Saturday, June 9, 2012

Espinosa tries to get right from the left

US Presswire photo
Danny Espinosa reached base three times last night from the right side of the plate.
BOSTON -- Halfway through Friday night's game, Danny Espinosa could do no wrong. He had stepped to the plate three times and reached safely three times. He'd doubled twice, walked once, driven in a run and stolen third base.

"I feel like no one can get me out," he said. "I feel pretty good. I have a good approach up there. I know what I can hit, and I know what I can't hit. I feel good."

All of this, of course, came against left-hander Felix Doubront. Once the Red Sox brought in a couple of right-handed relievers later in the game, Espinosa fell back into his old habits and went 0-for-2.

This is just the way things have gone this season for the Nationals' switch-hitting second baseman. From the right side of the plate, he's hitting .368 while slugging a robust .684. From the left side of the plate, he's hitting .191 while slugging a putrid .293.

The disparity is baffling to Espinosa, who has always believed himself to be a better left-handed hitter than right-handed hitter, even if his stats at the big-league level don't support that.

In 771 career plate appearances from the left side, he's hitting .215 with a .372 slugging percentage. In 219 career plate appearances from the right side, he's hitting .289 with a .542 slugging percentage.

Why such a dramatic difference?

"I don't know," he said. "It's been real weird for me. My whole life, I was a better left-handed hitter. It's kind of just a confusion thing. I don't understand it."

There do appear to be some mechanical reasons for it. Nationals coaches believe Espinosa tends to use too much of his upper body and not enough of his legs when swinging left-handed. He's much more efficient from the right side.

"When he doesn't use his lower half, he kind of gets under it and misses his pitch," bench coach Randy Knorr said. "That's what I see from the dugout watching him."

Knorr has been watching Espinosa for some time and managed him at Class AA Harrisburg in 2010, when he hit 18 homers in only 99 games and excelled as a switch-hitter.

"He swung great from both sides," Knorr said. "There was one game he hit three home runs the day before he got called up. I think he hit two right-handed and one left-handed. I mean, it was pretty incredible. He just needs to get back there. He's got to relax and just trust his ability and get back to being confident on the left side."

Espinosa wishes he could just take what he does right-handed and apply to his left-handed at-bats. But even when he's on top of his game, they're two different swings.

All he can do is try to remain confident that he can regain his lost stroke from what he's always believed to be his best side of the plate.

"It's just been a work in progress this whole year," he said. "It gets frustrating at times, because my whole life I've been a better hitter left-handed. I'm just like: 'Why am I all of a sudden struggling left-handed?' Right-handed, I can't get out. I just got to keep with it."


SonnyG10 said...

I think its well worth trying to get Danny straightened out on his left-handed at bats. We need his strong arm and defense at second base, especially during the shift they put on against Ortiz. Danny needed all that arm strength to get Ortiz out.

rogieshan said...

Interesting that there's a quote from Knorr, who makes an astute observation about Espinosa's swing, but none from Eckstein, the team's batting coach.

No question Espinosa's defense is gold-glove caliber. But with his offensive struggle, his bat belongs in the eighth hole. Having him higher in the order isn't going to cure his hitting woes.

JaneB said...

Why does he havevto switch hit, if he is better from the right? Not a rhetorical question.

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