Fixing Jenkins

Jenkins is having a poor year so far. By salary standards especially. With that fat contract come expectations of higher production. His VORP (value over replacement player) of 6.3 puts him with Bradley Hawpe 6.7, Mike Tucker 5.6 and Jason Lane 5.4. Those three post a total 2005 salary of 2.7 million.

Jenkins' 7.3 million dollar contract will be the last great catastrophic bumble in a long line of catastrophic bumbles by which we will mark the Selig dynasty. Unless of course he turns it around and returns to all-star caliber baseball.

He can do it and here is how.

Jenkins has actually gotten too patient at the plate, and he needs to be more aggressive.

Jenkins has gone through a transformation since the 2000 season, his peak year at 25 years old, when he posted a .948 OPS and 34 HRs in 512 ABs. Injuries limited him in 2001 and 2002, and in 2003 he flirted with his peak season again this time posting a .913 OPS with 28 HRs.

Let's look at what has happened over the last couple of years.

Opposite Field
Jenkins patience has resulted in a switch from being a dead pull hitter to having most of his power go to the opposite field. Let's look at Miller Park numbers for 2003-2005. Numbers are broken out by where the ball was hit, Left-Center-Right.

Year HRs   2Bs
2003 3-4-9 4-6-5
2004 4-1-8 6-6-6
2005 3-1-0 2-0-0

You can see that in 2003 most of his power went to right field, in 2004 power was to right again but more evenly spread and in 2005 all his power at Miller park has been to left field, the opposite field. Go back to Jenkins' hitting chart for 2000 at County Stadium, you can see how dramatic the effects of being a pull hitter are.

Pitching Inside
Everyone (except the Minnesota Twins of the American League) has found Jenkins' achilles heel. The inside breaking ball. The rare times he doesn't dribble it to the second baseman it's an automatic strike out. Everyone knows this. It's painfully predictable with two strikes.

The Butch Wynegar philosophy, as far as I can tell from second hand accounts, is for the most part an excellent one. With two strikes you can't wait for your pitch, you have to shorten up your string, aim for the opposite field and protect the strike zone. This works great for guys like Billy Hall, Brady Clark, Carlos Lee, Lyle Overbay, even Wes Helms. Hitters who aren't dead pull hitters, guys who can cover the whole strike zone and have a good eye. These guys wouldn't succeed if they weren't patient, if they couldn't hit with two strikes. Pitchers are forced to give them something earlier in the count that they can drive.

Jenkins cannot hit pitches inside. And he certainly, certainly cannot drive them to the opposite field with two strikes. Jenkins when he is behind in the count is dead meat.

Behind in the Count
You'd expect hitters to hit worse when behind in the count, right? And I was expecting Jenkins to hit worse than average in this situation. But even I was surprised at his 2005 splits.

.                   ABs OPS  K
Ahead in the Count  76 .979  9
Behind in the Count 80 .323 38

In 2003 10 of his 28 HRs came with 2 strikes. In 2005 0 HRs with 2 strikes. He's probably not seeing any 2 strike fastballs this year.

Three True Outcomes
Jenkins, I believe, is a natural 3TO hitter, who has been converted, or is attempting to convert to a more complete hitter. I think this is hurting his power and his contact, for what should be at the expense of more walks. That increase has been slight if any over the last five years. Cutting down strikeouts is great, but at what cost?

Jenkins used to look ugly when he struck out, swung himself out of his shoes, he needs to return to that form.

For the Brewers, hire a second hitting coach, let natural pull hitters like Jenkins, and even Hardy, develop that way with their own coach.

For Jenkins. Simple, let 'er rip man, Let 'er rip. Growl at the pitcher then try to tear the skin off the ball. Take fastballs early in the count, don't get behind being too choosy, and when you do get behind don't change your swing. Take a quarter step back off the plate to protect the inside and swing like you know it's coming. Stop thinking so much. See the ball and hit it. You can't shoot an inside breaking ball to the opposite field, stop trying. Let the pitch dictate where you hit it. Also keep that bat speed up. At thirty years old you can't afford to let your bat speed slow down. That's going to hurt more than anything.

Hit 25 HRs in the second half and you can strike out 100 times, no one will care.

Go Jenks Go!!