Up front, I’ve got to emphasize (again): I have no concerns about Kris Bryant’s performance. A player should be so good and fortunate that their “struggles” lead to a .278/.422/.361 line as a rookie. As I wrote yesterday, it’s curious that he hasn’t hit a homer yet, but it’s not a reason to worry, especially given how impressive he’s been in other ways.
And, yes, I realize that “when will Kris Bryant hit his first homer?” has become this year’s “when will Jeff Samardzija get his first win?” But the latter had nothing to do with Samardzija’s actual performance. The former remains an interesting discussion – as long as you’re framing it as part of the overall production/approach conversation, rather than solely focusing on homers.
So, against that backdrop, there are a couple good reads out there for you today on Bryant’s approach at the plate right now, and his lack of power. Incidentally, each comes from a dude I’ll be seeing today at the Miller Park Baseball Prospectus event.
The first comes from Sahadev Sharma, writing at BP Wrigleyville. Sharma’s piece focuses on Bryant’s recent proclivity for fouling off hittable pitches, and the impact that is having on his power game (which is to say: if you’re fouling off the best, drivable pitches you’re getting, your power is probably going to suffer). It’s a great read full of visuals and breakdowns, and also includes some thoughts from a scout who’s been following Bryant for a while.
The best quote? “Seems like [Bryant has] been fouling off pitches he normally drives. For most guys that’s what causes a slump. For Kris, it just leads to historic walks totals.”
The scout isn’t worried about Bryant, Sharma isn’t worried about Bryant, and I’m not worried about Bryant. The guy’s already good, and it’s only going to get better.
To that end, the second piece to check out today is from Adam Brown, writing at his own site. Brown’s focus is on something we’ve talked about anecdotally: how many first pitch cookie fastballs Bryant has been taking.
… except, it actually hasn’t happened all that often. Bryant has taken a first pitch fastball for a strike just nine times (he’s swung at seven of them), and only one was down the middle. Moreover, in those nine plate appearances, Bryant has gone 1-6 with three walks. That’s, like, good. Way, way better than the league average plate appearance that begins with strike one.
Read Brown’s piece for the nitty gritty, but the upshot is Bryant isn’t just sitting there taking the first pitch no matter what, wasting one of the few hittable pitches he might see. He’s pretty much doing the best with what he’s getting.
And, to that end, he’ll start wrecking those balls he’s fouling off soon enough. You’ll see.