(Yeesh, guy. Courtesy of Matthew O'Haren/Icon SMI)
There's been a lot of chatter around the Yankosphere in the last week or so regarding the work that the Kevins, Youkilis and Long, are putting in trying to tinker with Youkilis' batting stance and swing, chatter that I've managed to steer clear of up until now. It's not that I don't think the chatter is worthwhile; I'm just more of a "see it and analyze it" kind of guy when it comes to swing mechanics, and with just mental pictures of the changes right now I didn't feel qualified to offer my 2 cents on how optimistic I am that the changes will return positive dividends.
But as for the effort itself, I'll offer my 2 cents on that, and the truth is that I have mixed feelings on the matter. Logically the whole plan makes perfect sense. Youkilis has been declining the last few years, been getting beaten inside, and has always had a lot of pre-swing movement in his mechanics. Dr. Long specializes in eliminating pre-swing movement, quieting players' mechanics down, and setting them up to have better plate coverage. This experiment should be a match made in baseball heaven.
But part of me worries if Youkilis is in "old dog learning new tricks" territory and too far past his prime to make these adjustments work. Guys with overly funky swing mechanics always seem to be good at making those mechanics work for them, at least as far as I can recall, and after 9 years in the Majors I wonder if Youkilis has the ability to change his game now. Long got to C-Grand and Cano a little earlier in their careers to help them adjust; it was more of an expansion of their offensive capabilities rather than a last-ditch reclamation project like Youkilis' situation seems to be.
Regardless of what happens, I will say that I think this is absolutely what Youkilis and the Yankees should be doing. He needs to at least try to change something up to see if he can regain his elite form and extend his career as a viable everyday player. And the Yankees have nothing to lose by taking a shot to try to unlock some of Youkilis' lost hitting skill and maximize their return on a 1-year investment. If it doesn't work, so be it. If it does, they might just end up getting some good value out of third base this season after all.
P.S.- Let this be my official declaration that I am never going to refer to Kevin Youkilis as "Youk." I can look past his past transgressions and forgive his previous Fraud Sawx associations because they're in the past and he's in a Yankee uniform now. But the Bahhston fans, the pathetic Fraud Sawx Nation, gave Youkilis that nickname, and as far as I'm concerned that's where it can stay.