Terrance Gore Doesn’t Chop Wood

Terrance Gore can fly. The 25-year-old outfielder is as fast as anyone in the game, and he’s especially lethal on the base paths. Gore has 19 steals in 21 attempts as a Kansas City Royal, and he is 251 for 275 down on the farm. He takes his leads with a green light.

There is one thing holding him back: Gore has yet to invent a way to steal first base.

Hitless in seven big-league at-bats (his thefts have come as a pinch-runner), Gore has slashed .243/.342/.273 in 1,806 minor-league plate appearances. The OBP number in that slash line is acceptable, but given his SLG and his size — he’s listed at 5-foot,7, 165 — anything resembling Giancarlo Stanton-like respect is little more than a pipe dream. To earn ABs at the highest level, he’ll need to hit his way on.

He’s working on that, and — feel free to raise an eyebrow — launch angle plays a part in the process.

Players with Gore’s profile are typically told to hit ground balls to the left side and use their wheels to try to outrun the baseball. He’s “heard that a million times,” but is a slap-and-and-dash approach actually in his best interests? Gore isn’t so sure.

“I’ve noticed, from history and all that, that chopping the ball on the ground isn’t going to get you too far in this game,” said Gore, who has yet to leave the yard as a professional. “They’ve got guys that crash — they’ve got shortstops with Gold Gloves — so if you make it to first, it’s probably going to be on an error. No matter how fast you are, you’re not going to get there very often by chopping. You’ve got to hit through the ball and drive it a little bit.”

Gore doesn’t have any illusions of becoming a bopper. When push comes to shove, he knows that fly balls aren’t his friend any more than routine grounders are. Given his fly-weight pop, they’re likely worse.

“I do need to keep it out of the air,” said Gore. “[Minor-league hitting instructor] Terry Bradshaw always told us, ‘My freaking six-year-old can catch fly balls.’ It doesn’t do any good to hit pop ups, so he wants us try to stay on top of the ball. Ground balls come with that, but line drives come, too. That’s obviously what I want.”

The right-handed-hitting speedster has been working with bench coach Don Wakamatsu and Triple-A hitting coach Tommy Gregg, on using more of his legs and his backside. Keeping his hands “even with the ball” is another spring focus.

As for how he’d describe his swing path… let’s just say he has a complicated relationship with the applicable terminology. Semantics, if you will.

“I don’t do the chopping wood,” stated Gore. “I don’t like to look at it like that. If I thought about it like chopping wood, I’d probably hit the ball like I was chopping wood. I mean, they don’t really mean ‘Hit it like you’re chopping wood,’ but you kind of get what they’re trying to say. They want you to hit down on the ball.”

Which is what he still wants to do. Sort of.

“I’m trying to stay on top of the ball,” explained Gore. “I like that term better. I’m trying to hit down through the ball and create backspin. That’s kind of what they mean by ‘chop wood’ — make the ball do all the work. The pitcher is providing all the velocity, so if you hit down on it, backspin happens. So you’re kind of chopping, but you’re not actually chopping.”

If any of that sounds convoluted, it’s probably not fair to blame the former University of Georgia football recruit. (Gore rushed for over 1,000 yards as a high-school senior.) He gets asked about hitting as often as Spud Webb was asked about his jump shot.

“I get baserunning questions all the time, but that’s mostly it,” Gore told me. “I don’t really ever get asked about my swing or my approach.”

Having covered the former, I dutifully moved on to the latter and got the following response.

“I get challenged quite a bit,” began Gore. “Every time I’m in the box, I feel they’re going to throw me fastballs, and they’re going to throw me strikes. The last thing they want to do is walk me. They’re going to be around the zone, so I don’t have to pick and choose as much. Actually, I do. I want to find the right pitch to hit, and not the pitcher’s pitch. That gives me a better chance to square the ball up.”

Not slap at the ball and run, square balls up and run.

Will changing his stroke help Gore become more than a modern-day version of Herb Washington? Part of that depends on the extent to which he actually is changing his stroke. How you define “chopping wood” is a secondary consideration.

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.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Elway
7 years ago

Terry Bradshaw as a hitting coach? That’s about as stupid as having Ben Revere as your QB coach.

Just neighing.