Life at the Margins: Kris Bryant’s Changing Changes

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Kris Bryant never made much secret of the fact that he liked to hit the ball in the air. “I liked hitting home runs when I was little,” he told the Chicago Tribune last year. “To do that, you have to hit the ball in the air, so that’s why I caught on pretty quick to the idea of hit it high and hard.”

That approach—executed by way of a steeply uppercut swing—carried Bryant, with immodest success, through high school, college, and the minor leagues. The home runs came easy. Even in the big leagues, the harsh uppercut produced 26 home runs in 2015, Bryant’s rookie season.

But the swing had some consequences. One such consequence was that he struck out 30 percent of the time. That’s a lot—only two batters fared worse. But Bryant decided a long time ago that he could live with strikeouts if they came in exchange for home runs.

Which is why the consequence that bothered Bryant about his swing last year was this: his flyballs weren’t doing as much damage as you might expect them to. Last year, Bryant hit flyballs 45 percent of the time. That’s a lot, too—only five qualified hitters did so more often.

But the percentage of Bryant’s flyballs which turned into home runs was curiously small—just 16 percent. Thirty-six qualifying batters, many of them not nearly as big and strong as Bryant, converted flyballs into home runs at a higher rate. Last year, David Peralta was better at this than Kris Bryant.

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Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports.

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