Ballplayers make adjustments all the time. Some shift their necks to get a better look at the ball. Others get contact lenses that contrast the paleness of the baseball from the rest of the color spectrum. Most of the altering goes unnoticed,, only the aesthetic and the changes that fringe near a hot streak are talked about heavily. With that said, apologies ahead of time for making this "one of those" situations, but with all the buzz regarding a new hitting coach's mission to "fix B.J. Upton", let's take a look at Upton's swing.
This is May:
This is October:
Upon viewing the gifs (featured above) one major league scout swooned over Upton's bat speed, calling his quick wrists a "gift" and "beautiful". The scout quickly made note of Upton's front leg in the image from May; predicting the amount of weight placed up front would change in the altered swing. Sure enough, Upton's leg appears stiffer in the most recent clip. He explained that Upton appeared to get his foot down quicker in the second clip as well, potentially allowing for less of the weight transfer to be lost prior to contact with the ball.
Of course sample size concerns run rampant when dealing with two clips that were very much hand-picked for consumption. Jaime Cevallos - mostly known for his work with Ben Zobrist - offered an analysis of his own on Upton's swing. In a five minute video analysis, Cevallos pointed out Upton's lowered swing plane. By doing so, Upton shrinks what Cevallos refers to as "the impact zone", and thus limits his ability to hit for power. The technique preached by Cevallos includes keeping the bat parallel to the plate, thus allowing the batter to increase his chances of squaring the ball up.
Cevallos did note that he is a fan of Upton's front foot movement; a pre-swing maneuver in which Upton essentially points the heel of his foot towards the pitcher's mound, then re-adjusts it inward. This allows him to keep his hips closed, something he seems to have no problem doing. His shoulders, however, are a different story and are the cause for concern in Cevallos' analysis. In contrast to Upton, Cevallos projected images of Ken Griffey Jr. and Ted Williams for comparison. Now obviously most hitters look inferior when compared to a pair of the prettiest swings and greatest hitters of all-time, but Cevallos' point was to show the ability Griffey possesses to change on the fly and Williams' expanded impact zone based on his bat positioning.
The scout agreed, to an extent. "Some guys are in the zone longer than general," he said, "but they have less power if in the zone forever, because that means a level swing without much loft. Either way, you can't see that from the center field angle."
Two things that both agreed on: the swings are basically identical -- only the pitch type and hit direction truly vary -- and Upton's front shoulder flies open through his swing. This flaw, in theory, leaves him vulnerable to pitches away. Hopefully the new hitting coach can help Upton adjust next year and in the process make all this worrying go away.