Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 9/18/12

The San Diego Padres didn’t play on Monday, which means the San Diego Padres didn’t win on Monday. We currently live in a world in which this is an infrequent occurrence. We currently live in a world in which the Padres, Orioles, and A’s keep on winning, and the Red Sox have one of their worst rosters people can remember. In some ways this was a gradual shift and in other ways this was rather sudden. Anyhow, the Padres have been amazing, and one of the players allowing them to be amazing has been Cameron Maybin.

Last offseason, it wouldn’t have seemed weird to know that Maybin would help the Padres down the stretch in 2012. Two offseasons ago, sure, for two reasons, but last offseason, Maybin was coming off a year in which he seemed to put his skills together. Maybin was 24 years old in 2011, and for three years in a row he had been a Baseball America top-10 prospect. Last year was a career year and the Padres rewarded Maybin for his development with a five-year contract. It seemed like he was becoming the player he was supposed to be.

But after Maybin figured it out in 2011, he lost it again to begin 2012. Maybin was left in the position of having to figure it out again.

Full disclosure: some of what’s to come, I’ve already written about elsewhere. This piece is a follow-up to that one. We’re going to talk about a small mechanical change that Maybin made between games on July 1 and July 2. Through July 1, Maybin was absolutely miserable. He owned a .570 OPS, a year after posting a .716 OPS. A .716 OPS is hardly remarkable on its own, but Maybin did that playing every day, and playing half the days in Petco Park. He was worth nearly five wins over replacement. Now, here’s Maybin swinging on July 1. Watch his front foot.

Here’s Maybin swinging on July 2. Again, watch his front foot.

On July 1, Maybin finished 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. On July 2, Maybin finished 2-for-4 with a double and what was at that point baseball’s longest home run of the season. The Padres’ announcers talked about the little tweak that Maybin had made, and clearly it paid immediate dividends. If Maybin was looking for a reason to stick with his adjustment, he got one right away. It took no time at all for Maybin to feel encouraged.

For Maybin, it was all about timing. The idea was that, by changing and reducing his stride, he could feel more in control, and get a better look at the pitches on the way. Slumping players frequently make tweaks, and sometimes they do something and sometimes they do nothing. The evidence suggests that Maybin’s tweak has done something.

Here’s Maybin from a recent highlight. He’s stuck with his adjustment.

The splits are pretty dramatic:

MAYBIN OPS ISO BABIP Through 7/1 0.570 0.087 0.250 Since 7/2 0.794 0.127 0.364

We’re talking about an OPS gain of more than 200 points, and an Isolated-Power gain of nearly 50 percent. A lot of that might be explained by the increase in BABIP, but the BABIP also suggests better contact. One figured the slumping Maybin was going to regress to a higher level of performance, but this is exceeding simple regression.

This table might be more telling, depending on your opinion of what is and isn’t more telling:

MAYBIN Contact% O-Swing% Z-Swing% BB% K% GB% Through 7/1 79% 25% 63% 9% 21% 58% Since 7/2 83% 27% 72% 7% 18% 54%

Since making a change, Maybin has increased his contact, he’s dropped his strikeouts, and he’s become more aggressive on pitches in the strike zone, which I suppose might have to do with the tweak and might not. Maybin’s still a groundball hitter, but the numbers he’s lost in the grounder category have been redistributed into the line-drive category. Maybin has changed as a hitter — not completely, but in part, and for the better.

It’s absolutely fascinating that Maybin has essentially been able to do this on the fly, changing between two games, because we’re talking about undoing years and years and years of muscle memory. Here’s the first Maybin highlight available on MLB.com, from 2008 when Maybin was a Marlin:

Maybin always lifted his foot, until he didn’t anymore. Muscle memory is what makes tweaks to pitching mechanics so difficult to stick with. Your body will naturally do what’s familiar, and it takes a while to change what the body thinks is familiar. Imagine switching two keys on your keyboard. Not just the key labels, but also the functions. Imagine swapping the E and the M. Imagine doing that and trying to type. You’d screw up over and over, then you’d have to consciously focus on pressing the right keys. It would take a long time before you were familiar with the new keyboard on autopilot. You’d be re-wiring your brain.

