Swing (Confessions About a Mechanic)

Part two of the Twitterverse giveback. This suggestions comes way of Jake Larsen, who just so happened to give me a chance to write on DRaysBay. That turned out decently.

Truth be told, when Tommy Rancel suggested an interview with Jaime Cevallos, I was skeptical. Cevallos, self-labeled as The Swing Mechanic, was the man responsible for Ben Zobrist transformation. The process was easy enough though, and Cevallos was a willing participant, so why not? Rancel has gone on to write multiple pieces surrounding what he named The Zobrist Code and Cevallos’ popularity has mushroomed since that interview. Just Google Cevallos’ name and you can see he’s become a bit of a cult figure.

Rancel delves into Cevallos’ history in more detail than I will, but it goes like this: Jaime Cevallos was a scrap-hitting middle infielder who struggled to break the Mendoza line at Saint Mary’s University. Along the way, he began ignoring all outside advice about his swing, and instead looked to the professionals (in this case, he cut out images from issues of Sports Illustrated) for help. After doing this, Cevallos morphed into the Ted Williams of Saint Mary’s University.

Through the ebbs and flows of life, fate found Ben Zobrist and Jaime Cevallos together. Months later, Ben Zobrist became Ben Zobrist. Was it fate? Of course it was. Fate even asked for a finder’s fee. Zobrist, not unlike Cevallos, was a slap-hitting middle infielder who drew comparisons to Jay Bell. During his rookie year of 2006, Zobrist would show bunt in between having the bat knocked out of his hands. Over the last two seasons Zobrist has hit 39 homers in 699 at-bats. Zobrist has 23 career homers in 1,336 minor league at-bats. Saying that appears improbable is being kind.

Zobrist isn’t the only Cevallos’ student to flash improved power, either. The Reds’ Drew Sutton saw his ISO increase after meeting with Cevallos. The Rays’ Justin Ruggiano is in the midst of a scorching spring, hitting .447/.488/.868 in 38 at-bats and reinvigorating a career that appeared to cap at the Triple-A level. And there are other minor leaguers who appear on Cevallos’ site with testimonies on how much Cevallos’ MKNX bat has improved their results, although the numbers come in either too small of a sample size, or do not support these statements.

I’ve been fortunate enough to see a few of Cevallos’ video breakdowns, much like the ones he shares with his hitters, and hear him speak on hitting planes and bat placement. And, look, the guy is very convincing. He’s clearly confident in his abilities and at the very least sounds like he knows a little bit about what it means to swing the bat with power. He’ll flash a few Ted Williams’ images into the fray, then go back to the hitter in question, then switch back to Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime, and yes, it’s very easy to get lost in the whole thing and take Cevallos as a hitting prophet.

Yet, I’m still a skeptic. Players can improve, yes, and Cevallos very well could have found the secrets to unearthing power potential in any batter, but the sample size is just too small to attempt and draw meaningful conclusions about his Midas-like touch. In the end, though, it’s not up to me to decide whether Cevallos’ teachings have merit or not. Plus, at the very least, you have to applaud him for making a bit of a name for himself and having big dreams.

Sometimes success in life depends on being able to convince people of your authority rather than actually being an authority. Isn’t that what some experts are all about?

We hoped you liked reading Swing (Confessions About a Mechanic) by R.J. Anderson!

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To your knowledge, has he received any phone calls from MLB teams?

If there’s even a 20% chance he’s part of Zorilla’s success I’d think he could consult somewhere. (Like perhaps the team James Loney plays for…)

Bradley Woodrum

I agree. If we consider how much a typical hitting coach can do for a hitter, it certainly seems like Cervallos could at least match that output with the potential of creating a hitting revolution. The costs would be relatively low (hire him as a roving hitting instructor?) and the rewards potentially very, very high.

If it turns out that he can’t make players into all-starts, then he’d probably be on par with most other hitting coaches.