In an era fraught with overanalysis in sports, Barry Bonds' seven-day stint with the San Francisco Giants is practically begging for just that. But Bonds is quick to divert attention from himself, hoping to instead focus on how he can help the team.
"I'm not the focal point anymore...the focus point is with these guys," Bonds said in an interview on MLB.com. "I'm here for these guys.
Don't be too quick to write off San Francisco's slugger-turned-hitting coach either. For the offensively challenged Giants, any help is good help, especially when it comes by way of MLB's all-time home run leader. (Or the NBA's, if you ask ESPN.)
While the Giants aren't asking Bonds to perform any miracles, some type of improvement is to be expected. Perhaps Bonds put it best when he said, "Hopefully I can just bring some good value to the ballclub, hopefully I can bring value to these guys."
That's not too much to ask, but specifically who stands to improve the most from Bonds' expertise? Let's take a look.
There's no doubt that Hunter Pence and Bonds differ in their hitting styles in certain aspects, namely when it comes to the overall soundness of their respective mechanics. While Pence can often be seen flailing wildly (yet somehow successfully) at the ball, Bonds had a kind of quietly explosive power in his swing.
But the differences in mechanics don't mean the two hitters can't share the same mentality at the plate.
"He's in the red zone all the time. He's on high alert," Bonds said of Pence, via Chris Haft of MLB.com. "I love his strength, his power, his attitude, his mindset."
Pence has also drawn lessons from Bonds even since he was a kid. According to John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle, Pence picked up his penchant for choking up on the bat from a Bonds poster he had on his wall.
“I choke up because of that poster,” Pence said. “I thought, ‘If Barry Bonds chokes up, I’m going to choke up.’ I started at about 10 years old and have been doing it ever since.”
If Bonds has that much of an impact on hitters like Pence before he even gets to camp, just imagine how much he'll help during his time with the club.
Perhaps nobody on the Giants has more to gain from Bonds' instruction than Brandon Crawford. Like Bonds, the Giants shortstop is a left-handed hitter, but that's where the comparison ends. With plenty of mechanical problems, Crawford hasn't been able to fulfill his potential as a hitter, but that's where Bonds comes into play.
According to MLB.com, Bonds has spent time working exclusively with Crawford in order to help keep the latter's front shoulder closed. Last season, it was a relatively common sight to see Crawford's shoulder fly open toward first base.
Thanks to Bonds' instruction, Crawford was hitting "with authority" by the end of batting practice, something that pleased the onlooking coaches. Here's what Crawford had to say about Bonds' instruction, per Haft's MLB.com article:
Everything I heard him talk about this morning [regarded] keeping your swing as simple as possible. And he explains it in the simplest ways. It's cool to just listen to him. The big thing he was telling me was that my hands are fast enough to get to an inside pitch. I don't need to cheat or use my body or shoulders to get to that pitch.
One of the exciting early-season aspects to keep an eye on could be how Crawford will fare in the wake of Bonds' instruction.
Another interesting part of Barry Bonds' gig this spring is his interaction with Buster Posey. How much the one-time MVP can learn from the seven-time MVP remains to be seen, but it's an exciting prospect to see two great hitters working together.
Posey also expressed his excitement to work with Bonds back in February, per the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman.
“I’m excited just to listen, for sure,” Posey said. “From talking to people that either coached him or played with him, everybody said he had a very straightforward, simple approach. To me that’s a huge part of hitting, trying to keep things as simple as possible.”
And what can he learn from Bonds?
“Some of it’s probably mechanics, some of it’s probably approach, maybe picking up a little drill that he used to do – anything that can possibly improve the game.”