|ChrisOLeary.com > Baseball > Hitting > The Hitting Mechanic > My Experience With Andres Torres|
Andres the Giant
By the end of January 2009, Andres was probably 90 percent of the way toward having The High-Level Swing. He figured the rest out during spring training. In particular, he stopped doing the big, Alfonso Soriano style leg kick that you see in the video clip above and instead changed to a simpler, quieter double tap like Chipper Jones or Carlos Beltran. As a result, Andres hit better than .400 in Spring Training and made the Giants' 2009 squad as a Non-Roster Invite.
During the 2009 season, Andres and I talked a few times and even met in person when the Giants were in St. Louis. However, based on the video I had seen of his swing earlier on during the season, I saw that his swing was where it needed to be. What's worse, I found that he only got himself thinking if he spent too much time thinking about his mechanics. As a result, my only mechanical suggestion to him was that he try to quiet down his hands a bit at set-up. In fact, and much to to my surprise, I found myself reverting to adages -- that I used to think were worthless -- like, "See the ball. Hit the ball," in an effort to help Andres keep from thinking too much at the plate.
Get a Good Pitch to Hit
Andres and I talked just before Christmas 2009 when he was in between the winter ball seasons on Venezuela and Puerto Rico. I knew that Andres' swing and hitting mechanics were solid. As a result, my main message for him had to do with bat speed and selectivity.
While some people preach bat speed as an end in and of itself, I don't think it's a coincidence that Albert Pujols' bat speed is only 87MPH (versus to 100+ MPH batspeed numbers that some major leaguers put up and that some people say you should strive for). Instead, I think Albert Pujols' only average bat speed is part of his secret to being able to hit for both power and average.
I mentioned to Andres that, in all my clips of Albert Pujols, I have very few clips of him swinging at bad pitches. I also reminded Andres that getting a good pitch to hit (e.g. a mistake and/or a strike) was one of Ted Williams' key messages in his book The Science of Hitting.
Looking for More Power
Andres and I talked in person a number of times in August 2010 when the Giants were in St. Louis.
At the time he was obviously hitting quite well, but wanted to get even better. In particular, he wanted to hit with more power. While he was happy to be at the top of the NL leader board for doubles, he wanted to see if he could convert some of those doubles into home runs and get to 30 home runs.
Not wanting to get him thinking, I limited our discussion to The Move and the importance of the back foot to the swing. I decided to leave other topics like Loading and the Running Start, which I think could benefit him, to the off-season because I knew that he could very well break his swing if he tried to do too much too soon.
As with everything in life, you have to strike a balance between constantly trying to get better and not breaking things that aren't broken (or at least working on them at the right time, which is the off-season).
Andres had a poor start to the 2010 postseason, getting only 2 hits in the NLDS against Atlanta.
Part of the problem was that he was still recovering from an appendectomy and had lost the feel for his swing during his time off. However, a bigger part of the problem was that he was pressing and had gotten too focused on trying to hit home runs. That in turn led him to get pull crazy and become less disciplined than normal. In particular, he started trying to pull outside pitches. That is a big no-no because it is virtually impossible to do consistently.
Things only got worse during the start of the NLCS.
The Phillies saw what was going on and pitched Andres almost exclusively away, away, away. As a result, he looked terrible during the first two games of the NLCS. After Game 2 of the NLCS, it was obvious what the Phillies' strategy was, and what Andres' problem was, so I sent him a text message telling him that he had to figure out a better way of dealing with the outside pitch. I'm sure I wasn't the only person to see this or mention this, and Andres made the adjustment that he needed to make; he stopped chasing outside pitches.
The result was that Andres started drawing walks again. That in turn forced the Phillies to start throwing him strikes and he was able to get some good pitches to hit, which he did. As a result, he started to get hot in Game 4 of the NLCS and finished the NLCS tied for the team lead in batting average.
Rotational Hitting 101 DVD
My Rotational Hitting 101 DVD explains the concepts that I taught to Andres Torres that help him revamp his swing and turn his career around.
I discuss the exact mechanical improvements that Andres made to his swing in my piece on Andres Torres' Swing.
Andres Torres isn't the only professional baseball player that I have worked with.
At last count, I have one other client in the major leagues, three clients at AAA, two clients at AA, several more clients in the lower levels of the affiliated minor leagues, and three clients playing for independent minor league teams and trying to get back on the road to the major leagues. I have also worked with a number of D-1 college baseball and fast pitch softball players.
I don't give out the names of these players because I don't want to get them in trouble with their coaches. While they, and I, believe in what I teach, most of the time it contradicts what their coaches are saying, so they have to keep it to themselves and we have to work on the down low.
If you are a minor leaguer and are looking for help, e-mail me and we can talk about how you can get access to my client-only web site.
Additional free information about Rotational Hitting and the High-Level Swing is available through my private client site. To access this additional free information, and to see how much, and what kinds, of information is available to my clients, all you have to do is register.
 It's kind of pathetic, but one of my would-be competitors is trying to damage my relationship with Andres by telling him and others that I am trying to take complete credit for his success ("So Chris O'Leary is going around telling people that he taught you everything you know. What do you think about that?"). That is both wrong and ridiculous. What I did was help Andres understand...
Andres then made it happen.
 Based on how Andres was able to turn his career around after (finally) learning what good hitters actually do, you have to wonder if poor hitting instruction has something to do with the phenomenon of the AAAA player.
 I knew that Andres actually was moving his swing in the right direction with the Cubs when he went down with an injury to one of his obliques. That was a conditioning and fitness problem that indicated that he was starting to get more power from his core, but that his core wasn't properly conditioned. It made me aware of the need to make sure that people conditioned their cores as they moved to a rotational hitting based swing.
 I wasn't at all surprised when I heard that Hensley Meulens and Bruce Bochy of the Giants had banned Andres and a few other Giants from taking extra BP before games because they were concerned that they were getting obsessive about it. I also wasn't surprised when Andres' batting average experienced a significant upward surge (I believe as a result).
 You can see some good evidence that he took this lesson to heart on Andres Torres' Fangraphs page. His O-Swing%, which is the percent of the time that he swings at pitches outside of the strike zone, is 24.1%. That is down 5 points, or 20 percent, from the 29.0% number he posted in 2009. Similarly, Andres' Z-Swing% is up and his Swing% is down, two more things that suggest greater selectivity. Andres does indeed seem to be doing a better job of getting a good pitch to hit.
 I also mentioned to Andres that, in all of my clips of Pablo Sandoval, I don't have a single clip of Sandoval where he's hitting a strike. Sandoval's willingness to chase pitches out of the strike zone may have something to do with his fall off this year. In fact, if you look at Pablo Sandoval's Fangraphs page, you can see a deterioration in his selectivity numbers. His O-Swing% is up and his Z-Swing% is down significantly.
 On one of the days when the Giants were in town, Andres and I were talking hitting when he called Pablo Sandoval over. The three of us then started talking about Albert Pujols' swing and how it's consistent with what Ted Williams talks about in his book The Science of Hitting. What was funny about the conversation was that Sandoval doesn't speak much English and I speak about 10 words of Spanish, but all of us had read Ted Williams' book multiple times and knew all the diagrams in it by heart. With lots of hand-waving and some translating by Andres, the three of us had a half hour conversation about the book and how much good stuff there is in it.