Digging Into the Contact Troubles in Kris Bryant’s Recent Mini-Slump

It took Kris Bryant all four at-bats to get a hit in yesterday’s game against the Padres. But before that, he was on an 0-14 bender, having gone hitless in four straight games (plus the first three plate appearances in last night’s contest).

And to be sure, even last night’s base hit – an 89.8 MPH grounder up the middle – was far from a slump-busting, breakout blast. Unfortunately, it seems that the Cubs’ best player and the NL’s 2016 MVP is in the throes of a mini-slump. Let’s take a closer look.

On June 13, Bryant went 2-5 with a home run and two walks against the New York Mets in what was ultimately a really solid day at the plate and the continuation of a four-game hitting streak. Since then, however, he’s gone 1-15 with no extra base hits and just three walks (one of which was intentional) and eight (!) strikeouts. Joe Maddon also kept him out of the starting lineup for two out of those six games, citing fatigue as the reason.

Check out his slash line during this stretch:

Last Five Games: .067/.222/.067 11.1 BB%, 44.4 K%

Aside from the walk rate, that’s a real troubling stretch, and, obviously, far from what we’ve come to expect of Kris Bryant. So, what’s going on? Well, Sahadev Sharma caught up with Bryant and his manager, Joe Maddon, but they disagree on what exactly is going on.

According to Maddon, Bryant’s strikeout issues (and, thus, mini-slump) is a product of chasing too many pitches out of the zone. According to Bryant, “Uh uh.” That’s the short version of the quote he gave to Sahadev Sharma at the Athletic, wherein Bryant suggested that he doesn’t feel as though he’s chasing too many pitches, and actually feels good at the plate. So … who’s right? Well, in this case, age may come before beauty.

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)

Check out some of Bryant’s plate discipline stats from his past five games versus his career. The differences are quite obvious.

O-Swing Rate:

Career: 29.8%
Last 5:  

Over the last five games, Bryant is swinging at 5.2% more pitches out of the zone than he has for his career. Inarguably, he’s chasing too much. But that’s far from everything.

Z-Swing Rate:

Career: 74.4%
Last 5:  

Bryant is also swinging at exactly 10 (!) percentage points fewer pitches in the zone than he has for his career. Based on these two numbers alone, you can say with some confidence that Bryant’s been guessing incorrectly a bit in the last week. But there’s still some more ground to cover.

Z-Contact Rate:

Career: 79.7%
Last 5:

Even when Bryant guesses right and swings at a pitch in the zone, he’s whiffing just about 11 percentage points more than he usually does. This combination is downright terrifying. And his O-contact rate disparity is FAR worse than this (which isn’t always a bad thing, but it definitely is in this case), which is all leading to …

Swinging Strike:

Career: 13.9%
Last 5:

A swinging strike rate that is 10.7 percentage points worse than he’s used to getting. So, to recap that plate discipline briefly: Bryant is swinging at more pitches out of the zone and fewer pitches in the zone. He’s also making less contact with pitches both in and out of the zone, which is leading to a swinging strike rate that is approaching 2x his career norms.

Yes. Plate discipline has been a problem for him over the past five games.

But here’s the thing, it really has just been five games. The sample is small and the results are not necessarily meaningful. Because, if there’s one thing we know about Bryant, it’s that his plate discipline is among the best in baseball. Indeed, his season long walk rate of 15.9% is top five in all of baseball. And even his 11.1% walk rate during his worst stretch of the year would rank in the top 50.

So where does that leave us?

Usually, this is the part where I say Player X just needs to do this, that, and the other thing to get his production back on track. But this is a bit different. There’s not cure to plate discipline problems other than laying off the junk and attacking the good pitches.

Fortunately, we already know Bryan is one of the more capable adjustment-makers in all of baseball … it’s why he’s among the very best hitters in the game. And if I had to put money down on the table, I wouldn’t bet against Bryant for very long. There may be some problems right now, but he’s proven very good at solving them.

He’ll be back in form, and I’d guess it happens sooner rather than later.

written by

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami

more cubs news

I Hope This MLB Offseason Looks a Lot Like Last Offseason

Any season in which the Cubs fail to make the playoffs, the month of October feels about 20 weeks long. I know that's not just me. Even if you're watching the playoffs today, you still perceive how long this is...

Pete Alonso Reportedly Wants to Come to the Cubs

When the New York Mets reportedly made Pete Alonso available at the Trade Deadline, I'll cop to getting awfully excited. The fit for the Cubs at that time was just so obvious - a huge bat that transforms the lineup...

Jed Hoyer’s End-of-Season Press Conference, Rolling Updates

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer is set to address the media at 11am CT, and I'll be rolling out the updates as fast as I can type them below. I don't expect anything earth-shattering, but sometimes there...

