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Time to shuffle the deck

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 12:31 AM
This could be a very bad week. I'd like to see them shuffle the roster/batting order and bullpen.   Release Grossman. DFA Kinley and...
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Article: Game Thread: Twins @ Yankees, 4/23@6:10pm CT

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:39 PM
It’s big, four-game series that kicks off tonight in the Bronx as the Twins and Yankees go to battle in a series that could really help t...
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Article: Twins Minor League Report (4/23): Hunters Star I...

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 10:55 PM
Uffdah! After missing a lot of baseball due to postponements, Monday night was the first really busy night in the Twins farm system. Roch...
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T-Wolves 2018 Postseason Thread

Minnesota Timberwolves Talk Yesterday, 10:15 PM
It has been my great privilege to initiate a thread with this title. Fleeting as it may be.
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Nick Gordon - 2018

Adopt A Prospect 2018 Yesterday, 10:06 PM
  Nick Gordon is a 22-year old lefty-hitting shortstop drafted fifth overall in the first round of the 2014 June amateur draft out...
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From The Handbook: Building On Buxton

The Minnesota Twins’ 2017 season success can be credited, in some part, to the offensive emergence of the team’s young hitters. Players like Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and Jorge Polanco all took significant strides forward and made vital contributions to the team’s postseason aspirations.

Behind the players, of course, is the newly minted hitting coach James Rowson. At the onset, Rowson’s methods and philosophies were somewhat mysterious. In spring training, players said he rarely did any tinkering or instructing, instead choosing to monitor hitters closely and learned their personalities; asking them questions about their approach rather than telling them what to do. By the end of the season, Rowson received high praise from his students.

While all the young hitters deserves some accolades, perhaps no one is as deserving for the turnaround as Byron Buxton is for his in-season adjustments.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel // USA Today
From afar, the narrative surrounding Buxton is that he jettisoned his leg kick and suddenly emerged as this elite hitter in the late throes of the season. The story sold was in the clickbait mold of BUXTON MADE THIS ONE SIMPLE CHANGE and, boom, he’s all fixed. While that is the most visually obvious change, Buxton’s journey to success is so much more complicated than that.

Attached Image: Buxton Success.jpg


Making a radical change to your swing in a major league season is rather difficult. Yes, hitters continually tinker with their mechanics throughout the year but rarely is it seen that a player makes a fundamental switch in approach and thrives during the same season. Most times, organizations will send a player to the minors so he can rebuild out of the spotlight. It takes a special individual and a special support staff to make the improvements Buxton did in-season.

After splitting last season between toe tapping and leg kicking, Buxton proclaimed that he would be one hundred percent a leg kicker in 2017. This spring, with a newfound sense of clubhouse swagger, Buxton declared that the “leg kick is me now” and he is going to “stick with what I do.” In fact, one of his biggest influences, Torii Hunter, spent the offseason sending him encouraging text messages to stick with the leg kick.

There was plenty of reason for Buxton to be riding high. He absolutely tore through pitching in the final month of 2016. In September, equipped with the full throttle leg kick, he hit 9 of his 10 home runs and posted a 287/357/653 line in 113 plate appearances. He still struck out a ton, to be sure, but the hard contact was eye-opening and a tasty sample of his unfilled prospect promise.

But when the new season started, Buxton sputtered out of the chute. In April, he struck out in a whopping 37.2 percent of his plate appearances (only Colorado’s Trevor Story whiffed in more). Putting the bat on the ball proved to be a difficult task as 36.7 percent of his swings failed to even make contact. Sliders were another kind of evil. He couldn’t stop himself from contorting his body at pitches breaking over the left-handed batter’s box. He swung and missed on 28.6 percent of sliders seen.

There was no denying something was wrong with his approach, fundamentally. The Twins coaching staff, including Paul Molitor, were convinced the previous season the leg kick had to go. Bert Blyleven told broadcast viewers that former hitting coach Tom Brunansky had worked diligently in 2016 to entice Buxton of the same. In the spring, Molitor observed that he was spinning off so many pitches and believed he needed to get his legs in a better position in order to drive the ball. At one point at the end of April, Fox Sports North rolled tape of Buxton being joined by Hunter, Molitor and Rowson in the batting cage. The trio surrounded him and his batting tee and watched as he took a few swings with his leg kick. Hunter moved behind Buxton and repositioned his back leg, hoping to get him to remain on his backside more.

