Last night Ryan Goins played team hero, socking a game winning home run deeeeep ta rrrrriiiight, putting his Jays over the Tribe, 5-3.
Good for him, it’s alway since to see power in unexpected places.
When a team is rolling along we often focus in on the players that are eating the world. The Josh Donaldsons, the Edwin Encarnacions, the Jose Bautistas and David Prices… However, many times it’s the support players putting in steady work behind the stars that make the difference. Consider Chris Colabello’s emergence, or Kevin Pillar’s highlight reel catches. Who expected Marco Estrada to pitch so well that the conversation about who Stroman will replace—should the Jays go to the post season and Stro finishes his rehab without issue— has switched form Estrada to Hutchison or Dickey.
Then there is Goins, the player who Jays hitting coaches flat-out told that all subsequent mechanical adjustments made to his hitting approach were influenced by his future role as a utility bench player. Everyone knew he could flash the leather, but now he’s flashing lumber, too.
Here is the incomparable Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs on the Goins phenomena:
Let’s look at the highest individual walk rates since the All-Star break. First: Joey Votto. Totally normal. He’s actually first by a landslide. Have you looked at his numbers? Look at his numbers. They’re silly. That should be a separate post. Anyhow, in second: Bryce Harper. Yeah, why not? Then third, Dexter Fowler. He’s always drawn a bunch of walks. Good eye. Fowler is followed by the expected, unsurprising Joc Pederson. Pederson is followed by the expected, unsurprising Paul Goldschmidt. Then you get to Ryan Goins. More than 16% walks, none of which, of course, have been intentional.
That’s a big point—none of them have been intentional. And why haven’t they been intentional? Well, there are a couple reasons:
- There is no great reason to walk a guy that bats in the 7th, 8th, or 9th spot in the order.
- He’s got an ISO of .111
- You’d much rather walk one of he many Jays with .900+ OPS’s.
- He’s got a good eye.
Wait, does he really have that good of an eye? And where the hell has it been these last two seasons!?
Jeff Sullivan attempts to answer this. His break down does a nice job of capturing the truth about what we players call “quiet” hitting mechanics. Now, I’m no hitter and Jeff is no professional baseball player, but you don’t have to be either to understand that the less activity your eyes and hands are engaged in while tracking a high velocity pitch means the more accurate your estimation of their relationship will be when you start your swing. This is one of the first things hitting coaches work on when a hitter struggles, as it—and you’ll have to trust my baseball experience here since there isn’t much in the way of pure testable data to prove causation over correlation—helps hitters of all caliber track pitches longer and make more precise swing paths.
Here is Ryan Goins improvement since the All-Star Break, which, by the way, he contributes to nothing more than resting his bat on his shoulders.
Following analysis is also thanks to Jeff Sullivan:
|Through 2015 ASB||36%||54%||45%||525||19||0.248||49|
|Since 2015 ASB||26%||46%||35%||105||17||0.400||128|
“The thought is that Goins is a little quicker to the ball. By removing time from his swing, he buys a little extra time to look at the pitch, which can be beneficial for plate discipline. Discipline is part about eyes, and part about hitting mechanics. The argument now is the mechanics let Goins exercise better control of the zone. It’s hard to swing that much less often by accident. Goins has clearly been more patient, nearly equaling his previous walk total in a fifth of the plate appearances. I didn’t know pitchers were throwing Ryan Goins that many balls, but, here we are.”
And here I am, with a point I want to raise: Goins hasn’t just rested his bat on his shoulders. That’s not the only thing he has done differently.
It’s the full effect of a small tweak. Moving a bat is moving weight, and a sense of balance related to that weight.
Goins’ weight before his bat adjustment is shifted back onto his back foot, and it’s apparent. When his bat goes to his shoulder, his weight becomes more evenly distributed in a more balanced and athletic stance.
No player hits with their hands only. Their whole body is connected through the swing. Which means that, if you start in a weight back, hands back and up position, the natural progression of body movement for a hitter going to the ball will be: hands going back—whether because they are loading or because the front foot is going forward and the hands aren’t yet following—the head follows the foot, weight and balance separate and then contract as the swing starts.
Looks natural, probably feels natural if you’ve been doing it your whole life, but there are a lot of planets in orbit there, even for a good swing. Adjusting it will only cut down your reaction time by a fraction of a second, but, in the big leagues, that’s all you need.
Now, think about the bat on shoulders approach. It does a couple of things: gets the bat in a more centralized location over the body; your hands don’t have to travel as far to the ball; there are less competing items in motion as you move your front foot toward to the ball, and you don’t start with weight loaded and back (fully), which sometimes makes going straight forward to the ball more powerful but also makes redirecting your lower half a titch less dynamic.
All this is great and good and Goins should enjoy the results…
…Because I don’t think it’s going to last.
I have my reasons:
First, despite his adjustment, I’m not sold that he’s a star hitter just yet. The on base percentage is fantastic and his walk rate improvement is great, but we’re talking about 2 months of work here, not a breakout season. Pitchers have not yet adjusted because, well, you’ve got a lot of other things to worry about in that line up.
Second, that line up I just mentioned is the Blue Jays. Goins’ is going to see more pitches to hit—or at the very least, pitches in the zone—because the alternative for opposing pitchers is to face one of the Jays other sticks with a runner on base, like Ben Revere or Troy Tulowitzki. Just like Jeff Sullivan said above, I’m surprised pitchers are throwing him as many balls as they are. His good eye is either really good, or he’s getting more credit than he’s due going into the at bat.
Finally, because, despite some small sample power production on belt-high, inside pitches (and every left MLB hitter should knock the piss out of that location) Ryan Goins has been getting a steady diet of pitches here:
This is typical for a hitter this far down in the order—you pitch them straight up, down and away, predominately 4 seamers and 2 seamers (the pitch you’re trained to throw the most). If you know that’s a pitch you’re going to see as a hitter, then it’s easier to recognize it when you get it.
I’m not saying Goins hasn’t earned our respect. He’s improved a lot, made the loss of Devon Travis shrug worthy, his defense is top rate, and like saying Goins-goins-gone! But 8 home runs in 634 plate appearances is not enough for me to yield the inner part of the zone.
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