Fans of the Indians are familiar with Kipnis' unique batting stance, but a much wider audience was introduced to it during Cleveland's 6-0 win over the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. What began as an experiment in the Minor Leagues to improve Kipnis' bat speed has turned into a permanent quirk every time the second baseman settles into his stance in the batter's box.
Before every pitch, Kipnis pulls his right arm back and keeps it close to his chest, with the bat resting in his fingertips. Kipnis' left palm is facing skyward, as the bat extends flat behind him. It is reminiscent of the starting point for former players Mickey Tettleton and Carew. Even Cal Ripken Jr. used the parallel-bat style at one point during a career filled with a variety of stances.
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When the pitcher shifts into his delivery, Kipnis then raises the bat to get into hitting position.
"I've tried almost every Spring Training to stop doing it," Kipnis said, "just because I had never done it my whole career. And now, once I get to pro ball, I develop a tick that I have to do. Now, like I can't even go to [a sports store] and pick up a bat and not do it. I'm like, 'Let me see this bat,' and I'll lean it back. I just have to do it."
Kipnis, who was selected by the Indians in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft, said he began trying the approach early in his Minor League career. He does not remember which hitting coach was working with him at the time, but Kipnis does recall the idea behind it. Kipnis said he had a bad "bat wrap." Back then, the bat was above his left shoulder and deep in his palms, leading to a long swing.
After a taste of pro ball, Kipnis realized he needed to speed things up. That led to dropping the bat and moving it into his fingertips.
"You can have a bat wrap when you're facing high school pitching," Kipnis said. "These guys throw a little harder. I needed more time to see pitches and just shorten the swing. It was one of the adjustments I had to make to keep going through this game."
Since being called up from the Minors during the 2011 season, the 29-year-old Kipnis has been a constant part of Cleveland's offense. The two-time All-Star enjoyed arguably his best campaign this year, batting .275 with a career-high 23 home runs to go along with 41 doubles, 82 RBIs, 91 runs and 15 steals. Through it all, Kipnis has featured one of the most recognizable stances in the game.
"That was the start of it," Kipnis said of the adjustment made in the Minors. "And the last I've ever seen of a regular swing."