Jimmy Rollins believes he's found hitting glitch
By Andy Martino
Inquirer Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES - Jimmy Rollins was dropped to sixth in the Phillies' batting order yesterday, but he believes he has discovered the cause of his West Coast slump.
The shortstop was 4 for 27 in the first six games of the road trip against San Diego and Los Angeles, after his early-season issues appeared resolved. Rollins was batting .199 on May 15 but improved after that, boosting his average to .230 by Monday, the first game of the trip. He hit .292 (21 for 72) between May 15 and June 2.
But Rollins has struggled for the last week. His primary issue has been the most frustrating of outcomes for a hitter, the pop-up. Tired of hitting the ball weakly in the air, he retreated to the video room after Saturday's game, in which he started on the bench and finished 0 for 2.
Scrutinizing footage of recent games, Rollins discovered a mechanical issue occurring at the moment his bat made contact with the ball: His swing was flat, meaning that his bat dropped less than an inch at contact, causing him to get under the ball and lift it in the air.
"Hitting pop-ups, usually it's something right at the point of contact when your swing is coming off the plane," he said. "Everything is good right before the point of contact - your timing and everything else - but you're flattening out your swing right at that point.
"As opposed to keeping the angle of the bat above the ball, it might just get a little flat where it's level with the ball. When you finish the swing, if you kind of go down, that creates the underneath-the-ball effect, and you pop up."
Rollins then held his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart: "It's literally between here and right there, and that's a pop-up," he said.
He closed his fingers and continued: "That's a line drive."
Opening them again an inch apart: "And that's a pop-up. And it's just that little."
"When I saw it [on Saturday], I was like, 'Oh no, what am I doing?' " he said. "It's not like I'm late, not like I'm early. I'm just down. Now I've got something else to work on."
Manager Charlie Manuel, an expert on the science of hitting, trusted Rollins' diagnosis. "I think he's probably right, because he's underneath the ball," Manuel said. "Popping up is late. Underneath, and late."