Time to Start Giving Kevin Long Credit
If you were asked to rattle off the names of some great pitching coaches, you would probably name people like Dave Duncan and Leo Mazzone. If you were asked to name a great hitting coach, you’re doing would most likely draw a blank.
Part of the reason is there’s an assumption that hitting coaches don’t do a whole lot. In essence, they show video or making suggestions, but their impact is generally regarded to be minimal. For some reason, there’s a belief that hitting and a batting stance is an innate ability. As the Mets have seen with Kevin Long, it’s time for that narrative to change.
Since coming to the Mets in 2015, he has helped players hit for more power.
As has been noted, Kevin Long was hired by the Mets, in part, to help resurrect Curtis Granderson. In 2014, Granderson hit a disappointing .227/.326/.388 with 27 doubles, two triples, and 20 homeruns. Long worked with Granderson on getting his hands in the right position and having a more compact swing. In 2015, Granderson hit a much better .259/.364/.457 with 33 doubles, two triples, and 26 homeruns.
Long hasn’t only had success with Granderson.
When Yoenis Cespedes came to the Mets, he was hitting .293/.323/.506 with 18 homers in 102 games. He was in the midst of what was a career year for him. Aside from working with Cespedes in the cage, he encouraged Cespedes to play golf. This helped Cespedes both clear his mind and focus on keeping his hands in. In 57 games with the Mets, Cespedes hit .287/.337/.604 with 17 homeruns.
This year Kevin Long has been working with and getting more power out of Neil Walker. Coming into this season, Walker was a .272/.338/.431 hitter who averaged 16 homers a year. Against lefties, he was a career .265/.321/.335 hitter with just 3 homeruns in six full seasons (seven total). Walker and Long worked on his leg kick and how he uses the lower half of his body. So far, Walker is hitting .500/.500/1.643 against lefties with three homers, and overall, he’s hitting .300/.325/.638 with a major league leading nine homeruns.
Now, it’s unrealistic to expect Cespedes to maintain his 2015 pace, and it’s unrealistic to expect Walker to keep up his current pace. With that said, it’s clear Long has an ability to work with hitters to get them to hit for more power than they have in the past. It’s become his trademark.
It’s time he starts to receive some of the accolades he’s deserved.