Maybin re-wired his brain, and in his own words, it hasn’t been easy, because why would it be easy?

Maintaining the change, however, has been a chore for Maybin, who had used that high leg kick in his stance for as long as he can remember. At times, he admits that he’s fighting some old muscle memory in his at-bats.

“It’s tough,” Maybin said. “I’m a pretty good athlete and I’ve been able to make the adjustment, … but sometimes my body still wants to do it. It wants to get up there.”

Maybin says he’s seeing the ball better now, and the statistical evidence backs him up. It’s nothing short of astonishing that he’s been able to fold this in and stick with it day to day. It helps that he’s been getting more positive results, which serve as encouragement.

What’s also interesting is what Maybin was, and what he appears to be turning into. For one thing, recall that Maybin had his breakout 2011 while still using the high foot lift. He had success over a full season with that approach and now he’s finding success only after changing that approach. That might seem odd, but baseball’s hardly static. Players are always adjusting to players, so players are always having to adjust back.

And Maybin was never a contact hitter before. Last year he made contact with less than 74 percent of his swings. Even first-half, slumping 2012 Maybin posted a contact rate of 79 percent. Since July 2 it’s gone up to 83 percent. Early on, Maybin was getting his bat on the ball more often; now he’s getting the bat on the ball and hitting it with authority even more often. Maybin isn’t turning back into the guy that he was in 2011. He’s turning into a different guy who’s also successful.

I of course have to note that we can’t prove causation, and that this could all be due to a coincidence, or something else. I also have to note that the sample sizes are small and we don’t know how much is signal and how much is noise. What it certainly looks like, though, is that Cameron Maybin made a little adjustment, and it’s helped him out in a big way. Adjustments don’t always work this well, but Maybin’s has apparently worked exactly this well. In 2011, Cameron Maybin figured out how to succeed over a full season. In 2012, Cameron Maybin seems to have figured out how to succeed all over again.


GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Brady issues statement on Facebook after having suspension lifted

Don Orsillo reportedly asked to lie about being fired by NESN

Matt Cassel believes Bills will keep three quarterbacks

St. Louis police seize scalpers' World Series tickets to give to friends

Eli Manning happy Tom Brady will play NFL season opener

Phil Kessel has shed 13 pounds this summer

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Cam Newton addresses ‘gang’ photo on Instagram

Steelers defense is younger and faster but not better

Duke basketball to visit White House next Tuesday

Report: Cowboys have interest in Broncos RB Montee Ball

NFL owners to discuss changing Goodell's disciplinary role

Report: Eagles trade Matt Barkley to Arizona Cardinals

WATCH: Ben Revere gifted Matt Wieters a home run

Judge Sarah Thomas as an NFL official, not a female NFL official

Simona Halep popular with fans who want to kiss her

Patriots planned on raising a "Brady banner on opening night

Braves and Phillies sucking at the same time is rare

Montana St. linebacker delivers bone crushing hit in opener

Despite loss, all eyes still on Jim Harbaugh, Wolverines

Kirk Cousins discusses what it’s like to be called ‘Kurt’

Playoffs or not, Bryce Harper is the NL MVP

Donald Sterling’s wife Shelly seeking alimony

Chicago Bears and Jay Cutler: A love/hate relationship

Likely scenarios for current MLB front-office vacancies

Seven takeaways from Eagles final preseason game

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Tom Brady issues statement on Facebook

Robert Griffin III and a dream deferred

Best, worst surprises of NFL preseason

The Gospel Of Harbaugh prepares for its ultimate test of faith

Meet the Utah Utes, the pluckiest program in college football

Iman Shumpert will name daughter Iman Shumpert Jr.

Dallas company celebrates Romo with DirecTV 'crownies'

Top 10 storylines for Week 4 of the NFL preseason

Matt Williams is still hopelessly married to the idea of the closer’s role

Five unique CFB games to watch this weekend

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker