Cedric Mullins Talks Hitting

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Cedric Mullins came out of nowhere, but the 26-year-old Baltimore Orioles outfielder has exceeded expectations in what is essentially his first full big-league season. Swinging exclusively from the left side, the former switch-hitter is slashing a stellar .318/.382/.539 with 20 home runs and a 151 wRC+ heading into Tuesday’s action. Moreover, his 4.7 WAR is tied for third-highest among MLB position players.

Mullins sat down to talk hitting when the Orioles visited Fenway Park this past weekend.

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David Laurila: To start, how would you describe yourself as a hitter?

Cedric Mullins: “I would describe myself as someone whose primary focus is to get on base. I’ve always been a leadoff-type hitter, but I also have some power. When I see a pitch I can handle and am able to put a good swing on it, it might go over the fence. Maybe it will be a double.”

Laurila: What about your setup and swing path?

Mullins: “I’ve made some tweaks. We brought the technology and the robots out and got some numbers on what my swing path looks like and how I could make a few [changes] to be more consistent through the zone. For me, it’s more or less just ‘see the ball, get a pitch to hit, put a good swing on it,’ but at the same time, the game has changed so much. Now you can see what your body is doing on certain things. It’s a matter of being attentive to those.”

Laurila: What is your history with hitting analytics?

Mullins: “After the 2019 season is when I got introduced to all that stuff. I was out in St. Louis working with a hitting guru, Rick Strickland. He had all that stuff available and ready for me. We talked about what my swing has been doing. We put the K-Vest on, and it matched what I felt in games. It was just a matter of trying to progress from there with different drills.”

Laurila: What were the changes you made?

Mullins: “If you put a side-by-side of my swing in 2019 versus now, the approach itself is relatively the same, but I’m standing a little more upright than I used to, [and] I have my barrel flatter as a starting point as opposed to more vertical. Those small adjustments helped make my swing more consistent, just more useful in games.”

Laurila: You gave up switch-hitting and are now left-only. You’re also a left-handed thrower, which means your dominant hand is your top hand. How does that impact your swing?

Mullins: “Being top-hand-dominant is pretty crucial to a swing. At the same time, it’s mostly a matter of being able to stay through the ball in general. There are guys that elevate fastballs now, and you have to be able to use your top hand. But I think being left-left, top hand left, is a pretty normal thing. It felt like when I was growing up, everyone that was left-handed also threw left-handed. Maybe that’s changed a little.”

Laurila: Can you elaborate on the importance of a strong top hand?

Mullins: “Your top hand kind of guides your swing, while your bottom hand is there to help with the followthrough. A lot of drills in today’s game focus on your top hand, making sure that it’s making the right moves. The top hand is pretty important.”

Laurila: Did that play any role in your decision to go left only?

Mullins: “No. I’ve always been solid hitter from my left side and have always worked top-hand from my left side, so going left-left was more or less just getting acclimated to the pitching. It wasn’t really about the swing.”

Laurila: Left-handed hitters often say that left-on-left matchups help their swing as a whole, because it forces them to stay within themselves at the plate.

Mullins: “For the most part, my left-handed swing has been the swing that has carried me through my career, but yeah, facing lefties, because of the amount of at bats that you have left-on-left… I mean, it can be challenging, because your swing can alter itself. But if you’re willing to stay in, front shoulder closed, just kind of stay in the at-bat longer, it does help translate on both sides, facing righties and lefties.”

Laurila: Is your swing conducive to handling the high fastball?

Mullins: “It’s not. For the longest time, I’ve always been a low-ball hitter. It got brought to my attention that guys are starting to work me more up in the zone, and I was completely missing those pitches. I was putting good swings on them, I just wasn’t hitting them. The adjustment was to be a little more upright, and it wasn’t necessarily to hit the high fastball, it was to defend against it. If I get into a two-strike count and they elevate a fastball that might be called a strike, I want to be able to at least foul that pitch off. Then I might get a pitch that is lower in the zone that I’m able to do some damage on.”

Laurila: I’ve asked a number of hitters if they basically have one swing — an A-swing — or if they have multiple swings. Where do you fit into that equation?

Mullins: “I’d say most guys, especially with my playing style… the swing itself is the same. My stance might differ. With two strikes I might have a little wider base. I want to make sure that I’m staying within a certain zone, because guys like to pitch around the zone with two strikes, not give you a cookie you might take out of the ballpark. So the swing itself is the same, it might just be a different position with your feet.”

Laurila: Have you modeled your swing after anyone?

Mullins: “At the end of the day you have to be yourself, but I do look at guys’ swings. Ken Griffey Jr., I loved his swing. Everybody loved his swing, although not everybody hits left-handed. It’s harder for a right-handed hitter to copy Ken Griffey’s swing. But I was an Andruw Jones fan, too. Growing up in Georgia as a Braves fan, I saw him play a lot. And I loved his swing. I didn’t necessarily copy it, but he was a guy I looked up to.”

Laurila: One last thing: Some people might look at the season you’re having and say that you’ve come out of nowhere. To what extent would that be true?

Mullins: “I’ve come out of nowhere in the sense that I wasn’t the most talked-about guy. I was never a top prospect. So I can see people being that way, especially with me being with the Orioles my entire career. It would be the Orioles fanbase that knows anything about me. But I guess you can say that I kind of came onto the scene out of nowhere.”

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Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Tim Hyers, Trevor Larnach, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Daniel Murphy, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Zac Veen, 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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Cubbie23member
1 year ago

Cedric has quickly become one of my favorite players in the game. Great bat with placement and pop as well as a great range and glove in the field. Really dig pulling up the curtain on his thoughts and process about hitting, this is great stuff!