Something’s Not Right With Kris Bryant’s Swing Mechanics
It doesn’t take an expert to understand that Kris Bryant hasn’t looked quite like himself this season, which is why I’m here to take a look at what could be hampering his production. Without discounting the wrist injury he suffered on a diving catch in Cleveland, which could absolutely be exacerbating matters, the mechanical flaws with his swing were evident before that.
Those who had the opportunity to watch the broadcast of Monday night’s game on Marquee may have heard Jim Deshaies say it appeared as though Bryant was “pushing” his bat through the zone. That struck me because it was not only similar to what I’d noted earlier, it’s something I’ve worked with my son and other young hitters to eliminate. Please note that I am not trying to claim my work with 11U kids is directly applicable here, only that it’s clued me in to certain issues.
My initial observation with Bryant was that he may have been keeping his bat too flat at the load phase, thereby lengthening his swing path and possibly making his vertical bat angle too steep. Prior to engaging his swing, Bryant adopts his familiar wide stance and rests the bat on his shoulder with the barrel below his hands. The barrel still comes up as he loads in preparation for his swing, but it doesn’t appear that he’s getting it high enough.
That means the it has to travel a greater distance in order to get into the hitting zone, which would explain why Bryant has been late on fastballs with less than elite velocity. That flatter load position could also be responsible for the issue JD noted, as Bryant might be compensating for the extra length in his swing by getting his hands going a little early rather than letting his hips initiate the movement.
Finally, pushing or dragging the bat through the hitting zone — particularly with a wrist weakened even slightly by injury — could cause the back elbow to slide forward without getting anchored to the rib cage. The result is a barrel that is both too far behind and possible too far below the hands. Again, this fits with Bryant swinging through pitches he’d normally tag.
While I certainly don’t know when and where these particular issues originated, the long layoff and subsequent sporadic nature of Bryant’s playing time may be preventing him from identifying and correcting them. The good news is that he has been making little adjustments here and there throughout his entire life and has an excellent coaching staff that I’m sure will have noticed these same flaws even before reading this post.
Ed. note: Hey, ‘Poce, my DMs are open if you need to chat.
When you really get down to it, we’re talking about changing things by fractions of inches and/or seconds. Getting the bat a little higher a little earlier could be the difference between swinging through a cutter or sinker and depositing it 25 rows deep in left-center. As we saw from his at-bat just after rolling over his wrist in Cleveland, Bryant can still do just that.
Doing so consistently, however, is another matter entirely and one that can’t just be changed by knowing what he needs to do differently. There are a variety of potential culprits here, both physical and mental, something David Ross acknowledged on Monday.
“He’s battling a lot of things right now,” Ross said after the nightcap. “He wants to have results. He wants to be great.”
Ross told reporters that his superstar third baseman is playing at less than 100% while dealing with bumps and bruises, but those things can affect a hitter psychologically as well. The body is a compensation machine and it will find ways to accomplish tasks in a new way if it’s unable to perform optimally, which can lead to struggles with performance. Those then lead to frustration and the erosion of confidence, which can manifest in additional physical issues.
Again, I’m not trying to present anything here as gospel and I don’t want to oversell my very limited credentials when it comes to breaking down an MVP’s swing. I do, however, have some pretty detailed knowledge of this particular hitter’s swing and I feel reasonably confident that what I’ve laid out here is a bit more than just half-cocked theory. It’s at least three-quarter cocked, by my estimation.
My final theory is that all it’ll take for KB to get back to himself is a little hard work and maybe a mistake pitch or three. There’s no cure for a slump like confidence, and nothing breeds confidence like a big game. Maybe even moving him around in the lineup for a bit would help to recalibrate his perception and provide a stronger catalyst for change. Hey, that could even rub off on the guy hitting two spots behind Bryant in the lineup.
Update: Bryant is not in Tuesday’s lineup after seeing a wrist specialist and receiving an injection, presumably cortisone or something similar. David Ross told the media prior to Tuesday’s game that Bryant needed to rest at least two days, which puts Friday’s game against the White Sox as his earliest possible return.
Ross: Bryant had an injection in his left wrist today. A "two day at least" down period. Friday would be earliest day he could be back.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 18, 2020
Ross said they’ll determine later whether an IL stint is necessary, but that they’ve not reached that point yet. This may well be one of those injuries that won’t fully heal by the time the season ends and can’t really be worsened by playing. If that’s the case, Bryant and the training staff just need to do everything possible from a therapy and rest standpoint to minimize discomfort.
Wrists are tricky though, so we’ll all just have to wait and see.