Mentored by Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story Likes To Keep Hitting Simple

Trevor Story
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Trevor Story is an accomplished hitter. The 29-year-old Boston Red Sox infielder was a stalwart in the middle of the Colorado Rockies’ lineup prior to this season and has 173 home runs and a 110 wRC+ over six-plus MLB campaigns. Twice a National League All-Star, Story blasted 37 home runs in 2018, and he followed that up with 35 more in 2019.

His first go-round in the Junior Circuit has been of the up-and-down variety. Signed to a six-year, $140 million free-agent deal by Boston in March, Story has 15 long balls to his credit, but just a .221/.289/.423 slash line. Currently on the injured list with a hand contusion, the Irving, Texas native is expected to return to the Red Sox lineup in the near future.

Story discussed his evolution as a hitter earlier this week.


David Laurila: Nolan Arenado and Daniel Murphy, players with different approaches to their craft, were among the earliest interviews for my Talks Hitting series. [Links here and here.] Which of your former Rockies teammates are you most similar to that regard?

Trevor Story: “It would be Nolan. He was a mentor to me my first few years, and we still talk the game a lot. Nolan pretty much taught me how to pull the ball the right way. But knowing yourself as a hitter… just like Murph did. Murph knew himself, and he knew that he was going to be thinking the other way or thinking up the middle. There are obviously different schools of thinking, and I would say I’m closer to Nolan, trying to get the ball in the air pull-side.”

Laurila: What about in terms of analytics? When I spoke to them, Arenado was all about keeping things as simple as possible, while Murphy was very in-depth and detailed. Have you delved into analytics much over the years?

Story: “A little bit, but definitely not as much as Murph or a J.D. [Martinez].”

Laurila: Those are pretty high bars.

Story: “They’re very high bars. I’m a pretty simple guy when it comes to hitting. I think less is more for me — I’ve tried to try to keep it that way — although I do understand that sometimes I need to address some things and look a little bit more in detail. But overall, I generally try to keep it very simple.”

Laurila: Circling back to how you learned how to pull the ball, were the adjustments physical in nature, or were they more mental?

Story: “A little of both. For me, it was more path/intent on what I was trying to do. Between the mind and the body, sometimes there is an imbalance there. Sometimes you need to think one way to get a certain result, and for me it was just kind of breaking down the barrier. It was feeling like it’s okay to get the head out. It’s okay to be powerful toward left-center and have that be where I want to go. Once I embraced that and felt like… you know, obviously practicing within some of the details in the cage and off a machine, feeling comfortable getting to that inside pitch the right way. It was really just more of an intent thing with some small, kind of minor adjustments in the physical part.”

Laurila: To the extent that there were physical adjustments, was it primarily lower half?

Story: “It was actually more of a hands thing, I would say. The key for me was keeping… as I land, having my hands and my torso rotate into that front side, and having no zero. We call it a give, or a negative — kind of a pull-out that way. So pretty much once I land, my head stays dead still and I rotate. I think that’s the fastest way to get to that inside pitch. One of the keys for me was keeping my head still as I made my move and not giving any ground.”

Laurila: What about catching the ball more out front versus letting it travel?

Story: “I think you want to hit that inside pitch a little bit more out front than you would an outside pitch. But to me it was more about kind of just rotating to lift the ball instead of trying to go ‘get it,’ kind of trying to cut down the distance out front with my hands. Basically, it was letting the ball get to a spot and having my natural path, instead of literally trying to catch it out front.”

Laurila: When was that adjustment?

Story: “It was in 2018. Being around Nolan for two years and talking a lot of ball… he was my locker mate, so we were always around each other. Over time, I was getting little things from him on his approach and what he was trying to do. And it takes some uncomfortability to try things — getting out of your comfort zone and going out there not being afraid to look stupid. It’s amazing some of the things that you can accomplish when you take that fear of failure out of it, when you’re not scared of looking silly.”

Laurila: Have you pretty much been locked in with who you are since that time?

Story: “I’d say since a couple months into that 2018 season. But there have been adjustments here and there, mostly approach-wise. There are the spinning fastballs at the top. There are the wide sliders now. There are things that call for a little bit of a different approach sometimes. When it comes to mechanics, I just try to be as efficient as I can. From there, I try to lock in on my game plan and execute it.”

Laurila: Is handling the elevated fastball more about approach, or do you need to level out your bat path a little more than normal?

Story: “I think you need to do that, yes, but my swing is level. The angle of my posture kind of dictates slider, fastball, or whatever it may be. In my mind, my swing is always pretty low. If you see my practice swing, I’ll always take it very level. That’s the swing I’m taking every time. My swing has been the same since probably high school, although the way I get to launching it has changed a little bit.”

Laurila: What is your timing mechanism?

Story: “I’ve always kind of timed with my hands — a hand pump. That’s the initial start for me. I don’t really think much about my hover, or my lower half. I just try to be athletic down there and let it do what it’s going to do. When I feel [the hands] are synced up, then the body… I’ve learned that the body loves to be in sync, and when they work together the sequence is going to be pretty good. That’s it in a nutshell.”

Laurila: Your profile isn’t that of a handsy hitter — you have a lot of power — but at the same time, it sounds like hands play a big role in your swing.

Story: “I feel like my hands are my best weapon. With my bat speed, I can do some damage out there, but in my mind, I’m a handsy guy. It’s just not a slappy-type handsy.”

Laurila: You mentioned the sweepy slider. How does a hitter go about attacking that pitch?

Story: “More than anything, you have to stay through the middle of the field with your approach and your body, for as long as you can, because the the horizontal break — the sweep — of those pitches is more than a full plate length. You’ve got to have it started in the right place, and you’ve got to stay through it as long as you can. It’s not easy. It’s a pitch a lot of guys are throwing now… there are a lot of tough pitches being thrown now. You just have to stick with what you do and hit the ones you can handle.”


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, Hunter Mense, 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, Matt Vierling, 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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