“I was working on a bunch of things mechanically (in spring training),” Hafner said. “And then basically scrapped everything and really tried to simplify my swing to the point where there’s nothing going on. And I’ve had a lot of success with that. It feels really good and really simple. Hopefully I’ve found something that can be really good and consistent.”
Travis Hafner has been one of the hottest the Yankees thus far, and has carried the team to wins with a few early season home runs. We only have two weeks of data at this point, but Hafner has already been accused of being "rejuvenated" by pinstripes. I like to think this "rejuvenation" is the work of his hitting coach and months of preparation, rather than the symbol on his hat. The quote above tells us that the left-hander has done some work to his swing, and I was interested in seeing the difference between this year and last year.
The GIF above shows a home run hit in 2012 and 2013. While the one in 2012 came on a two-handed follow through, and the one in 2013 was hit on a one-handed follow through, Hafner has not ditched the former. This season, the designated hitter has alternated between these two approaches, and it looks like he chooses the two-handed approach on pitches up or in, while the one-handed approach comes on pitches that are low or away.
The biggest difference in his swing, is on contact with the pitch. In 2012 and 2013, Hafner begins in an open stance and on stride he brings his front foot parallel to the plate. But when unloading his hips, you'll see both his front and back feet pivot back to an open stance in 2012. In 2013, his feet do not pivot, and he remains in a square stance after the stride.
On contact with the pitch, you'll see that 2012's stance is open, with his front foot further from home plate than his back foot. Open stances are most commonly used by pull hitters, but the majority of these types of hitters come to a square position on contact. Hafner's 2012 position reverts back to open, and in theory this should negatively affect his ability to hit pitches around the strike zone. He compensates for the outside pitch by standing very close the plate, but that didn't help him on low pitches.
The above graph shows his ISO on pitches around the zone, and as you can see, Hafner had a tough time pulling pitches down in the strike zone.
In 2013, Hafner's stance remains square on contact, and this should allow him to better cover the plate better. In the GIF above, Hafner is hitting a home run on a pitch low in the strike zone, something that only happened once in his 219 at bats last year.