going to crack 40 Saves again this season.

There’s more variance among our group when it comes to Reed. Most of us feel he’ll turn in another strong performance, with Mike K’s 2.15 ERA leading the charge for the optimists. Yet three guys feel his ERA will top three, with Joe’s 3.59 being the most bearish. This time last year that wouldn’t have seemed bearish at all. But since becoming a Met, Reed has a 1.84 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP in 93 IP.

Here are our official forecasts for both pitchers:

2017Closers

If the Mets get these performances from their top two relievers, the bullpen should be a strong point again. Here’s what the computer models project:

Familia       Reed      
  IP ERA WHIP Saves IP ERA WHIP Saves
Mets360 62.7 2.53 1.175 37 76.7 2.40 1.120 11
Steamer 65 3.17 1.260 38 65 3.61 1.200 2
ZiPS 76 2.96 1.200 47 69.3 3.12 1.110 9

Ours are the most optimistic with ERA. We also have the best WHIP but not by any obscene amount. And combining the two pitchers together, we are in the middle in Saves. The computers don’t realize a suspension is a strong possibility. Steamer has 40 Saves, we have 48 and ZiPS has 56.

Pinstriped Profile: Miguel Andujar

Miguel Andujar in the Arizona Fall League ( Ryan "Moose" Morris - Freelance Photographer)

Miguel Andujar was signed by the  Yankees July 2, 2011, at 16 years old out of the Dominican Republic. Andujar received the highest bonus in the Yankees’ 2011-12 international class, as he signed for $750,000 and jumped straight to the Gulf Coast League to make his professional debut the following … [visit site to read more]

Pinstriped Profile: Ben Heller

Ben Heller with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders   (Photo by Cheryl Purcell)

Ben Heller is a 25-year-old right-handed reliever who was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft by the Cleveland Indians out of Olivet Nazarene University in Olivet, Ill. Heller was traded to the \ Yankees in a deal that sent visit site to read more]

[VIDEO] Ian Clarkin fields a bunt for an out in a MiLB Spring Training game on March 19, 2017

Ian Clarkin (Bryan Green)


[VIDEO] Ian Clarkin fields a bunt for an out in a MiLB Spring Training game on March 19, … [visit site to read more]

[VIDEO] Mason Williams gets a base hit in a MiLB Spring Training game for the SWB RailRiders on March 19, 2017

Mason Williams (Bryan Green)


[VIDEO] Mason Williams gets a base hit in a MiLB Spring Training game for the SWB RailRiders on March 19, … [visit site to read more]

[VIDEO] Billy Fleming Hits an RBI single in a MiLB Spring Training game on March 19, 2017

Billy Fleming (Photo by Martin Griff)

 
[VIDEO] Billy Fleming Hits an RBI single in a MiLB Spring Training game on March 19, … [visit site to read more]