Before we get started, it’s worth noting that while I obviously have more personal interest in exploring the idea that Tyler Flowers has vastly improved than I have in exploring whether Alejandro De Aza and Jeff Keppinger will still be employed in baseball at the end of May, both ideas have equal amounts of statistical basis to them at this point in the season. Which is to say they have none.
However, while we’re here just watching games and watching Tyler Flowers, there’s no harm in discussing what we’ve seen, provided we remain at the level of noting our observations and holding off on inferences. I will say, it’s probably unlikely he finishes the season hitting .571/.700/1.429.
“From the hitting sessions supervised by Manto, assistant hitting coach Harold Baines and even manager Robin Ventura, at times, Manto spoke of the adjustments made by Flowers all offseason to keep his back side from collapsing. Flowers had been sending Manto video of his workouts from the past few months, and Manto would make suggestions and critiques.”
Back in August of 2011, when Flowers was getting his first substantial amount of playing time, Colin from South Side Sox put this “collapsing back side” into plain terms.
“There was good reason the Sox spent last season trying to change up his swing. “Pretty” is not the preferred nomenclature. He gets good bat speed, but it’s the result of a hitch, sticking his ass out and throwing his arms at the ball. It’s almost Uribean.”
Here’s the hitch in its prime moment. This is an opposite field double Flowers hit off Ubaldo Jimenez on Aug. 17, 2011
You can still pick out moments of Flowers hunched over now if you want. Like his home run off Ervin Santana just this past Wednesday.
That final part of the load looks to be here to stay. The changes that have been made look to be attempting to reduce the trip to get there. First of all, he starts things off bending his enormous frame into a crouch.
As recently as Aug. 11 of last year, he was darn near upright at the same point in the pitcher’s delivery.
To tack on, or as a result–I won’t pretend to know–the leg kick is quieter and quicker. Here’s Tyler dangling his hoof later in the day on Aug. 11, 2012.
On Opening Day, Flowers used a smaller stride forward that cuts off just a tad lower.
Every swing looks better when it finishes with a 400-foot bomb clearing the wall, but when so much of pre-season optimism is based on feel and environment, it’s notable that another Manto offseason project is coming out looking demonstratively different mechanically.
Flowers is an enormous man with a big load-up process, so it will be worth checking up on his mechanics and crouch throughout the year, since Dayan Viciedo has certainly demonstrated that not everything sticks upon first implementation.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan