• Is Tom Brunansky Mr. Fix-It for the Twins' Hitters?

    If you had not noticed, Rochester Red Wings hitting coach Tom Brunansky has been a Mr. Fix-It when it comes to the system’s hitters. He has worked well with the young players in the organization, helping get the most out of middling prospects as well as putting the finishing touches on fast-risers in the system.

    Brian Dozier, Darin Mastroianni and Ben Revere, among others, are all members of the Twins who have credited Brunansky with tinkering with their swings to favorable results over the past two years.

    When Dozier encountered Brunansky for the first time in New Britain, the former Twin helped the current Twins shortstop add a bit more power to his stroke. Thanks in part to Brunansky’s tutelage the middle infielder went from a high ground-ball hitter to one who hit a high percentage of line drives and more fly balls. This led to a few more extra base hits, including a career-high 22 doubles in 351 plate appearances with the Rock Cats, and put him on Ron Gardenhire’s radar.

    LaVelle Neal reported that Brunansky had approached Mastroianni about changing his swing in spring training. The speedy outfielder tried it out at that time but it did not take. Sent to New Britain out of the chute, when Mastroianni was promoted to Rochester he worked with Brunansky on incorporating the previous changes into his swing. Mastroianni’s production went off the charts in the International League as in 84 plate appearances the 27-year-old hit .346/.393/.423 and was called to Minnesota. Most notably was the change in the trajectory of his batted balls. Previously a hitter whose ground ball rate was upper 40%/lower 50%, Mastroianni was able to generate more lift and posted a ground ball rate below 40% for the first time in his career.

    Meanwhile, in Revere’s case, Brunansky attempted to reduce his hand movement. As Brunansky told Sloane Martin of the Rochester Baseball Observer:

    “My job was trying to find a way for him to not have so much movement in his hands. So we kind of messed around a little bit and got him to the point where he felt the barrel in his hands a little bit more. Once the hitter feels something, it’s easy to repeat. And it goes from there.”
    After performing well with the Twins’ AAA affiliate, Revere was recalled in mid-May. Since his return to Minnesota, he has gone 22-for-70 (.314) with a very impressive .429 slugging percentage thanks, in part, to being able to drive the ball a bit further – perhaps a direct result of him reducing his hand movement.

    Interestingly enough, Revere recently told the Star Tribune’s Sid Hartman that his success as of last was due to a video revelation which involved another aspect of his hands:

    "I saw when I came back up to Minnesota the second time, I watched film, and I saw my hand was behind my head, and every time I triggered, I'd be [late] on a fastball right down the middle because I was wrapping myself around too much.

    ''I told [the coaches] that and now I have my hands out and everything went uphill from there. It was just the relocation of my hands, that was it."
    So Revere’s success could be attributed to Brunansky, Revere’s own findings or maybe a little bit of both.

    Another one of Brunansky’s scholars, Chris Parmelee, will have the opportunity to show that, like Revere, the Red Wings hitting coach’s methods can reap dividends at the major league level.

    Following a month-and-a-half of offensive ineptitude with the Twins, Parmelee was returned to Brunansky with a simple task: Fix it.

    Opponents attacked Parmelee’s weak spots, exploiting a long swing by blowing him apart with fastballs on the outer-half of the plate and getting him to chase curveballs out of the zone. Having worked with Parmelee in 2011 while the hitting coach for New Britain, upon arrival to Rochester, Brunansky appeared confident that he could correct what was ailing Parmelee. According to Martin:

    Although Brunansky didn’t work with Parmelee much in spring training this year and has missed, as he estimates, 300-400 at-bats since their time together in New Britain, Brunansky says that having an existing relationship with him is “huge.”
    Placed back under Brunansky’s guidance, Parmelee raked with Rochester. In 58 plate appearances, he hit .370/.500/.717 with four doubles and four home runs. What’s more is that after showing poor zone judgment with the Twins at the beginning of the year, Parmelee coaxed 12 walks (21% walk rate), a positive sign that not only is he stinging the ball well but also has the wherewithal to lay off those off the plate.

    As mentioned above, Parmelee’s swing elongated with the Twins this year. During one broadcast FSN analyst and former Twin Roy Smalley pointed out that Parmelee’s tendency to open up quickly caused his bat speed to drag thus giving him fits when being pitched away. Clearly, this needed some attention.

    One adjustment that we can see Parmelee and Brunansky feature was a reduction in Parmelee’s open stance. By bringing his front leg closer to the plate, Parmelee’s first movement towards the plate with his weight does not have to be as significant as it once was and, in theory, he will not have to open up his hips as quickly to attempt to “catch up” during his swing – the part of his swing which Smalley pointed out was actually slowing his bat down. In short, the new stance should improve his coverage by keeping him from needing to commit early.




    It is hard to argue against Parmelee’s results but if there is one thing to be cautious over it is that his line drive rate evaporated while in Rochester. At the major league level, Parmelee had a line drive rate close to 20% but he exchanged those ropes for flies in Rochester, lining only 13% of his total balls put into play. It seems that fly balls have an easier time sneaking out of single-tiered stadiums over ones like Target Field.

