Simply Put, Seattle’s Ty France Is a Deserving All-Star

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Ty France was named to the American League All-Star team this past Sunday. Added when Mike Trout bowed out due to injury, the Seattle Mariners first baseman didn’t simply merit the honor, his addition was overdue. Statistically the best hitter on baseball’s hottest team — 14 straight wins heading into the break! — France is slashing .308/.376/.470, with club-bests in both wOBA (.369) and wRC+ (148).

He’s not a flash in the pan. A 34th-round pick by the San Diego Padres in 2015 out of San Diego State University, France has long shown an ability to square up baseballs. A .300/.388/.463 hitter over all professional levels, all he’s really needed was the opportunity.

“That’s really all it is,” France said prior to a game at Fenway Park in late May. “Honestly, it’s being able to play every day — being in the lineup and getting those consistent reps — more than anything else. This game is a lot of ups and downs, and the more comfortable you can be, the more you’re going to find yourself in a good spot.”

Seattle has proven to be an ideal spot. Before being acquired from the Padres at the August 2020 trade deadline, the recently-turned-28-year-old infielder had just 262 big league plate appearances. Since the beginning of last season, he has 1,002 with his current club. Moreover, no Mariner has accumulated more WAR or posted a higher wRC+, nor totaled as many hits or RBIs.

Seattle’s hitting coaches can’t be credited with transforming France into an offensive force, but they have been playing an important role in his success. The first-time All-Star will go to them if something feels off, and at times they’ll approach him. In each case, there might be a minor mechanical issue to address.

“I might be too much in my legs, or my head might be drifting when I’m loading,” France explained. “Basically, they’ll see things on video that I might not be feeling. As a hitter, you swing so much that things will start to feel the same. Our hitting coaches will recognize when they aren’t exactly the same.”

Hitters commonly talk about the need to get into their legs. Hitters commonly talk about the need to get into their legs. For that reason, I asked the West Covina, California native what he meant by too much, including what happens as a result.

“It causes me to be a tick late, because there’s an extra move that I’m not aware of,” explained France. “Hitting is all about timing, and when I’m too much into the ground I have to come up that little extra to get to where I need to be, to fire. That split second is enough to be late on a pitch. The way the body works, with all the swings you take, you’ll kind of drift [into bad habits] without noticing. Again, our coaches do a really good job of helping bring me back.”

France has a small leg lift that he tries to time up with the pitcher — he wants to get his foot down as the ball is being released — and from there he strives to be short and direct to the ball. A mechanical adjustment he made in Double-A has proven beneficial. France used to have his back elbow up, and when he loaded it would get even higher, causing him to “kind of collapse.” By bringing it down, his elbow “gets to even instead of up” when he loads.

Wasted movement is wasted movement, and that’s whether it’s your legs, your elbow, or any other part of your body. As France stated, a split second is enough to be late on a pitch. Hitting is all about timing.

“The smaller your movements are, the more time you’ll have,” said France. “Honestly, I try to simplify hitting as much as I can. This game is hard, and the more you think about things, the harder it is. I just want to go up there and put a good swing on the ball. I’m thankful to be getting an opportunity to do that.”

The Mariners have been more than happy to oblige. A consistently productive hitter since coming to Seattle, Ty France — better late than never — is an American League All-Star.

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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1 year ago

Has there been a post about what kind of tech teams use in the film room? France is talking about what seems to be really tiny aspects of his swing and I am curious how they identify those items in film study. If this is a naked eye sort of thing, I would think the flaw/tweak/change would have to be pretty pronounced before a human could pick it up.
Good on Ty for being able to do these kind of specific and (possibly) minute adjustments. I can walk and chew gum, but if you asked me to make each stride three centimeters longer, that might be an adjustment I can’t make.