It’s weird to suggest that Kris Bryant is going to break out in the second half when he already owns a .397 wOBA with 17 homers. But the All-Star is implementing another adjustment that could lead to even loftier numbers when the Cubs begin their second-half push.
Bryant, who has been lauded for his launch angle, has actually lifted fewer pitches recently. Whereas his launch angle is typically between 17-22 degrees, it has dropped to around the league average of 12 percent over his most recent 50 batted balls. Rather than being a fluke or cause for alarm, this downward trend is reason to believe he’s headed for even better results.
Cubs Insider has confirmed that Bryant’s decreasing launch angle trend is a byproduct of an adjustment to combat high fastballs, or high pitches in general. That’s been a league-wide pitching trend as the launch angle revolution continues and the up-and-in strategy has been used frequently against Cubs sluggers, especially Bryant.
In 2018, pitchers attacked Bryant with fastballs towards both the left and right portion of the strike zone when ahead of the count (left figure panel). This year, pitchers have exclusively attacked Bryant up-and-in and have mostly neglected the outside portion of the plate (right figure panel).
It has taken him a little time, but we saw Bryant’s adjustments translate to results in his last game against the Pirates. Let’s marvel at his double against a high fastball directly in on his hands. We can see that the vertical angle his bat is not as steep, his hands are in, and he’s not getting under the pitch.
Folks, this is why Bryant has been an MVP and will likely continue to be in that conversation for years to come. He’s just too damn smart and too good at adjusting. I’m not telling you how to fan, but I’m telling myself that I will not take Bryant for granted. So look out, even bigger numbers are coming.