    Admittedly, for every Brunansky success story like Dozier, Revere and potentially Parmelee, there are guys like Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni and Danny Valencia who seem to head in the opposite direction. This reminds us of the baseball truism: you will have many more misses than you do hits.
    This article was originally published in blog: Is Tom Brunansky Mr. Fix-It for the Twins' Hitters? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      This was a great article until you kill it with the last paragraph. While that information is technically true, A: there is a way to present that earlier so that it isn't the last thing readers read if you are trying to tout Brunansky's influence, and B: there are many issues that may differ between the succes-story players and Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, and Danny Valencia.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Thanks for this article. Very interesting.
    1. kirbyelway's Avatar
      kirbyelway -
      Coachable talent will listen and work to get better. Alot of it has to do with confidence and if you can bring out the confidence in the player it will translate into success at the plate. I dont know anything personally about Benson, Tosoni or Valencia, but I will bet they either don't have confidence or they don't take well to being coached.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by kirbyelway View Post
      Coachable talent will listen and work to get better. Alot of it has to do with confidence and if you can bring out the confidence in the player it will translate into success at the plate. I dont know anything personally about Benson, Tosoni or Valencia, but I will bet they either don't have confidence or they don't take well to being coached.
      I would whole-heartedly disagree with that comment. With Benson, I'm sure his confidence was low by the time he was sent down, but he is very much coachable. Tosoni is coachable and remained confident. Valencia is no lacking in confidence.

      The reality is that one coach can find success with 5-6 guys on a roster and not find success with 5-6 others on the same roster. The others most likely will perform how they typically perform, with or without coaching. Nothing against Bruno, but that's the same with all coaches. They get too much credit for players' successes, and take too much heat for players' failures.
    1. Harrison Greeley III's Avatar
      Harrison Greeley III -
      Based on those pictures, you can also see that Parmelee has his hands higher too.
    1. DK's Avatar
      DK -
      Coachable players make great coaches. Many young players need to fail before they will accept the advise that may save their careers. Is Tom Brunansky a great hitting coach or at the right place at the right time for some of these players?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Benson played most of the season with a broken wrist. He needs a break (No pun intended.) He can be judged as a hitter when his wrist is healed and he is 100%.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by Harrison Greeley III View Post
      Based on those pictures, you can also see that Parmelee has his hands higher too.
      Hands may be a bit higher. The other element that I was going to point out but the MiLB video is too grainy to make any definitive statements about it is that his front foot is now solidly planted as opposed to his previous stance in which he was only on the ball of his front foot. This, in theory, should provide a more balanced weight transfer.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Benson played most of the season with a broken wrist. He needs a break (No pun intended.) He can be judged as a hitter when his wrist is healed and he is 100%.
      Terry Ryan pretty much stated on the radio last week (or may be the week before) that Benson's terrible numbers were not connected with his wrist injury.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Terry Ryan pretty much stated on the radio last week (or may be the week before) that Benson's terrible numbers were not connected with his wrist injury.
      True, but Ryan also said Scott Baker would likely be ready for opening day. I'm not confident in his medical opinions.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Or, maybe these are the natural ups and downs of a long season. We won't really know for some time. But it is great to read that players and coaches are working together and are finding specific things to work on.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      Terry Ryan pretty much stated on the radio last week (or may be the week before) that Benson's terrible numbers were not connected with his wrist injury.
      The hamate bone isn't the wrist...
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      True, but Ryan also said Scott Baker would likely be ready for opening day. I'm not confident in his medical opinions.
      In terms of their pitchers, the Twins staff has been wrong so frequently. Ryan actually said nothing was wrong with Baker even after his first MRI, suggesting it was more mental prior to being opened up and requiring Tommy John. So, yes, I agree with you on that.

      The fact is, right or wrong, the higher powers in the organization are under the impression that Benson's wrist did not effect his performance until the end of his season.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      The hamate bone isn't the wrist...
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamate_bone
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      A coach can only do so much. You have to want to change, and be able to change (or try new things). They can mess with technical stuff, but the mental is always there. Some players are coachable, by certain people. Which is why you do have a variety of guys around, especially on a major league team, and folks you can call upon (like Carew, Oliva, Hrbek, good ol' Killebrew, Molitor) for certain players. Plus, always nice to have a few crusty vets around, especially in the pitching department, to just show how things are done and offer encouragement. But sometimes coaches have to be flexible, too -- and I seem to be reading a lot of opinions about pitching and hitting being one-way in the Twins organization, especially in the majors.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      But sometimes coaches have to be flexible, too -- and I seem to be reading a lot of opinions about pitching and hitting being one-way in the Twins organization, especially in the majors.
      The best coach I ever had was somebody who would look at his roster every preseason and revise his system to capitalize on the strengths of the players he had. That's a much better approach than trying to make all your talent fit into the same rigid formula year after year. But the Twins seem to do the latter: trying to make David Ortiz use the whole field, dumping JJ Hardy because a SS should have more speed, preferring a "bat-control" guy in the #2 spot regardless of his OBP. Perhaps you can think of other examples. There are happy accidents like 2010 (Thome loved to drive the ball the other way, Hardy was acquired mainly for his defense, Orlando Hudson actually was a good #2 hitter), but generally the coaches' pre-conceived notions seem to hold this team back.
    1. twinstalker's Avatar
      twinstalker -
      Quote Originally Posted by shanewahl View Post
      This was a great article until you kill it with the last paragraph. While that information is technically true, A: there is a way to present that earlier so that it isn't the last thing readers read if you are trying to tout Brunansky's influence, and B: there are many issues that may differ between the succes-story players and Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, and Danny Valencia.
      I'm not sure Parker considers it his duty to increase your optimism. Why is the article great when mentioning something I'll assume you consider positive...and "killed" when he mentions the flipside? I think it would be interesting to find out what the deal is with the guys who've struggled, but that's another story, and to Parker's credit, he didn't ignore their existence.
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