Cubs Prospect All-Star Nods: PCA, Horton, Caissie

A trio of Chicago Cubs prospects landed on the first or second All-Prospect Team from MLB Pipeline, with Owen Caissie getting first team honors and Pete Crow-Armstrong and Cade Horton landing on the second team. That's three out of 24...

Playoffs Begin, Cubs Attendance, Vote of Confidence, Manager Vacancies, Velocity, and Other Cubs Bullets

The MLB Postseason begins today, and boy is my day different based on what happened over the weekend. If the Cubs had made the playoffs, I would be an absolute wreck all day today. Nervous. Fretting over the roster. Overreacting...

Pete Crow-Armstrong Wins Defensive Player of the Year for All of Minor League Baseball

Although we didn't get to see a whole lot of it, and there was at least one youthful hiccup in there (the dive in Atlanta), I think we definitely did get to see some big league flashes of what Pete...

Cubs Are Going to Do “Everything They Can” to Trade for Pete Alonso

Bruce Levine joined Matt Spiegel on 670 The Score tonight (7:30 mark if you're looking for it), and ... boy did he have a lot to say. Specifically, Levine discussed the Cubs interest in trading for Mets first baseman Pete...

Turns Out Alexander Canario Won’t Be Playing in the Arizona Fall League After All (UPDATE: Winter Ball Instead)

As the month of September went on without Alexander Canario playing - pretty much at all - I was comforted in knowing that the 23-year-old outfield prospect would soon be playing in the Arizona Fall League. Even if he'd missed...

Tom Ricketts Speaks: No Consolation Prizes, Consistency, Hendricks, Bellinger, Overall Spending

Chicago Cubs Owner and Chairman Tom Ricketts was in Milwaukee for the season finale, speaking to the media and speaking on the Marquee broadcast. In comments to the media, Ricketts wasn't about to start celebrating a season that ended in...

Brandon Woodruff Has a Shoulder Injury, Taking Him Out of the Wild Card Series at Least

The Milwaukee Brewers' postseason chances just took a major hit: Brandon Woodruff is out. One of three dominant starters who could have carried the Brewers through short series, Woodruff missed much of the season with a shoulder injury. He only...

Latest News

Best College Football Bets This Week – Week 6

In one of the many exciting matchups on the college football schedule in Week 6, the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Baylor Bears hit the field at McLane Stadium.Take a peek at our betting breakdown for college football's Week...

The Sanderson Farms Championship TV Schedule, How to Watch and Live Stream

Watch the 2023 Sanderson Farms Championship at The Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi from October 5- 8, playing at 7,461 yards as a par-72 with $8,200,000.00 in prize money up for grabs. The most recent champ at this...

Blackhawks 4, Red Wings 2 — Three Stars, Key Takeaways

The ice wasn't good and the hockey left a lot to be desired for a big part of the night, but this was still a Blackhawks vs. Red Wings game in Chicago (we only get one more of these this...

Christian Matthew to Sign with Chicago Bears Practice Squad

The Chicago Bears' secondary is getting a fresh body for the practice squad. Because you can never have enough depth, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Bears are signing Christian Matthew to their practice squad: https://twitter.com/AdamSchefter/status/1709316920955047953 Who is Christian Matthew and...

It Was Nice to See a Smiling Lonzo Ball At Media Day

Lonzo Ball's sightings have been few and far between the past couple of seasons. And rightfully so. The Chicago Bull's once-starting point guard has been dealing with a never-ending bout of rehab. One minor knee surgery turned into several, and...

Teven Jenkins Could Make His 2023 Debut on Thursday

An offensive line that has been a bit of a mixed bag could be getting some much-needed help when the Chicago Bears head to our nation's capital for Thursday Night Football. Bears Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy told reporters that left...

Chicago Bulls Set “Playoffs” as the Goal … But is That Really Enough?

Whether it's the "perfect fit" of every single free agent addition or comments on guys being in the "best shape of their life", there is never a shortage of nonsense to sift through on Media Day. The answers to most...

DeMar DeRozan Wants Patrick Williams to Get T’d Up This Year

Maybe four is a lucky number for Patrick Williams. The No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft – who also sports a No. 44 jersey – is about to enter his fourth season in the NBA. The first few years...

James Harden Reportedly Now Expected to Join 76ers Training Camp

James Harden's brief holdout against the Philadelphia 76ers is about to come to an end. After not reporting for Media Day on the first full day of training camp, the superstar point guard is reportedly set to rejoin the team....

Pete Alonso Reportedly Wants to Come to the Cubs

When the New York Mets reportedly made Pete Alonso available at the Trade Deadline, I'll cop to getting awfully excited. The fit for the Cubs at that time was just so obvious - a huge bat that transforms the lineup...

more cubs news