As baseball adapts to new findings regarding the importance of getting the ball in the air, the Chicago Cubs’ Kris Bryant is tailor-made for it.
Over the last few years, big-league players have started to change the way they swing the bat, opting for a more uppercut swing. Josh Donaldson, J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner are a few of the multitude of players who have seen huge surges in their careers thanks to changes in their approach.
The results of these findings have helped cause an increase in home runs. In the last two years, there’s been a total of 10,513 homers hit – the most in a two-year span since 2003-2004.
This year the league is on pace to blow past last year’s mark. Players are already hitting more homers per game than ever before, and if they hit at least as many homers as they did last year, 2015-2017 will be the greatest homer-happy stretch since the steroid era.
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A swing that’s built for it
If anyone’s made for this new era of hitting, it’s Kris Bryant. The 3rd baseman’s swing is a natural uppercut, and it’s definitely showing in his stats. Since his debut in 2015, Bryant’s tied for 6th in the league in fly ball percent (among players with at least 1,000 PA during that time), lifting one 45.2 percent of the time.
Why is this important? Because lifting the ball that many times while also hitting the ball as hard as Bryant does usually results in more extra base hits and homers. Want proof? Here are the number of players with at least a 40 percent FB rate and 35 percent hard contact rate since he joined the league:
That’s a combined 1,500 home runs and 1,494 doubles, or about 65 and 65 per player if we spread them out evenly. Here are the players who have at least those numbers since Bryant’s debut:
Those aren’t your everyday players on that list. Those are MVPs, HR/RBI leaders and future Hall of Famers, and Bryant is among those elite players because of his ability to elevate the ball.
This season he’s leading the number of qualified Cubs in FB%. A number of players also have similar numbers in the category, but what makes Bryant standout is not only his ability to get the ball in the air but his ability to keep the ball off the ground.
While the Cubs as a team are hitting the ground at an above-average rate, Bryant is not. The reigning MVP is only hitting grounders 33.6 percent of the time, which is, you guessed it, the lowest mark on the team.
The rest of the team hasn’t fared so well, especially Anthony Rizzo. A year after smashing 32 homers and 43 doubles, he’s on pace for well below that so far this season. Part of the reason is because he’s hitting grounders way more than usual – 8.6 percent more than last year. None of other qualified Cubs have a GB% lower than 42 percent.
Now we’re not saying this is the reason the Cubs are having a less-than-expected start to the season offensively. What we are saying is Bryant is avoiding having to go through the starts his teammates are having because of a combination of hard contact, getting the ball in the air and keeping the ball off the ground.
With his uppercut swing, Bryant was made to hit homers. He’s on pace to come close to the 39 he hit last year, but even if he doesn’t match that mark he’ll probably improve in some other area. He’s just that good.