The last time I talked about Vernon Wells, I was optimistic about some of the changes he made to his swing. Considering the money the Yankees dished out for the left fielder, I'll assume the organization felt the same way. Over the last few years, Wells has fallen from one of the top outfielders to someone close to negative value. His walk and contact rates decreased and his swings outside of the zone and strike outs increased.
When talking to the media this Spring, he said that he'd fallen into a bad habit of trying to hit home runs, and after looking at video from last decade, decided to change his swing so that he could go to all fields. This was somewhat surprising, considering Wells hasn't gone to opposite field in a very long time. Over his career he has a 21 wRC+ to right field, and when you total it up, only 22% of his batted balls have gone in that direction.
Above are all the batted balls he's had over the first 8 games of the year. It's a awfully small sample size, but it's good to see that he is indeed hitting the ball to all parts of the park. It's mostly fly balls we're seeing in right, but those can translate very well in Yankee Stadium.
Not only is he spreading the ball around, but he's taking pitches. His 5 walks thus far are already close to 1/3rd of what he had all of last season, and a quarter of what he had in 2011.
At the moment he's hitting .360/.467/.720, but I wouldn't make too much of that. He's obviously not going to continue putting up Barry Bonds numbers. What I'm looking for is the type of contact he's making and where the balls are landing. Obviously we're seeing good hit placement, but the batted ball rates have also been strong. 25% of his hits have been line drives thus far, 45% have been fly balls, and only 30% have been ground balls. While this is small sample size, these are the exact things that Wells talked about fixing this Spring, and it's good to see he's on the right track.
We're obviously going to need a few more months of data before we start to talk about him rebounding, but at least he's on the right track. The Yankees will be in very good shape if the 34-year old can turn the clock back to his Toronto days.