Here’s an interesting bit of text via Bryan Hoch from early March:
The goal is to cut out the movement of Johnson’s back foot in the box, which should help him generate power.
“I’m just trying not to drift, trying to be more direct,” Johnson said. “I’m working on turning my back foot. When I don’t do it, I slide. That’s what I’ve done pretty much my whole career.”
The flaw was something that [Kevin] Long identified shortly after the Yankees signed Johnson to a one-year, $5.75 million contract to serve as their designated hitter, replacing World Series MVP Hideki Matsui. Clearly, there was something that could be done to make Johnson operate more efficiently.
“When I watched his film and the video, it was striking that his back foot was slipping out and collapsing,” Long said. “I thought that was one of the first areas that we’d address.”
So Johnson bunked up with Long at his Arizona home for two days over the offseason, going through the paces of a mini-hitting clinic that could open him up to the inside pitch more often.
“I just try to put a good swing on the ball,” Johnson said. “I’m not up there trying to hit homers. I just get on base and try to turn that back side, that’s all I’ve been working on.”
It’s amazing that the problem hasn’t been previously corrected, one that leaves Johnson pelting line drives over the third-base dugout when he’s going bad. It dates back as far as his first Yankees go-round, a reporter reminded Johnson humorously on Tuesday — frustrated during batting practice, shortstop Derek Jeter once yelled out, “Pull the ball, Nick!”
“I knew I always had a bad lower half,” Johnson said. “It’s something that I’ve never really gotten comfortable. I just use my hands. I watched a lot of film of guys who do it that way, so I’m looking forward to that.”
I know Long and Johnson were working towards “correcting” the back leg issue, however, I also wonder if Johnson’s early season struggles are at all tied to the decision to alter what he has admittedly done for his entire career. Even if his stance is not perfect from a mechanical point of view, one could argue that it has worked for him offensively. Perhaps modifying his stance has been counterproductive, as it is forcing Johnson to do something that he isn’t particularly comfortable with. In this sense, Johnson would be the anti-Nick Swisher (Swisher’s stance change is working). Now, I don’t know whether or not this could be true, rather, I’m just speculating for discussion’s sake.
What do you think? Is it possible Johnson tried to adjust and, instead of helping, it has hurt him?
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