I chatted with Craig Monroe in the Tigers clubhouse the other day and asked him about his hitting style. It is quite different than the approach his teammates take at the plate. If you watch Monroe hit, it looks almost like he swings one-handed. His top hand flies off the bat during his follow through. In reality he loses the top hand only after he make contact and brings the bat through the zone. It’s a style used by two of the top sluggers in the American League, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriquez. In fact, that’s by design. "I’ve worked out with A-Rod, using his hitting drills," Craig said. The idea, evidently, is to help him stay through the strike zone longer and to keep his top hand from being dominant. "When the top hand is too dominant in a swing, you tend to roll over and hit easy ground ball outs," he said.
I asked Craig when he first started using that hitting style, and he thinks it was in his minor league days in the Texas Rangers organization. Jesse Barfield was his hitting instructor and one day he brought in Charley Lau Jr. to help Craig tweak his swing. Charley Lau Jr. was a minor league hitting coach and the son of Charley Lau Sr., the celebrated hitting guru who’s prize student was George Brett .
The style has produced a strong season for Monroe. His 78 RBI leads the Tigers, and he has posted good numbers despite hitting in the bottom third of the lineup on a nightly basis. He is on pace for 102 RBI this season which would mark the first time in his career that he would reach that total. Defensively, he has played all three outfield positions with skill. Only three American League outfielders have knocked in more runs than Monroe: Vlad Guerrero, Gary Sheffield and yes, Manny Ramirez.
By the way, I’ve added some photos from the last Kansas City trip.