New Angels second baseman Danny Espinosa hasn’t gotten off to a great start this spring, hitting 8 for 41 with a .250 OBP.
The good news? Spring Training is glorified practice, allowing players to try new things without being immediately penalized for their failure. Such is the story of Danny Espinosa, who wants to be more patient, make more contact, and hit for a better average.
Fangraphs’ David Laurila had the story. A few quotes are too powerful to ignore, especially when it comes to launch angles.
“That’s something I studied this past offseason,” said a suddenly engaged Espinosa. “Looking at film, I realized I was too steep, so my bat was in and out of the zone. I always thought I was too loopy, but in fact it was the other way. Because of the angle I was at, I had to be too perfect to the ball and basically could only hit one pitch. I’m working on staying through the ball longer, and on plane longer, so that I can hit more pitches.”
Clearing fences when he does connect isn’t the objective. Creating more loft is all well and fine, but what he really wants is fewer whiffs.
“I’m cleaning up my swing so that I can make more contact and hit for a better average,” explained Espinosa. “Strikeouts aren’t something I’m OK with. Like I said, being too steep, and having to be too perfect to the ball, has hurt me. I think there is something to the launch-angle stuff people are talking about. The guys who are more level, and in the zone for a long time, can hit a lot of different pitches. Those really good hitters… they’re on plane with the ball forever.”
As Laurila notes, Espinosa is a career .226/.302/.388 with a grisly 28.1% of his at-bats ending in strikeouts.
In layman’s terms, the above block-quote means Espinosa wants to have a more straight to the ball approach with a more level swing, which theoretically should result in less strikeouts, more contact/average, and less power. When combined with more patience, it could yield fruitful results for the infielder, who has struggled with plate discipline throughout his career.
In light of the recent successes of Josh Donaldson, Justin Turner, and J.D. Martinez by incorporating a slight uppercut, Statcast data is indicating that it’s best to hit line-drive fly balls rather than ground balls, but it’s also important to make good contact as often as possible. Danny Espinosa will try to do both.
It has worked for Josh Donaldson and countless others: Could a similar straight-to-the-ball approach work for Espinosa? Only time will tell.
It is here that I should note that Espinosa is a switch hitter, and so he has to do double-duty in fixing his swing. He’s also changing positions from shortstop back to second base, and that transition can only be made smoother with more repetitions.