It’s a pre-pitch timing mechanism that violates a basic tenet of hitting — keep the hands quiet — and would make most Little League coaches, let alone a major league coach, cringe.
“It’s so unique, it’s eye-grabbing,” Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Dave Hansen said of the hitch in outfielder Ben Revere’s swing. “It’s so late and so quick to the naked eye that I can see where it might mess up a pitcher visually. But it works for him.”
Revere, a former Lexington Catholic star who signed a one-year, $4-million deal with the Angels in January, starts with his hands about helmet-high. As the pitcher releases the ball, the left-handed-hitting Revere thrusts his hands violently downward, almost to his waist, before jerking the bat upward again, into swinging position.
“It’s like the little hitch-trigger that Barry Bonds had,” Revere said.
One difference: Revere, a speedy slap hitter, has six career homers — 756 fewer than Bonds, baseball’s all-time home-run leader.
I took it into the game and went five-for-five with four triples. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Ben Revere on his unique batting style
“I would think the only thing that would get out of whack would be his timing, but he leaves enough time,” Hansen said of Revere. “He has really quick hands, really quick reactions. He doesn’t try to hit homers, so he can do that. He’s placing it in holes, shooting gaps. He might run into a mistake, but that’s not his game.”
A youth league coach in Georgia suggested to Revere that he add the hitch as a way to keep his back elbow down and his swing level.
“I took it into the game and went five-for-five with four triples,” Revere said. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
After selecting Revere in the first round of the 2007 draft, the Minnesota Twins immediately asked him to change his swing. Revere didn’t … and he hit .325 in five minor league seasons.
“The minor league hitting instructor finally said, ‘If anyone tries to change your swing, tell them to shut up,’” Revere said.
It’s probably not for a lot of people, but for me, it helps my timing, it helps me stay inside the ball and hit nice little line drives the other way and keep the ball out of the air.
When Revere reached the big leagues, coaches again tried to tinker with his swing; Revere kept the hitch and hit .267 in 2011 and .294 in 2012, his first two full seasons in Minnesota.
A trade to Philadelphia brought seasons of .305 in 2013 and .306 with a National League-leading 184 hits and 49 stolen bases in 2014. Revere hit a combined .306 for Philadelphia and Toronto in 2015.
“It’s probably not for a lot of people, but for me, it helps my timing, it helps me stay inside the ball and hit nice little line drives the other way and keep the ball out of the air,” Revere, 28, said. “It helps me keep a level swing and the barrel through the zone for the longest time. That’s why my contact rate is real high.
“I tried being quiet and all that, I tried everything in the offseason. But you get so comfortable and used to what you’re doing, if it ain’t broken, why fix it?”
But this is baseball, and few careers go on forever without a hitch. Revere’s came in 2016, when he hit a career-worst .217 with a .560 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 14 stolen bases for the Washington Nationals, who chose not to tender Revere a contract in November.
The problem, Revere said, wasn’t the hitch. It was his first swing of the season, when he suffered a rib-cage strain. Revere sat out a month but came back too soon. He did not fully recover until he rested for 2½ months after the season.
“I could tell something was wrong; I knew it wasn’t the same,” Revere said. “It really hurt my confidence, and baseball is such a mental game. … But this is a redemption year, to do what I’ve done in the past — be a .300 hitter, steal 30-40 bags, score a bunch of runs, make plays in the outfield.”
So far, so good. Revere is hitting .526 (10-for-19) with four runs, five walks, no strikeouts and three stolen bases in eight exhibition games, fueling speculation that he could challenge the struggling Cameron Maybin (0-for-17) for the starting left-field job.
“Cam will be our left fielder, and we’ll see where Ben folds in,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re in a unique situation where we have a player of Ben’s caliber who is not really a fourth outfielder. He’s going to move around and get playing time and will get some guys off their feet. We have some depth there, for sure.”