Buxton was at low point and needed to make some changes. In a homestand at the end of May, it started with ditching the leg kick.

***To read the rest of this article, be sure to download the 2018 Offseason Handbook at whatever price you would like***



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4 Comments

You know, the emergence of Buxton shows me three things:

1] How missing so much time may have messed with his initial developmental curve. Not just a comfortable stance, but his daily approach and even recognizing tough pitches.

2] Just how immensely talented this young man really is! Despite his interrupted learning/developmental curve, he just kept playing and learning and grew by leaps and bounds. Just look at the numbers he posted in the minors while still trying to figure stuff out, and then salivate how good he could be now that he is starting to.

3] Just how great an addition Rowson was to the coaching staff. And not just with the emergence of Buxton but Rosario and Polanco as well. Adrianza never hit like that before. Escobar had his best season, etc. Is it possible part of Mauer's resurgence could also be traced, at least partially, to Rowson?
    • sploorp, spinowner and gagu like this
Photo
Parker Hageman
Nov 28 2017 12:25 PM

 

Is it possible part of Mauer's resurgence could also be traced, at least partially, to Rowson?

 

It is certainly possible. At the end of the year, to me, the data suggested we are seeing more "luck" -- hate calling it that but a lot of his additional hits this year were from grounders -- and health. 

 

Thread here if you are on twitter ---> 

 

 

Two years ago Brunansky tried to get him to pull the ball more in spring training. He did try to pull the ball more throughout the season but most of it was on the ground. The problem is, when he pulls, he does so on the ground -- 83.2% of the time. This is why you saw teams setting their SS up the middle over the second base bag and 2B playing deep.

 

This season he pulled the ball less and was able to find more hits on grounders as he sprayed them all over the infield. 

 

I don't know if Rowson had some influence and talked him into abandoning the notion that he show actively pull more, but that has been a noticeable difference for him. 

 

It is certainly possible. At the end of the year, to me, the data suggested we are seeing more "luck" -- hate calling it that but a lot of his additional hits this year were from grounders -- and health. 

 

Thread here if you are on twitter ---> 

 

 

Two years ago Brunansky tried to get him to pull the ball more in spring training. He did try to pull the ball more throughout the season but most of it was on the ground. The problem is, when he pulls, he does so on the ground -- 83.2% of the time. This is why you saw teams setting their SS up the middle over the second base bag and 2B playing deep.

 

This season he pulled the ball less and was able to find more hits on grounders as he sprayed them all over the infield. 

 

I don't know if Rowson had some influence and talked him into abandoning the notion that he show actively pull more, but that has been a noticeable difference for him. 

 

It's important to note that Mauer's 2017 campaign isn't an aberration or luck but rather a return to his norm. Mauer's career BABIP was .348 from 2004 to 2014. For whatever reason, in 2015 and 2016 Mauer posted a combined .305 BABIP. There wasn't anything in the obvious underlying factors to explain it - similar LD/GB/FB rates etc.

I think Mauer's 2017 resurgence is likely due to health and the absence of bad luck -- though we'll have to see a solid 2018 before I'm certain of that.

 

Photo
diehardtwinsfan
Nov 30 2017 02:46 PM

 

It is certainly possible. At the end of the year, to me, the data suggested we are seeing more "luck" -- hate calling it that but a lot of his additional hits this year were from grounders -- and health. 

 

Thread here if you are on twitter ---> 

 

 

Two years ago Brunansky tried to get him to pull the ball more in spring training. He did try to pull the ball more throughout the season but most of it was on the ground. The problem is, when he pulls, he does so on the ground -- 83.2% of the time. This is why you saw teams setting their SS up the middle over the second base bag and 2B playing deep.

 

This season he pulled the ball less and was able to find more hits on grounders as he sprayed them all over the infield. 

 

I don't know if Rowson had some influence and talked him into abandoning the notion that he show actively pull more, but that has been a noticeable difference for him. 

 

Silly question, but what was his exit velo on grounders in previous seasons as compared to this year? That would, at least in my opinion, make a huge difference in whether this was a skill or luck type situation.


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