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Ben Revere proving baseball is a game of inches

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On Tuesday night, in a 8-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers, Ben Revere went two-for-five on the night and had his average settle in at .317 – one one-hundredth of a point behind teammate and three-time American League batting champion Joe Mauer. This average was a far cry from his numbers last year when on this same day he was hitting a paltry .245.

After being sent to Rochester in the early part of 2012, Revere worked with Red Wings hitting coach Tom Brunansky to get his swing back to the one which was producing consistent .300 averages over his minor league career. Together they found one small difference in his major league and minor league swing.

In a recent conversation with Fangraphs.com’s David Laurila, Revere explained what he had changed in order to gain these statistical improvements:

“Last year, I was rounding up a bunch of balls. I was coming around them and getting jammed. I watched film of myself, and coming up through the minors, I had my hands higher. When I went back down to Triple-A [this year], I told my hitting coach, Tom Brunansky, what was wrong, and we did some drills. Now I’m keeping my hands higher, so that I can go down and stay through the ball – instead of having them low where I come around and get jammed on fastballs right down the middle and a little bit inside.”

{snip}

“I only moved my hands an inch – a couple of inches, maybe. It was a little, small detail that has helped out a lot. I was talking to [Brunansky] and he said that with some guys, you change a whole bunch about them. With me it was just a couple of inches on my hands. That was it. I did that and feel like I’m back to my old self.”
Here is a side-by-side comparison of Revere 2011 stance and his 2012 stance. Notice how Revere’s hand placement is not necessarily higher but it is more perpendicular to the ground. Certainly the bottom hand is in a more elevated position in 2012 versus the 2011 edition:

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What about Revere’s claims that the new positioning has helped him handle the inside pitch better?

Last year he labored against pitches on the inner half of the plate. According to Inside Edge’s data Revere had a .036 well-hit ball average on those thrown inside in 2011 which was the third lowest in all of baseball. Because of that he posted a .389 OPS when pulling the ball – the worst mark in the MLB. This season however, Revere has put the ball into play at a much better rate – even on pitches being thrown closer to him. By Inside Edge’s numbers Revere is now posting a .169 well-hit average on pitches inside. And – while it is not a Josh Willingham-sian figure, mind you – he has a .620 OPS when turning on a pitch.

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An inch. Maybe a couple. That’s it.

That’s offensively. What about in the outfield where he covers many more inches than the rest of his right field brethren?

Inside Edge has also added defensive data to their repertoire. Unlike Ultimate Zone Rating or Plus/Minus which bases their numbers on a grid-like pattern on the field, Inside Edge’s data is pure scouting. They gauge plays made or missed for outfielders in several buckets for potential for making the play – Almost Certain, Likely, Even Chance, Unlikely and Remote. An Almost Certain is essentially a can-of-corn fly ball hit right at a player while a Remote play looks a lot like this one.

Across the board, Revere is currently the best-in-class among right fielders in 2012:

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Although his defensive prowess was never truly in question, Revere has transformed from a player whom many figured to be an offensive liability to one who can hit his way on base regularly. He is proving that he can be a vital component of this Twins lineup – inch by inch.
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