Alex Bregman Talks Fixing His Swing, How Pitchers Approach Him, and More

Alex Bregman
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Bregman has a reputation for being a studious hitter. Moreover, he has a well-earned reputation for being a productive hitter. The 28-year-old Houston Astros third baseman boasts a .371 wOBA and a 139 wRC+ in just over 3,000 career plate appearances. At his best, he’s been a beast; in 2019, he slugged 41 home runs and slashed a robust .296/.423/.592.

Recent seasons have seen Bregman perform below his pre-pandemic standards, but even with the downturn he’s been putting up solid numbers. His wRC+ since the start of the 2020 season is equal to this year’s 117. Still in his prime from an age standpoint, he remains a feared hitter in the middle of the Houston lineup.

Bregman talked hitting when the Astros visited Fenway Park in mid-May.

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David Laurila: How would you describe your approach to hitting?

Alex Bregman: “The most important thing is knowing what kind of hitter you are [and] knowing what’s going to make you successful. I think that swinging at pitches you can do damage with is extremely important. I think that taking pitches that you can’t do damage with is extremely important. In my best years, I’ve swung the least, while in my worst years I’ve swung the most. I’ve put balls in play that I shouldn’t be putting in play, because they weren’t pitches that I can do damage on.”

Laurila: How can a hitter go about controlling that? A swing decision is something that happens in a blink of an eye.

Bregman: “Good hitters can recognize when pitches are coming into that zone. They can do that early and be able to make a decision, ‘yes or no,’ pretty quickly.”

Laurila: Does a hitter’s hot zone ever change?

Bregman: “I think that it can change, based on what kind of swing you have, and what kind of pitch you’re looking for — basically, what pitches the pitcher you’re facing throws. I’m not going to look for a changeup and a four-seamer in the same spot. If I’m going to swing at that pitch, I’m going to look for them to start in different spots.

“If I’m up there hunting… if I’m looking for four-seam fastball, or I’m looking for a slider, or I’m looking for a sinker, with all of them, where they start needs to be in different spots in order to be in my hot zone. I’m not going to swing at a slider from a righty that starts away, because it’s going to end up off the plate. I don’t want to swing at a sinker, inner line, because it’s going to be off the plate. I’ve got to get that pitch where I want it to be if I want to drive it.”

Laurila: Good pitchers are going to tunnel their pitches well, making it hard to recognize what’s coming.

Bregman: “100 percent. That’s the differentiator. Hitters with really good swing decisions, and hitters with not-as-good swing decisions… you have to be able to swing at the good ones.”

Laurila: You brought up swings when we chatted informally yesterday. How many do you have?

Bregman: “I think you’ve got to have a lot of different swings if you want to be able to cover every pitch. I don’t think you can cover an elite four-seamer up in the zone and an elite sinker down in the zone with the same swing, You have to either make an eye adjustment on where you’re trying to swing, or you need to have a swing adjustment on how you’re trying to hit that pitch. The [bat] path you take is going to be different for those two pitches.”

Laurila: That takes us back to how you only have a fraction of a second. Do you have to be looking for a particular pitch in order to do that effectively, or can you take a different swing based purely on reaction?

Bregman: “That’s a good question. Basically, you… I don’t know. Again, that’s a good question.”

Laurila: Do you train different swings? A criticism I’ve heard is that a lot of hitters only train an A-swing.

Bregman: “Well, I think they can all be A-swings. They’re just A-swings for different pitch types. You can go hit off the breaking ball machine and get your A-swing on a breaking ball, and then you can go to a sinker machine and get your A-swing on a sinker. Same with a four-seamer up.”

Laurila: You told me that you won’t go into specifics, but you do have a plan each time you step into the box.

Bregman: “Yes. Every at-bat, I have a plan for what I’m trying to do, where I’m trying to hit the ball, and what pitch I’m looking for.”

Laurila: Has the way pitchers attack you changed over the years?

Bregman: “I think so, yes. How I’ve been pitched has changed. Early in my career, I got pitched away a lot. I got sliders away. In 2018, I moved up on the plate, closer to the plate, for the first time. I continued to be close to the plate in 2019 and in 2020 and 2021.

“Early this year, I’ve mechanically not been where I want to be with my swing. I do feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of swinging at good pitches to hit, and taking balls. I actually found some mechanical things today [May 18] that should help out throughout the rest of the season, help me to do some damage.”

Laurila: Can you elaborate?

Bregman: “My hand load has been a little bit inconsistent over the last few years. The wrist position of my top hand… we changed it today, and it felt pretty good.”

Laurila: What has been the issue?

Bregman: “It’s slightly been a lot of things, but my top hand has been getting into a different position than it had been in the past — more of a straighter wrist instead of more of a bent wrist. We’re working on getting that back to normal.”

Laurila: What goes amiss with a straight wrist?

Bregman: “It kicks the barrel out behind me. I lay the bat down when I have it straight, instead of being more direct and inside the baseball. It just makes the move bigger, honestly. It’s more of a move back, behind me in the swing… when I initiate my swing, when I say, ‘Yes, I’m going to swing at this pitch,’ and I start to swing, the bat has been laying down behind me, whereas what I want is for it to come forward through the inside part of the baseball.”

Laurila: That sounds similar to how a pitcher needs to have his wrist set to deliver a pitch properly.

Bregman: “Yes, and again, it was literally 30 minutes ago that we started working on this.”

Laurila: Are you typically trying to hit the ball out front?

Bregman: “It depends on the situation and what I’m trying to do. If I’m trying to hit something to the pull side, then yeah, I’m going to want to catch it a little bit more out front. Conversely, if I’m going to try to drive something to right-center or down the right-field line, then I’m going to try to let the ball travel more.”

Laurila: So it depends on the situation.

Bregman: “I think everything in baseball depends on the situation.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jo Adell, Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Bobby Bradley, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Michael Fransoso, 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, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke.





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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Skoolboy Jim
3 months ago

Wow, great! Glad you are helping to rebuild the reputation of a scum who went unpunished and who disgraced the game like never before and maybe never hence. Is this the best Fangraphs can do?

baseballenjoyer
3 months ago
Reply to  Skoolboy Jim

Get over it, grandpa.

miltonfriedman
3 months ago

Why do you assume he is old?