Written by: Estevan Rivera (@esteerivera42)
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Every time I watch Trea Turner I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “SPEEEDDD KKILLLSSSS.” That was one of my favorite things to yell after one my teammates swiped a bag or made a great baserunning decision.
For Trea Turner, speed definitely kills. The 27-year-old is in the 100th percentile of sprint speed. He runs at 30.2 ft/sec, which is SILLY. EVERYONE knows that he burns, but the fun part about Turner this year is his power.
It’s hard to ignore the shortstop’s performance during the sprint season, both on the surface and under the hood. His traditional slash stands at .360/.421/.629, and the advanced numbers have significantly improved as well. xwOBA and xwOBACON are at career highs of .407 and .445, respectively. On the surface, his batted ball averages look pretty much the same in terms of exit velocity and launch angle. The main improvement that points to increased power is in Turner’s Barrel%. In other words, his barrel accuracy has increased this year.
The fun thing about Turner is that he is hitting home runs to the opposite field for the first time… in his MLB career. Below is his career spray chart of home runs on the left, and 2020 on the right. He has 10 career home runs on the right half of the field; five of them are from this season! It is pretty rare for a hitter to unlock oppo home run power at the age of 27.
Well, how is he doing it? That’s where the video comes into play. Let’s compare home runs from 2018-2020. The MLB’s new Film Room allows me to clip all these homers together, which is pretty dang cool.
The main thing I see that varies each season is the setup. A lot of hitting coaches truly believe the setup does not matter too much for a hitter, but I wholeheartedly disagree with that stance. For years (leading up to my playing in college), I tried to figure out the right place for my body to be in the beginning so that I could optimize my load/gather. The load is the part of the swing where a hitter leg lifts and bat combs. These movements set up a hitter’s bat path.
Here are the setups in a still shot, but I recommend you watch the video to really see the nuances in each set-up. In 2018, he has a little bit of a bat wiggle going on. He is definitely trying to stay as loose as possible, but all that movement means added room for error in the load. 2018 was not a great year for power for Turner. In 2019, he made an adjustment. He dropped his hands lower into the slot, but at times it looked slightly stiff. However, this adjustment was one of the keys to him unlocking more power last year. Now in 2020, he added the looseness from 2018 and the lowered hands from 2019 to create some legit opposite field power.
A hitter’s load needs to be smooth and fluid. Having a hitch in your load can throw of the development of energy in the kinetic chain. It seems to me that Turner has been trying to find his optimal setup for a few years now. He has always had the power, but it has never come together for an entire season. His 19 homers in 122 games last year was impressive, but 9 in 43 this season is even more notable.
Turner is not the only player who has ever benefitted from a relaxed setup. Standing in the batter’s box can feel weird if your body is not relaxed. You don’t want your load to feel like it’s happening in different segments. One fluid movement so you can maintain adjustability is ideal.
Yet, none of this tells us exactly why he suddenly unlocked oppo power. Take a look at the three pictures below. The videos are all clipped here. The first is from 2018, and it’s a pull side home run. The next two are from 2020, and both are opposite field homers.
This is where the verbiage gets a little technical, so bear with me. If you were to throw a Blast Motion sensor onto Turner’s swing in the first picture, it would tell you that his connection score is average and maybe even below average. A hitter’s connection is the linkage of his body and bat. There are several things that go into grading your connection score, but I’ll put it like this: if you look at the angles created with his elbows, you can see his arms are almost completely straight in the first photo. In the second and third? His body is much more connected and engaged at the point of contact.
The folks from Blast Motion say that hitters with good connection have better plate coverage and adjustability. This really makes sense if we think about Turner’s sudden ability to drive the ball over the right field wall. With improved connection, he now has an improved adjustability and plate coverage, allowing him to crush balls to the opposite field like never before.
I am not in the business of comparing players to Mike Trout. It does not make sense. He is the best player on the planet, so what does your analysis really say if you are like, “player x does this. Why can’t he be more like Mike Trout?” The reason I am showing you this photo is so that you know what perfect connection looks like. If you don’t know what the edges or limits look like, you’ll never know what the middle is.
Now that you’ve seen perfect connection, you know why Turner’s change from 2018 to 2020 is so huge. What he is doing is remarkable. Unlocking power to right field not only gives you added capabilities, but it adds confidence as well. If you can drive the ball to the opposite field, you know you don’t have to rush to make contact or get too anxious at the plate. You can be patient and fight off high-speed fastballs when you are behind in the count. It adds a new element to your game and approach. We’ve seen what it has done for Turner. Let’s hope he keeps it up.
Follow P365 MLB Analyst Estevan Rivera on Twitter! @esteerivera42
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
Featured image courtesy of the respective photographer