Manny and Hanley Ramirez draw a lot of comparison on a near daily basis for good reason. They share aloof, easy-going personalities that can at times be infectious and at others be detrimental at others for the team. They are both questionable defensive left fielders (although I tend to give Hanley more benefit of the doubt because he'd literally never played the position regularly until this season). They have some of the same mannerisms on the field. And they happen to share the same last name and home country.
Oh, and I almost forgot: they flipping tear the cover off the baseball like nobody's business. Hanley, after all, left a hole in Fenway's outfield wall just a couple of days back.
But the parallels ends there. A comparison that some have made between the two is that they have "identical swings" and while the gravitas at the plate and the follow through are notoriously similar between Manny and Hanley, the actual mechanics of their swings differ significantly between the two sluggers.
Here's a side-by-side comparison:
Something that should immediately jump out is that Hanley's swing is significantly longer. I've calibrated the two videos so that the hitters make contact at the same point in the GIF. Hanley, however, has a rather pronounced leg kick, and starts the load to his swing significantly earlier than Manny. There are a couple of reasons why Hanley's swing is noticeably longer than Manny's.
This shot of Manny is right after his leg kick. Something that Manny did well during his playing days was keeping his swing balanced. He minimized movement in his legs which allowed his backside to stay relatively perpendicular to the ground and keeps his head still at the plate, the importance of which I'll describe a little later. Manny drops his foot in nearly the same spot he set up his front foot before the leg kick. Hanley takes a drastically different approach to the leg kick.
Hanley takes an enormous pronounced leg kick when attacking pitches. He sets up his front foot halfway up the batter's box, starts his leg kick and ends his kick with his front foot near the front edge of the box. Through the swing, Hanley brings up his back foot which keeps him balanced, moves the momentum of his body forward and, ultimately, generates an enormous amount of power. That differs drastically from Manny, who minimized movement in his base and used his bat speed to generate the majority of his prodigious power.
This image practically sums up Manny's swing to a tee. During his glory days, Manny had unbelievably strong wrists that allowed him to guide the barrel of the bat through the strike zone like a whip. Like very few others in baseball history, Manny was able to keep the barrel of the bat close to his body, which maximized the velocity of the bat throughout the swing. This meant he lead his swing with the end of the bat and, in essence, flicked the barrel of the stick through the baseball to generate massive amounts of bat speed. This is where Manny generated his upper-deck power in his swing.
It's a trait of Manny's swing that remains unique today.
Relative to Manny, Hanley, alas, is a mere mortal in regards to bat speed. Hanley's swing here is more representative of what the typical major leaguer looks like he begins his swing; while he keeps the barrel of the bat relatively close to him throughout the swing, he leads more with his arms than his wrists, which leads to a significantly longer swing. A longer swing means that Hanley, typically, needs to start his load earlier than someone with better bat speed, like Manny.
Someone with quicker bat speed means they have a fraction of a second more to judge a pitch's spin and location. Manny's preternatural ability to whip his bat through the strike zone allowed him to better judge and stay back on breaking balls and offspeed pitches than just about anyone in baseball.
This is where Manny and Hanley's swing begin to blur. At the contact point, Manny and Hanley have great extension on the baseball. Both hitters' forearms align with the barrel of the bat, which allows them to generate maximum power. It should be noted, however, that to get to this point, Hanley had to drag his back foot half the batter's box so his swing could catch up to his front foot. Manny's back foot, on the other hand, stands strong which, again, indicates a solid base.
This type of extension, however, is fundamental to a power hitter's success and something you'll commonly see amongst the best power hitters in baseball. That Manny and Hanley look similar in this regard is not a surprise, considering that they've made their money mashing baseballs to a pulp.
And then those follow throughs. A piece of art.
Another trend that's noticeable through the progression of the swings is how Manny's head barely moves in his swing, something that can't quite be said for Hanley. Because Hanley needs to compensate for how far his front foot moves up in the box by dragging his back foot forward, his head jolts forward whenever he swings, the reason why his helmet helicopters off his head whenever he takes a hack at the plate.
Baseball coaches, in general, preach for hitters to keep their heads as statue-esque as possible; the ability to keep one's head still through a swing allows them to best judge a pitch's movement through the strike zone and helps keep them back on pitches.
So do Manny and Hanley have some similarities in their swings? Yes, but it's important to note that where the swings most align is a minute, almost irrelevant, portion of what composes a player's swing at the plate. At the fundamental core of their swings — their load and physical swing of the stick — Manny and Hanley are fundamentally different.
The next time Hanley screws up a fly ball off the Green Monster, the phrase Hanley being Manny is inevitably going to come up. But to compare the two swings of Manny and Hanley Ramirez... well Chandler Bing can probably say it more elegantly.