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Kris Bryant’s Areas for Improvement (Yes, They Exist) and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

It’s finally Hall of Fame Day, and this evening we’ll find out who joins baseball’s elite (well, baseball’s elite who also satisfy other frequently-moving, sometimes-arbitrarily-applied standards). The latest public polling shows that Tim Raines should get in on his final try, and Jeff Bagwell should also get in. Ivan Rodriguez is going to be close, but probably in, and Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero are going to be close, but probably out.

  • Kris Bryant – the NL MVP in 2016 after winning NL Rookie of the Year honors in 2015 – is not satisfied. Not that you would expect him to be, as he just strikes you as the kind of constantly working, constantly adjusting player who sees an incredible season as a mere precursor to a better one. At The Athletic, Sahadev Sharma talks to Bryant about adjustments he’s working on this offseason to drive the ball the other way with more authority in 2017. Despite Bryant’s overall offensive dominance in 2016, there was a marked shift in his production the opposite way – after showing so much power to the opposite field throughout the minors and in his rookie season, Bryant was famously sporting a league-worst OPS to the opposite field late in the 2016 season. In his discussion with Sharma, Bryant wants to correct that issue, but also realizes it was partly the product of the way pitchers were increasingly working him inside last year (and why wouldn’t they, after he’d shown the ability to blow them up on the outer third if they tried to stay away?). And part of the “correction” will simply be adjusting to the fact that pitchers will probably adjust in 2017 to the fact that Bryant absolutely destroyed them when they came inside in 2016.

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  • Bryant’s been so nimble offensively already in his career that I have little doubt we’ll see improved offensive numbers the opposite way this year. And let’s keep those pull side numbers enormous, too, eh? Not too many hitters could be excellent to both sides of the field, but Bryant is special.
  • All of that goes to an important broader point: although it is generally a good thing to be able to drive the ball to all fields, there must be a consideration in there for a player’s natural strengths and weaknesses, and for the way pitchers are approaching him. You might see a dead pull hitter roll over an outside fastball and think to yourself, “Dang, he’d be so much better if he just took that pitch the other way.” Maybe for that hitter you’d be correct. But it’s also possible that, for that particular hitter, he can take advantage of his power only to the pull side, and, to get into that position, sometimes he’ll make a mistake on an outside pitch. You can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to instructing batters on directionality. Pulling the ball is neither good nor bad in isolation; nor is going the other way. What matters is how a batter can consistently drive the ball with authority.
  • Back to Bryant specifically again, though – Jesse Rogers points out the other weakness that pitchers will probably try to exploit in 2017 with greater frequency: Bryant struggled badly against changeups last year. Consider that, while Bryant was the single best hitter in baseball against the fastball last year, he was the 10th worst against the changeup. That’s one that’s hard to “fix” in the offseason, because it’s mostly a question of pitch recognition and becoming increasingly familiar with the pitchers with good changeups. That is to say, I’d expect natural improvement on that front from Bryant this season.

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  • (Perhaps Bryant can talk to his Bryzzo buddy about rocking changeups: Anthony Rizzo was the best hitter in baseball against changeups last year. More than that, Rizzo started out his career struggling against changeups, and then has improved his production against them every single year of his career.)
  • Well that’s different, and potentially really interesting. I wonder who will be on the show:


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  • A little bit of META embarrassment: I know enough about football and the Bears to be dangerous, and I’d like to become a contributor at our sister Bears site, The Ten-Yard Line. One thing I found in the early days of BN is how much I didn’t know about baseball and the Cubs, and how much I learned over the first few years in the process of doing the site. I’d like to get to the same place with respect to Bears football, for both personal and professional reasons, and so you’ll see me dipping my toe into the writing over there. And last night, I put together a short post about some of the latest mock drafts and the possibility the Bears go defense with their number three overall pick. When I was finished, I published the piece, proud that I’d put together something fun and useful. I had a lightness in my step. And then I woke up this morning and saw that, because my writing brain is so aggressively wired to think “Cubs-Cubs-Cubs”, I’d mentioned that the Cubs have an obvious need for a franchise quarterback. It’s a small typo – just a few letters – but that’s one that just smacks you in the face and takes you right out of whatever else the writer was saying. So, I’m doing some self-flagellating this morning, in part because I’m trying to hammer it home in my own brain that these kinds of mistakes cannot happen.
  • … back to being a BN writer, though, I couldn’t help but immediately be prompted by my own typo … if the Cubs did have a franchise quarterback, who would it be? Clearly they already have the guy, right? Rizzo? Bryant? Contreras (because he’s the catcher)? Lester? Obviously the overlap between the sports is imperfect, given the disproportionate importance of the quarterback.

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  • Today’s Hall of Fame results probably won’t have any Cubs at the top:


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.