Chris Coghlan on Hitting

Chris Coghlan isn’t the same hitter he was when he captured NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2009. His numbers aren’t quite as good, but the Marlin-turned-Cub nonetheless feels he’s better. At age 30, he has a more learned understanding both of his craft and the stats that matter.

Coghlan has put up a .272/.353/.443 slash line since coming to Chicago prior to last season. This year he will easily eclipse his career best in home runs, and his walk rate has never been higher. Coghlan is by no means a star, but he’s been a cog in the Cubs lineup against right-handed pitchers. He has just 27 plate appearances against southpaws, which is his lone complaint.

Coghlan talked hitting prior to a recent game at Wrigley Field.


Coghlan on his swing: “Pitchers are going to run it and sink it on you. If you’re too flat on your bat path, you’re going to swing right over the top of the ball, or hit it right into the ground. You need to have an entry plane that’s up enough, or steep enough, to get underneath the ball, to lift it. The more rotational you are, the flatter you are, yeah, you’re going to run into some line drives if the ball is elevated, but for the most part it’s going to be tough for you to square it up.

“My bat angle changes depending on pitch elevation and what the pitch is. I don’t want to take the same swing to every single ball. I don’t want to have the same bat path for a high-and-away fastball as I would for a low-and-away slider. I want to be able to control the entire zone. Of course, I’m human, so I can’t hit every zone perfectly. But the more I’m able to manipulate, and enter at different angles, the more I’m able to hit different pitches. Obviously, the more pitches you can handle, the better hitter you are.”

On hitting against same-sided pitchers: “One thing that frustrates me is the limited opportunities for lefties to face lefties. The game is turning into so much of a platoon that it’s actually bad for the players. If you talk to any hitter, whether he’s a righty or a lefty, he likes to face same-sided pitchers every once in awhile. It keeps you honest and allows you to lock back in. Facing lefties helps (a left-handed hitter) stay short and simple, and not be so aggressive, which you’re more likely to be against righties.

“Look at Anthony Rizzo. He stunk against lefties, but they gave him an opportunity because they paid him and wanted him to be an everyday player. Now he’s hitting lefties at a good rate (.940 OPS this season, .928 last year). Why is that happening? Yeah, he’s made some adjustments, but it’s also because they gave him an opportunity. Had they given up on him, which they would have with a lot of people, because he was hitting .190-.200 against lefties, then nobody would know how great he is.”

On the evolution of his approach: “Last year, a lot of people asked me, ‘Hey, do you think you’re back?’ That’s because I had a good year and they wanted to compare it to my first season, which was statistically my best. I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t want to compare it to that, because everything is so different. I’m a lot better hitter now than I was in my rookie year. I understand what I do better, and that allows me to be a better hitter.

“When I was younger, I valued batting average and hits. Now I value slugging and on-base. That’s how you win games. You have to get on base to score runs, and you slug to knock them in. If you look at my numbers, you’ll see they’re different, and that’s because my values have changed. That said, I’m still instinctual. I still want to be aggressive. I want to hit every pitch until my eyes tell me otherwise.”

On hitting for power: “If I hit a ground ball, it’s a mis-hit. I want to hit the ball in the air and drive it. That’s the only way you’re going to slug. That said, I don’t go up there thinking, ‘I want to hit a home run.’ No, I want to look for a pitch I can elevate and do damage to. I want line drives in the gaps and in the seats.

“You don’t have to be big to hit home runs. It’s about swings and biomechanics, and what you value. If you line up biomechanically, and value the right things, you’re going to hit home runs. Why does Joc Pederson have 20 homers? You can’t tell me he weighs more than 190 pounds. Look at his swing. You don’t have to be 220, and that’s something a lot of people miss. You do need to be a little strong, but it’s mostly about other things.”

On mechanics and hitting coaches: “I talk to my hitting coaches about mechanics, but I try to not do too much of it. That’s a slippery slope sometimes, because this game is so mental. It’s not always your swing. I focus more on mechanics in the offseason, and once the season starts, it’s mostly about the mental grind. It’s ‘How sharp can I be?’ If I can get pitches, night after night, they’ll all stack up in the end.

“I’m in a unique situation. This is my seventh season and I’ve had seven different managers and seven different hitting coaches. I don’t say that as ‘Woe is me,’ but it can be tough. You have to prove yourself to a new manager to get playing time, and you have to build a chemistry with a new hitting coach. Every coach has different theologies and understandings, and you have to get on the same page with them, so you can battle together. Fortunately, I think we have everything in place here, and it’s exciting to see what’s in front of us.”

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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7 years ago

I like Chris Coghlan. He should leadoff for the Cubs.

I hope he sticks around for a few years. I enjoy watching him play.