Video gets Aybar on the right track

BY foxsports • September 21, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Turning around his season wasn’t easy for Erick Aybar. He needed a hitting coach, some 3-year-old video and a little time in front of the TV at home.
After a horrid start, he got all three.
Aybar used this season’s All-Star break to watch video of himself from the 2009 season. The suggestion came from hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, who was fired two months earlier but who noticed a small hitch in Aybar swing that hadn’t been there previously.
With a little work in the batting cage, Aybar has taken his average from a low of .197 after 40 games to its current mark of .294 starting play Friday night. Since Aug. 6, the date he came off the disabled list after suffering a broken big toe, he is hitting a major-league-best .371.
Simple? Hardly. Aybar has become something of a video freak, spending considerable time in the clubhouse and at home watching tapes in order to improve.
“I always watch my videos,” he said. “I come here, I work in the cage, and I see guys like (Miguel) Cabrera, (Derek) Jeter, Torii (Hunter), all the good hitters. I watch the games at home. That’s helped me a lot.”
That trio of hitters is good company. Since the All-Star break, Cabrera (.346), Jeter (.343) and Hunter (.342) are the only American League hitters with batting averages equal to or better than Aybar (.342).
It was Hatcher, who was fired in May, who first noticed the small step backward that Aybar had in his swing early this season. Hatcher looked a video of Aybar from 2009, when he hit .312, and noticed that the step wasn’t there.
“He started to have this little pre-step that really took some of the athleticism out of his swing,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “At times, he was hitting well with it, and at times he wasn’t. Mickey brought it to his attention. We talked about it, and I just reinforced what Mickey started to work with him on. He’s very comfortable now.”
Aybar said he spent the Angels’ entire four-day All-Star break holed up at home studying video. He eliminated the pre-step from his swing and saw positive results.
“When I saw the video from 2009, I could see that it was true,” he said. “I had a little bit of a kick. I feel more comfortable now.”
Aybar’s understanding of the importance of video has helped him develop into a more focused hitter. Now 28 and in his seventh season, he has come to realize that raw talent isn’t enough to stay in the big leagues, although it helped get him there.
“Erick’s brilliance is the fact he’s fearless,” Scioscia said. “There’s no doubt experience is going to be the best teacher, especially with a guy that has played so uninhibited. I haven’t met too many guys that came up at a young age and played free and could shrug off mistakes. When you play that aggressively, there’s no doubt experience is going to be a great teacher.”
But now Aybar is coupling experience with study time. And it’s made him better, at least in the second half of the season. He had a 14-game hitting streak that ended on Sept. 14 and has hit safely in 17 of his past 19 games.
But he knows how difficult it was to get there.
“It was hard,” he said of his slow start. “I tried to help my team, but it’s like they say, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. I always come here to work every day and I keep working.”