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Swing change fueled Maybin's resurgence in '19

Veteran outfielder now focusing on line drives, extra bases
@beckjason
February 29, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers' search for a veteran outfielder eventually led them to a familiar face. But while Cameron Maybin begins his third Tigers tenure, he is a different hitter than the one who wore the Olde English D the previous two times. Maybin posted virtually the same sprint

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers' search for a veteran outfielder eventually led them to a familiar face. But while Cameron Maybin begins his third Tigers tenure, he is a different hitter than the one who wore the Olde English D the previous two times.

Maybin posted virtually the same sprint speed last year (28.7 feet per second) as he did with the Tigers in 2016 (28.8). He's a different hitter, though, thanks to a stop with the Mariners.

Maybin had an up-and-down 2018 season between Miami and Seattle. He hit .213 with 22 strikeouts in April and March, .276 in May, .200 in June, .309 with three homers in July, then .194 in August. Maybin was trying to understand his swing, and he found Mitch Haniger.

"He went to Craig Wallenbrock," Maybin said. "And day after day, I would ask him, 'What do you got on this?' We would go to the cage every day and he would say, 'I think you're really close, but I think you should go to the source and actually hear from them and see what they have for you.' So it was at the end of that 2018 season when I really bought in."

Maybin did not become another speedster trying to hit home runs every swing. But after reworking his swing with Wallenbrock, Maybin's focus on centering line drives and avoiding ground balls clicked last year in time to rekindle his career with the Yankees last season. He connected with ex-Tigers teammate turned Yankees hitting coach Marcus Thames, posted a career-best .858 OPS and took advantage of Yankee Stadium's dimensions.

Will that play in spacious Comerica Park? If Maybin focuses on line drives and extra bases rather than homers, he believes it can.

"I like to run, so I look at it as a plus," Maybin said. "If I hit a ball good, I don't think there's a park that really can hold me -- unless I hit it in that right-center gap. I think that's big enough to hold anybody, and I've seen some big guys get frustrated.

"But for me, I like to run. Doubles and triples are good. I'm all about scoring runs, driving in runs, getting on base and creating some havoc. I'm hoping now, getting the ball in the air a little bit, it's going to be even more effective for me playing [in Detroit], Kansas City, parks with some space. Should be fun."

Maybin's .315 average as a Tiger in 2016 remains his lone .300 season, and his .801 OPS was his a career best until last year. Just 23 of 110 hits went for extra bases. Nearly all of them came at Comerica Park, where he hit .374 with a .945 OPS.

Maybin's average launch angle in 2016 was 3.9 degrees, according to Statcast. His groundball/flyball ratio was 1.36, according to baseball-reference. His launch angle last year rose to 11.1, and his ground ball/flyball ratio dropped to .70.

Maybin's average exit velocity last year was 88.8 mph, slightly above his average. His hard-hit rate percentage jumped to 39.5 percent.

"That was one thing I did appreciate about the Yankees," Maybin said. "They're like, 'This is the game, OPS. You're 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. We want to see you drive the ball out of the park and drive the ball in the gap.' That was fun for me, to switch mindsets."

What made Maybin so effective in 2016 was hitting secondary pitches. He hit .298 off fastballs according to Statcast, but .361 off breaking pitches and .298 against offspeed offerings. His slugging percentages in each category were fairly similar. Last year, Maybin hit .321 off fastballs, .242 against breaking balls, and .222 on offspeed pitches.

More than anything, Maybin now understands his swing.

"I'm not searching," Maybin said.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.