Mets 2B Kelly Johnson lead off the fifth inning Monday with a solo home run, as the Mets went on to defeat the Reds, 5-0, in Cincinnati.
Last week on the MetsBlog Q&ACast, presented by Citi, SNY's Steve Gelbs talked about how Johnson recently approached hitting coach Kevin Long about working to improve his swing.
According to Gelbs, Johnson went to the coaching staff asked them to help him transform his approach to hitting in the same way they did with Daniel Murphy.
Murphy was hitting .233 for the Mets on May 15 last season. Since then, spanning 198 games, he's batting .327 with 37 home runs.
"He's very similar in the way he thinks, the way he processes information, the way he goes about it, his work ethic, his desire to be better," Long told Newsday's Marc Carig, comparing Johnson to Murphy. "We do use (Murphy) as the blueprint and kind of go off that. Watching some of his video, we've made some marks on what he's done."
Johnson, who has played all four infield positions andf left field since being acquired in June, is batting .280 with three extra base hits and eight RBI during his last 15 games.
"When you get pitches you can drive, it's put me in a much better position to do that," Johnson told Carig. "I think if anything, yeah, I probably tinkered too much in my career. But, I think I'm definitely smarter, definitely more aware of myself. Now when I tinker, I make sure that it's the right thing and I'm doing it the right way, for the right reasons, not panicking, or being insecure, or being unconfident."
Johnson had always used a short, compact swing. And, when he connected, it was typically up the middle for a line drive on a hop. That's it. That's what he would do, assuming he did it at all. Now, he's clearly trying to do the 'Murph,' which is to tighten up his stance, stay balanced and punish strikes by trying to pull them with force. It's working, because he's clearly pulling the ball more. He's still hitting line drives. However, when he hits it in the air, it's probably going to be a home run... again, just like Murphy.
I'm impressed. Johnson is 34 years old, so it's not like he's green. He's steeped in habit, with more than 5100 plate appearances during his 11-year career - and that doesn't include at bats in the minors, college, high school, Little League, etc., all of which had to be ignored when trying to re-create his game. If he can develop in to a super utility guy with power, especially power off the bench, he's not only going to redefine his approach to the plate, he's going to redefine his career. If he keeps at it, with his drive and work ethic, I wouldn't be surprise to see him become the next Ben Zobrist, who, at 35 years old, got a four year deal from the Cubs last winter.