It's like playing golf, Pete Mackanin said. In golf, you want to let the club do the work, swinging downward to try to elevate the ball. In baseball, the Phillies manager wants hitters still to elevate the ball, but do so by pushing a level swing through the bottom half of the baseball.
In the age of the term "launch angle," Mackanin said he believes that metric is overemphasized. It encourages hitters to dip the bat and swing up, which projects the ball at a higher angle and can result in more unproductive fly balls.
"There's this trend for hitters to want to lift the ball and they do it wrong," Mackanin said. "They don't understand the whole concept of getting the ball in the air. And a nice level swing will get the ball in the air."
The manager used the example of Daniel Murphy, who is slugging .576 with 16 home runs for the first-place Washington Nationals. Murphy's swing generates backspin to drive the ball out of the park. Mackanin said he believes that's the way to lift the ball, which brought him back to the revival that his own hitter, Maikel Franco, has experienced over the past week.
The manager noticed instantly during the team's trip to Milwaukee last weekend that Franco had leveled out his swing. The third baseman was hitting just .217 with a .384 slugging percentage at the all-star break, in the midst of the worst of his three full seasons with the Phillies. But Mackanin noticed Franco's new swing again during batting practice in Miami on Tuesday, and predicted to pitching coach Bob McClure that he would have a good game.
Franco went 3-for-4 with a home run.
"I'm kind of cautiously optimistic about this," Mackanin said. "If he continues to do what he's doing, he's going to have a good second half, I believe."
In the six games since the break, Franco has hit safely in five and gone 11-for-25 with four doubles.
Of course, he has had stretches like this in the past. He strung together six different hitting streaks of five or more games last year, but his batting average only rose above .260 for a couple of weeks after the first month.
Mackanin has reason to believe this time is different. Franco is not just golfing low pitches into the seats. He appears to have made a lasting tweak to his swing.
"That's what he's been doing daily in batting practice," Mackanin said. "And the last three or four games he has been swinging like that. So I'm pretty excited. Every day I hope to see the same swing path."