It's rare that a Padres player does something that the rest of the country notices, as evidenced by the fact that you didn't know who Ernesto Frieri was until the Angels traded for him. Frieri was a really good reliever, and then the Angels made him a really good reliever people hear about sometimes. Monday night, though, Cameron Maybin stole the spotlight. Or more accurately, he stole one of the spotlights, since it's not like people pay attention to only one thing at a time.
Maybin was batting against Trevor Cahill in Arizona, and in the top of the sixth inning, Maybin slugged a home run. Not just any home run -- the longest home run of the season. At 485 feet, Maybin beat a homer by Nelson Cruz by one, and a homer by Travis Hafner by four. True, Maybin's dinger got a small boost from the Arizona temperature and altitude, but people generally don't care about things like standardized measurements. People aren't going to ask who's hit the longest home run in 2012, once you account for wind and temperature and altitude and everything else. People are going to ask who's hit the longest home run in 2012, and as of Monday night, the answer is Cameron Maybin.
It was such an unpredictably long home run that Dick Enberg didn't know how to react. Most announcers have a few memorized lines they can go to in the event of a dinger, but Enberg was caught by surprise and elected to embarrass himself:
That is a TOUCH ... 'em all.
More interesting than Enberg's line, though, is what came immediately after it on the broadcast.
Guys, I think the no stride's working.
What that guy was referring to was Cameron Maybin's swing. It was implied that Maybin had made some sort of adjustment, and here we see the swing that Maybin took:
As the pitch is being thrown, Maybin takes a very small stride and does more of a toe-tap. He then plants his foot back down on the ground and unloads. Here's Maybin from earlier in the same game, just to show this wasn't a one-time thing:
As the broadcaster suggested, this is a new thing for Maybin. I didn't watch the whole Padres game Monday night and I'm not about to watch it on archive, but it stands to reason they must have talked about this earlier in the broadcast. Maybe during the pre-game show. Maybin has been struggling, he made an adjustment, and it paid immediate dividends.
How immediate? Here's Cameron Maybin from July 1. You might recognize July 1 as the day before July 2, which was Monday, which was when Maybin hit a baseball more than nine percent of a mile. Actually, phrasing it that way makes it seem less impressive. Monday, Maybin hit a baseball 162 yards, which is a football field, and most of another football field.
In this .gif, we see a high leg kick. It's a coincidence that Maybin is striking out in the same .gif, but this was consistent. Maybin featured a high leg kick in his swing mechanics. Always had, as far as I can tell. Even going back to his time with the Marlins, Maybin lifted his leg before putting it down and swinging, and Monday, perhaps for the first time, he didn't do that.
Maybin entered Monday with a .570 OPS. He batted 2-for-4 with a double, a homer, and a walk. It was his first multi-extra-base-hit effort of the season. It can be difficult for a hitter or a pitcher to make mechanical adjustments on the fly, but now Maybin has every reason to see what this could do for him.
Of course, what we could easily be dealing with is a coincidence. We've established a correlation, but no causation, and we can't say that Maybin wouldn't have had the same game with his old leg kick. If Maybin has always swung in more or less the same way, then that's the swing that allowed him to become a top-ten prospect overall for three years running. That's the swing that allowed him to post a 103 OPS+ last season in Petco Park. He's had success with that swing.
But Maybin has batted nearly 1,500 times in the major leagues, and his career OPS+ is 88. He hasn't been the player he was supposed to become, and he probably needed to make some adjustments. Monday, he made an adjustment and announced it to the world by slugging the most mammoth home run from any player this season. It seems simple, but it's something. Is this the adjustment that Cameron Maybin needed to make? I don't know, but we'll find out. This could be the start of nothing, or this could be the start of something wonderful.