Alex Gordon and the Uppercut

I’ve studied Alex Gordon’s swing for sometime now.  The biggest reason is I have a player who I think looks nearly identical to Alex in his swing.  This is both good and bad.  It is good because when everything matches up the ball can be crushed.  It is bad because this generates a lot of top spin when hitting which causes the ball to sink hard and fall quickly rather than carry to the gaps and eventually over the fence.  We’ve worked very hard to get this kids hips evened out more at contact and not allowing the back hip to collapse.  When a batter’s back leg collapses, it generates tremendous loft on a baseball because the bat is driving through the hitting zone in hard upper cut fashion.  Keeping the back hip high allows the bat to be flatter coming through the hitting zone which produces more line drives and in the long run, more power.  It’s a very tough thing to do especially when you’ve got people telling you that you need to produce more fly balls because you’ll hit more home runs as the case was with my player.  The goal is to help the player hit for more power, but in the long run, it causes the player to strike out more, the average to go down, and most of the time, the power to decrease slightly at first and then dramatically as that player faces tougher pitching.  This is because a player stops hitting the line drive.  Instead, everything is hit with loft.  Those line drive singles turn into lazy fly balls.  Those long doubles into the gaps turn into high lofty flies that hang up and turn into outs near the warning track.  A player has now changed what it took to get him to where he was.

Evidently Alex felt he needed to produce for more power after he was drafted by the Royals.  I’m not sure if this was something Alex was told by a member of the Royals personnel or if it’s something he decided he needed to do in order to live up to the Future Cornerstone name he received.  Either way, when a player starts trying to produce more power he tends to fall into bad habits.  And this is exactly the habit that Alex has fallen into.  I’m sure the pressure for Alex was enormous and this continued to push him into the uppercut mode.

The upper cut type of swing is not really a recommended style, but it’s one that has become somewhat popular these days.  If the upper cut is not at to much of an angle, the ball will still have backspin coming off the bat if it is centered properly.  But when a batter gets to much angle into his swing, there tends to be a lot of top spin which actually makes the ball drop faster and not travel as far.  This is a fine line to tread.  Many times, a batter who has to much upper cut makes great contact generating great backspin, only to see the ball go 250 feet for a high fly out to one of the outfielders.  This is something I think Alex has struggled with for several years.

I stumbled across some old You Tube footage of Alex Gordon while he was at the University of Nebraska.  I wanted to search to see when Alex developed this overly aggressive upper cut.  The swings that I saw at Nebraska were much better than his swing currently with the Royals.  It was shorter, flatter, and in the long run, may have generated better results.  And it’s a swing I hope he can get back too.  Comparing the swing then and now, you can definitely see how Alex has tried to generate more power into his swing.  I think this is one of the reasons he’s had a propensity to strike out frequently and is unable to handle ball up in the strike zone.  You see, with the upper cut approach, a batter’s hands dip quite severely.  Once your hands get below the baseball, you have an incredibly hard time matching the velocity of the pitch with your bat, allowing you to make good contact.  Many times you end up swinging underneath the pitch because you are late to the contact point.  If the velocity from your swing had been high enough to meet a ball at the proper contact point, it would have been crushed.  But it’s hard to generate the amount of bat speed needed because you have to go up to the ball and your eye’s perception is slightly behind.  A batter needs to keep his hands above the ball until the contact point.  This is, of course, easier said than done.  In the case of an upper cut swinger, they hit the pitch middle of the thigh and down best because their hands stay on top of the ball the best.  But when the pitcher’s velocity isn’t quite as good and they can get the bat through the zone and to the contact point on a pitch up, watch out because it’s going to go.

The swing I would like to see Alex implement is fairly similar to the one he has now.  The exception would be to keep the hips flatter allowing the back hip to drive through the ball.  This would allow the hands to stay above the ball until contact, the knob to stay between the belly button and the ball, and generate great backspin.  The change would improve his power production, his batting average, and cut down on strikeouts because his contact would be better.

Alex’s uppercut got better throughout the season but is still not quite fixed.  I’m sure that Kevin Seitzer will work hard with Alex this offseason to help fix this mechanical issue.  It’s not an easy one to fix and will take a lot of hard work and a long time.  But I promise you the results will be better for Alex and the Royals if he and Kevin can get this fixed.  And once they get this fixed and his swing back to the shorter, quicker, flatter version that I saw at the University of Nebraska, watch out American League Central because you’ll get blasted.

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5 Responses to Alex Gordon and the Uppercut

  1. bet365 italia says:

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  2. kmartin says:

    Did you happen to view any footage from his time in Wichita? Just wondering if he developed the upper cut after he was promoted to the bigs. One has to wonder, while with the big league team, why he was allowed to get away with that type of swing. They must have thought he would turn into a Jim Edmonds type hitter.

    • drew.osborne says:

      It’s hard to find footage for some reason. I found a YouTube clip with one HR swing but it didn’t look like he had the uppercut. He must have developed it when he got to the bigs. The pressure he must have felt would be extreme. I think that is one reason he developed the upper cut because he was trying to meet the unrealistic expectations. If I could tell Alex anything, it would be go back to playing the way you play. Don’t try to be a player that you are not, be the player you are.

  3. […] Alex Gordon as great as a Uppercut « Scouting The Royals […]

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