Byron Buxton: From Broken To Booming
Image courtesy of Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY SportsBroken
It's no secret how bad Buxton looked at the plate during the early part of this year. Through the season's first 15 games, he hit .082/.135/.122 with 24 strikeouts. Things started to get a little better in May as he was hitting .171 through May 21 while getting on base over 26% of the time. He was averaging more than a strikeout per game and he could hardly use his speed on the bases because he wasn't getting on base frequently enough.
Buxton had dug himself quite the hole. Even as the calendar was flipping to July, his offensive numbers were struggling to recover. He had a .552 OPS, 0.88 ISO, 47 wRC+, and a 31.8 percent strikeout rate. Something needed to click and Twins hitting coach James Rowson may have been the man with the cure.
Rowson explained Buxton's revamped approach at the plate in simple terms. "Plate discipline comes from being aggressive, not from being passive at the plate," he said. "We're looking to hit, not take. If I don't think that's a pitch I can drive, I want to take it. I think that he's starting to come into his own to distinguish the difference between those two pitches."
Buxton needed to stop worrying about his overall numbers and start focusing on each at-bat. He's now starting to use his lower body to generate more power and the results have been clear. Buxton has a 1.003 OPS since July 1 with nine home runs, two triples and four doubles. His speed has become a factor as he's swiped 11 bases in that time without being caught.
Athleticism will always be a key part of Buxton's game. As I wrote last week, he could be well on his way to his first Gold Glove. His 23 defensive runs saved ranks second among AL outfielders. According to Statcast's Catch Probability, he's made more four star catches (26-50% chance of being caught) than anyone in baseball and he's caught the highest percentage of those opportunities as well.
Buxton might not be the Paul Bunyan-like slugger that fans saw in Toronto this weekend but he seems to have found something special in the season's second half. The Twins are in the hunt of the playoffs and a 23-year old Buxton is living up to some lofty expectations.
Do you think Buxton has turned the corner for good? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.