They say Baseball is a game of adjustments. You have to constantly adjust because your opponent is doing the same thing, almost like a cat and mouse game.
For a few seasons, Vernon Wells lost himself – getting away from the player that earned a seven-year $126 million contract with Toronto. Seemingly in a downward spiral, Wells was relegated to the fifth outfield spot on the Angels coming into this season, where he would play out his contract and retire after the ’14 season.
From 2002 when he became an everyday player, up until 2010 – his last year with Toronto – Wells averaged 25 homers and 89 RBIs while hitting .279. In his two seasons with LA, he averaged 18 homers, 48 RBIs and a weak .222 avg.
Coming into 2013 at the age of 34, Wells decided a change was necessary. He had become so pull-conscious and homer-happy, his swing was out of whack. He had become a feast or famine type guy, who almost always pulled the ball. According to an article written by Dave D’Alessandro of the Newark Star Ledger, Wells was quoted as saying: “It’s not about power numbers — it’s about my swing… It’s about being a good hitter and homers coming off that.”
Wells then looked at a lot of tape of himself, even going back to when he was a 20 year-old in 1999. “The reason I slipped was glaring: It was my point of contact. It was so far out in front of me, the only thing I could do was pull the ball and roll over them,” Wells said in the story.
Wells has closed his stance a bit, moved closer to the plate and is more balanced and low, which enables him to hit balls the opposite way. By noticing his point of contact was out in front of him, he is now letting the ball travel deep into the zone. The improvement was seen in Spring Training, as he hit .333 with 4 homers and 12 RBIs in 17 games.
The success has spilled over into the regular season; coming into tonight’s game with Cleveland, Wells is hitting .381 with 2 homers, 4 RBIs and a .500 OBP. In Yesterday’s win over the Indians, Wells had three hits – all of them going to right field. Last year, he accumulated 3 hits ALL season the other way. Usually you’ll hear hitting coaches say that when a guy is going the other way with pitches, he is locked in and seeing the ball really well.
Wells’ patience has also improved. Last year in 262 PA’s, Wells walked only 16 times. So far already with the Yankees, in 26 plate appearances, he has walked five times – a much better pace. This means he is seeing the ball clearly, and not chasing out of the zone.
Although his current pace is most likely unsustainable over the course of a full season, the Yankees are benefiting from Wells’ adjustments. It is a small sample size to judge a player on (7 games) but the quickness in his bat is evident.
To illustrate just how different Wells’ approach is, here is a picture comparing his stance from 2010 (.273, 33 homers, 88 RBIs with TOR) 2012 (.230, 11 homers, 29 RBIs with LA) and this season with the Yankees. Wells has gone back to what made him successful in Toronto. For the Yankees and their fans, they hope the results continue.