Ask top prospect Kris Bryant about his swing, and he’ll tell you something you may have never heard before. You’ll probably also have to ask a few knowledgable people to help explain what he means.
After talking to Bryant in Spring Training last week, I asked FanGraphs prospect maven Kiley McDaniel, professional hitting consultant Dan Farnsworth, and prospect video guru Steve Fiorindo of the Prospect Pipeline to comment on the things Bryant said about his own swing. It’s an analysis of a self-analysis, if you will, with some of the moving images below provided by Carson Cistulli.
Kris Bryant: I stood straight up in high school. I haven’t changed anything since my college years, that’s when I widened out. Sophomore year I widened out so I could get to the low pitch easier. I got more power from it too because I started using my hips and legs and I was firing through the zone a lot quicker. Now that I’m wider, I have a whole lot more power.
Kiley McDaniel: I note when a batter has a low stance, since it’s easy to notice and is descriptive, but as with pitcher arm actions and the general idea of a guy’s swing, things like wide setup/power hitter, these aren’t things you can usually change with any success. So having an opinion about it in general usually doesn’t matter, since you’re so unlikely to be able to change it long-term even if you think you have a better answer.
Steve Fiorindo: I think the widening of the stance minimizes other movements, it helps for a quiet swing, but you have to be pretty strong to do it (obviously he is). Wide base, little or no stride = less opportunity for swing to break down. I know some guys like the big leg kick, (I say do whatever works for you), but the big leg kick often leads to foot getting down and body shifting weight over the front foot too so the swing breaks down and there is nothing behind it.
Dan Farnsworth: While there’s no magic distance between the feet that can create the most power in general, on the individual level it can definitely make a big difference. For Bryant, I would imagine his base being wider allows him to more easily activate his glutes than when he was more narrow.
Think of it like doing a squat with a narrow base versus a wide base. There’s certainly a sweet spot dictated by individual anatomy that allows for the quickest firing of the strongest muscles in the lower half. The swing isn’t strictly an upward move like a squat, but the same muscles utilized to push into the ground go through much of the same movement to turn that linear force (straight into the ground) into rotational force. His best position for creating power is just a reflection of how the muscles and bones in his lower half are built, and his previous swing base probably wasn’t in as optimal of a position.
Kris Bryant: It’s almost like a rubber band between your hips and your hands. Your hips go and you have your hands kept back as long as possible, until the last second, then they have to come through and so it’s like a rubber band effect, essentially.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.