“I was like, oh, that’s an awkward walk” back to the dugout, Simmons said, smiling as he told the story Friday afternoon in Philadelphia. “I don’t mind, though. I still feel good at the plate. I’m feeling comfortable.”
Simmons hit .287 with five homers, 17 RBIs and a .509 slugging percentage in July, when he actually had more triples (three) than strikeouts (two) in 108 at-bats. Before Friday night’s game against the Phillies, he was 18-for-58 (.310) with three homers, 10 RBIs and a .344 on-base percentage in 14 games since the All-Star break.
Hitting coach Greg Walker said Simmons has worked to make a significant mid-season adjustment to his swing. Instead of “coming around” the ball with his shoulders like he’d always done before, he said Simmons has worked to swing through the ball and drive it more to the middle of the field. His grounders to third have been sharply reduced.
“Basically he was playing pepper with the left side of the infield the whole first half of the season, or the first two months,” Walker said. “Because everything was around, around. So you had a choice. He’s a great defender, do you let him keep doing what he’s doing, where he’s probably going to be a .240, .260 hitter? Or do you go in the middle of a season when you’re fighting for first place and say, ‘OK, we’re working on swing mechanics. You can be better.’
“He’s just too much of a talent to let him not reach his potential. And he’s too young. So we continue to work, and he just gets in there and works and works and works. And, you know, a couple of weeks ago you started seeing a correct swing. Then it started going into games.”
Between his strikeout July 14 and the one Thursday, Simmons collected 20 hits (three home runs), three walks and was hit by a pitch. It’s part of the best hitting run he’s had in just over a year since reaching the major leagues.
“Guys that are talented and have that work ethic and want to be good, they tend to figure some things out,” Walker said. “And I think he’s in the process of figuring some things out, how his swing works. I don’t think it comes natural to him, but he’s going to work so hard on it. His hand-eye, his quickness, is all there. He’s just got to get his swing grooved in where it works correctly, instead of around (the ball) it works through. And he’s starting to get it.
“If he gets this change made – and it looks like he is – then he’s going to be a real good hitter.”