Wait, WHAT!?!? You are going to actually sit there, straight faced and tell me Kris Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP, needs to improve? That’s it, I’m exiting and will never click on another Chicago Style Sports article again.
But wait, hold your horses. Yes the title is a little sensationalized, but the content comes from Kris himself. While on “Inside the Clubhouse” on WSCR AM-670 The Score, Kris opened up on how to move on from last season and how to improve his own game.
So how does the 2013 College Player of the Year, 2014 Minor League Player of the Year, 2015 NL Rookie of the Year, and 2016 NL MVP plan on improving? Simple. Or, well… perhaps for the highly trained athlete that he is.
“I didn’t need any metrics to know what I want to improve on — those pitches that are middle away,” Bryant said. “I want to do a better job about hitting them the other way. I do a pretty good job of handling the inside corner. When the pitch is away, I want to do more damage going to right field. I did that well in the minors. I have all the confidence in the world I can get back to that.”
So Bryant himself, like most perfectionists, knows he can improve part of his game. Looking at things closely, he is right for picking the middle out pitches.
As you can see, Bryant has been tough on the pitches middle in over the course of his big league career. While he still hits balls middle of the zone out hard, there is room for improvement in those areas.
Now certainly this is nitpicking a hitter that has compiled a career .284/.377/.522 slash line, but there are a lot of pitches Bryant still swings through instead of driving.
Kris has done a lot to tighten up on swinging through pitches, especially in the zone, and shortening up on middle out pitches will help further his success. One of the first lessons a hitter is taught (until that hitter becomes a bonafide 30+ home run guy) is to go with the pitch. If a pitch is outside, drive it to right. If a pitch is down the middle, drive it up the box. If it is inside, pull the ball.
Often times when a hitter is capable of hitting any one pitch 450 feet however, they are taught to try that. Every time.
This naturally causes more strike outs, and it naturally causes one to be susceptible to outside pitches.
This is a good thing that Bryant is looking for these small holes in his game. Being able to address issues in his swing mechanics, and fixing them in a single offseason bodes well for a sustained career. Just as I can find swing and miss data on Kris, MLB pitchers have an overabundance of that information, and they use it daily against him. If he is constantly working to close those holes he very well might be able to be a force in the Cubs lineup for a very long time.
This is also a good sign as it shows he can take an honest approach to his game. He can also forget the past, regardless of how good it was.
“It is nice to turn the page on last year,” Bryant said. “It will be hard because people still want to talk about what happened last year. Still, it’s great getting out and playing games again. We now can concentrate on this upcoming season.”
It has got to be difficult for a team to come back after breaking a 108 year drought, to just come back with the same drive. Especially a young team. With a young owner. With a fan base that is still punch drunk.
It is the professionalism of this young team that continues to impress. Especially from Kris.
Here is a kid that came from the same place (Las Vegas) as fellow superstar, Bryce Harper. A kid that could have every excuse to dip into the sins that are natural to his hometown.
“As a ballplayer, you are always looking for that edge,” Bryant said. “You look to try and find that angle to beat your opponent. There are a lot of areas where are I know I can get better. I feel great about that aspect of the game, and the work never stops. My offseason was short but full of good work. There were of course a lot of fun things as well. I am now looking forward to kind of getting back into the swing of things here. To me, taking ground balls and working on my hitting is all fun stuff.”
But Bryant doesn’t. He straps it in and focuses on his craft, so much so he postponed a honeymoon until next season in order to train.
Jessica must be the most understanding girl in the world.
So while there certainly are areas which Kris can tweak his game, from a professional perspective he’s got it all figured out.