In his first full season (2013), Andrelton Simmons hit 17 home runs. In the three years subsequent, he has only hit 15 altogether. This year though, he has already hit three homers, nearly matching his 2013 ISO output in the process. Is his season-to-date just a flash in the pan or the start of a sustainable, new Simba?
Simmons has never been one to strike out. As the graph below indicates, Simba has been elite at making contact.
Last year he focused on hitting his pitches, this year he is markedly more patient. [Small sample size disclaimer]
Pay specific attention to the hands and how the ‘load’ is transferred.
Here’s a screenshot.
I’m no swing expert, but it feels so smooth. The load is transferred well — in other words, he has good momentum, timing, and balance. Notice the subtle toe tap as well, and how this allows him to not open his hips too early. High hands make it easier to tuck his hands in and hit the inside pitch for power.
Forward all the way to September of last year and this is what Simba looked like.
Here’s the stance. Notice any differences?
Even though Simmons hits a homer in this at-bat, his front shoulder is closed off, making it difficult to hit an outside pitch, inside pitch, or low pitch for power. This batting stance looked very clunky and took a lot of effort, relegating him to a singles hitter most of the time. He is able to transfer the load, but he probably could be doing it better. He brought the toe tap back in the second half of 2016 to be fair, but the power still wasn’t there.
On the other hand, Simmons has already hit an outside pitch for a dinger this year. Take a look at it in all its beauty.
This might not have been a home run in other parks, but it still demonstrates the stance at work. The hands are higher, the stance is open, and the bat’s launch angle is slightly higher, which enables the ball to go further, even if it may not be hit quite as hard. That’s not to say that Simmons doesn’t hit the ball hard, because he hasa career-high hard contact rate to boot in 2017.
His weight is transferred well during the swing, which looks quite smooth. The timing is there, and he is being selective in swinging at his pitch, not just any pitch. Holding the hands higher gives him more maneuverability to adjust to pitches as they cut, break, or fade. It also allows him to stay longer within the strike zone, to hit the ball hard to any field.
He won’t be the strongest player on the field, nor will his batted balls be hit the hardest. When Andrelton Simmons was traded to Anaheim, he emphasized his desire to improve the boomstick. In adding power and patience without sacrificing significant contact, Simba has done exactly that.