You’ve heard of Shark Week, yes? Well, it’s Kris Bryant week here at Bleacher Nation … and how could it not be?
Since late last week, we’ve already discussed how Bryant may soon have something very special in common with former Cardinal great Stan Musial and the fact that he is now basically, your National League Leaderboard all in one, but we’re not stopping there.
After a monster month that netted him NL Player of the Month honors, Bryant’s boss and Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein is laying on the praise pretty thick. In fact, in an article at CSN Chicago, Epstein claims that Bryant might soon follow in Dustin Pedroia’s MVP footsteps. So do yourself a favor, give yourself a smile, and read through his comments.
After a scorching hot nine-game West Coast road trip saw Bryant slash .417/.476/.889 with five home runs, two doubles, and a walk rate (11.9%) greater than his strikeout rate (9.5%), Epstein had some nice things to say to CSN: “[Bryant is] helping us win in so many different ways. Obviously coming up big of late, which is great to see. He deserves all the accolades that are coming his way and that may eventually come his way.”
Epstein went on to say that he never has and never would have held Bryant to the lofty standard that Bryant’s now set; that this was never the development path they had envisioned, but also that he isn’t surprised in the slightest. Bryant has always been exceptionally good at making adjustments and is one of the hardest working individuals out there, and that’s been the reason for his ridiculous success.
For his part, Bryant’s manager agrees. “The biggest for me is consistently shorter swing. More contact,” Joe Maddon said. “He’s had smaller windows of chasing pitches out of the strike zone compared to last year when he did it more often.” In case you’ve forgotten, it’s worth reminding you that Bryant has cut his strikeout rate down from 30.6% in 2015 to 21.5% in 2016. One year, more than nine percentage points difference.
While Epstein claims that he doesn’t want to get wrapped up in any individual awards (especially at this point of the season), he does see a path to the MVP for Bryant. While winning the last game of the year remains everyone’s goal and target, it’s difficult to ignore what’s unfolding in front of our eyes. Bryant is special, and he may soon get recognized for that (again).