Phillies Rookie Matt Vierling Keeps Hitting Simple

© Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Vierling has been a versatile player for the Philadelphia Phillies this season. Primarily a center fielder, the 25-year-old University of Notre Dame product has also seen action in the outfield corners, as well as at first, second, and third base. He’s also capable with the bat. While not yet fully established against big league pitching, Vierling has a 95 wRC+ in 229 plate appearances with the NL East club, plus the potential to produce at a higher level as he matures.

Vierling discussed his simple-meets-cerebral approach, and how he’s evolved since entering pro ball as fifth-round draft pick four years ago, during spring training.


David Laurila: Let’s start with one of my favorite Talks Hitting openers. Do you approach hitting as more of an art, or as more of a science?

Matt Vierling: “I would lean more towards art, although I see both sides. It’s definitely science with the mechanics; if you don’t make the right swing, there’s a mechanical reason why. But when you’re up there and in the flow of things, it’s more like an art. I’d have to lean more in that direction.”

Laurila: This is maybe a hard question to answer, but how would you describe your art?

Vierling: “That is a hard one. I guess it would be being in rhythm — a lot of rhythm and a lot of timing. It’s not so much dancing with the pitcher, but kind of just being in his rhythm, being on time with him.”

Laurila: What is your timing mechanism?

Vierling: “A lot of times it’s when he breaks his hands, but sometimes I feel a little late, so I might start a little bit earlier. Really, I’m never too early. I always try to be as early as I can. I have a little leg lift. Sometimes it’s bigger than other times — at different points in my career — but it’s something that’s always been there.”

Laurila: Where are your hands?

Vierling: “They’re pretty low. I would say a little bit above my belt line. You don’t [want excessive movement], but I understand that sometimes you need to have a little slot in your swing to make up for that. But yeah, I like them low. They’re comfortable there. But I do have a little bit of movement, just to have some of that rhythm I was talking about. I hate the feeling of being still.”

Laurila: You were drafted in 2018. Did any mechanical adjustments take place that summer in short-season ball?

Vierling: “They let me play that whole year without really talking, which allowed me to kind of navigate things without too many distractions. They weren’t telling me what to do, or how I should be feeling — they let me go in there with my own thoughts on hitting — and I appreciated that. I ended up hitting well that half season.

“Instructs is when you’ll start talking to them about hitting, and start getting to know things. For me it was working on my legs. It was trying to stay more in my legs and not coming up. That was pretty much the main focus.

Laurila: How would you describe your bat path?

Vierling: “It’s pretty level. The game… I think that the game adjusts. The pitching adjusts. The hitting adjusts. You see a lot of high heaters now, and I think the level swing helps against that. It’s a challenge for everybody, but I’m a big believer in that level swing. Staying on top of the ball gives you a little bit better chance to hit that pitch, compared to having a loft swing.”

Laurila: Do the coaches talk to you about your bat path?

Vierling: “Not a ton about my path, specifically. It’s more about my legs — staying in my legs — and how that helps my path. I’ve kind of always had a level path, and while at certain times I’ve tried for a little more loft, that hasn’t been good for me. It hasn’t turned out the power I want. I get more power when I’m not looking for it in that manner.”

Laurila: How do you identify as a hitter? I’m guessing more contact than power?

Vierling: “I want to say in between. I would say more… I want to say ‘hard-hitting contact hitter, with some power.’ So I wouldn’t say I’m one or the other. But yeah, maybe a little more contact than power.

“I also really hate striking out. It obviously doesn’t help the team at all. Having a two strike approach and kind of just being able to put the ball in play, any way you can, and grinding to do that, makes the pitcher’s life a lot harder. It makes him work a lot harder.”

Laurila: Are you big on scouting reports?

Vierling: “Yes and no. I don’t want to over-complicate things. I’ll look at a scouting report to see what his pitches are, how hard he throws, and where he likes to throw his pitches, particularly his out pitch. That’s about it. One year, we had so much information. We were talking about spin rates, about C and X, and all this stuff. It didn’t help me at all. More than anything, it made me confused. I just want to go out there and be athletic and simple.”

Laurila: That’s coming from someone who played his college ball at Notre Dame. What was your major?

Vierling: “Management consulting. But I still like to keep hitting simple.”


Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Alex Bregman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Brendan Donovan, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, Ryan Fuller, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Robert Hassell III, Rhys Hoskins, Eric Hosmer, Tim Hyers, Josh Jung, Jimmy Kerr, Trevor Larnach, Doug Latta, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Brent Rooker, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Josh VanMeter, Robert Van Scoyoc, Zac Veen, Mark Vientos, Luke Voit, Jared Walsh, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke, Kevin Youkilis.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

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