Your eyes do not deceive you: Dansby Swanson said he indeed is standing closer to the plate, the most noticeable of otherwise subtle changes the rookie shortstop made during a recent two-week stint in Triple-A Gwinnett.
Hitting coach Kevin Seitzer said last weekend that Swanson’s swing hadn’t changed and that regained confidence was the big reason for his significant improvement since returning Aug. 9 from the minors.
But comparing video of his stance side-by-side before and after his Triple-A stint shows Swanson closer to the plate, which might help explain his marked improvement against sliders, previously his biggest weakness and one that opponents’ exploited.
“Just works better with what I feel like I want to do,” Swanson said of his position in the batter’s box. “I don’t want to, like, talk about what I’m trying to do every time I go up there, but it gives me a better sense of confidence being up there. One day I was like, what if I were to get into the box, where would I naturally go? And, like, that’s my natural instincts. So I’m just trusting those instincts.”
Swanson hit only .213 with a .287 OBP and .599 OPS in 324 at-bats over 95 games before he was optioned to Triple-A on July 26, including .119 (7-for-59) with six walks, 22 strikeouts and a .386 OPS in his last 21 games before the demotion.
Since returning Aug. 9 – sooner than expected because of infielder Johan Camargo’s knee injury – Swanson hit .304 with a .400 OBP and .857 OPS in 14 games before Friday, with more walks (eight) than strikeouts (seven) in 46 at-bats, and he also had one of the highest line-drive rates in the majors over that span.
After going 2-for-16 in his first four games back in the majors, the Cobb County native was 12-for-30 (.400) in his past 10 games before Friday, with three doubles, two triples, a .513 OBP and 1.146 OPS in that span.
“Dansby, ever since he came back, has been quietly throwing together a lot of really good at-bats, and you can see confidence in him again,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s had some really good takes, and he’s getting on base with some walks in tough counts, too. And that’s probably all just part of the progression of a hitter and getting more at-bats, having the confidence like I think maybe got away from him a little bit before he went down (to the minors). That’s all good things to see in a young guy who’s getting better, growing in the league, just maturing as a player.”
Seitzer was correct about Swanson’s swing itself being basically the same now as before; it’s the stance that is noticeably different. His position closer to the plate.
“Better margin for error -- that’s what hitting is, right?” Swanson said of standing closer. “I don’t feel like I’m, like, hovering over (the plate). I just feel that that’s created the best margin for error, which is what hitting is, it’s being able to give yourself a chance, whether you’re late, early, up, down. It just gives you a chance to use the whole field. Everybody does it differently, and that’s just the way I’ve been able to do it.”
As for changes in his swing itself, the average observer likely wouldn’t notice anything different, and Swanson isn’t going to go over everything he’s doing. He just wants to keep doing it and go about his business as he works to salvage his first full season in the majors.
“If you were to actually look and break it down mechanically, it probably looks a little bit different,” he said. “But it’s not like I tried to make it look different, if that makes any sense. ... I think one of the biggest things I’ve learned is just understanding naturally what you do best. Whatever your natural ability gives you is, like, what you use. Instead of trying to do something different with it, let it work and try and make it as best as it can be.”
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