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Twins Hitting Coach James Rowson Clarifies Hitting Plan for Byron Buxton


Brandon Warne

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Some comments made by Twins center fielder Byron Buxton during the road trip to Fenway Park last week sent the blogosphere/Twittersphere into a tizzy. Buxton, who has hit just .209/.283/.303 this season coming into Thursday night’s game against the Orioles, told Jake Depue of 1500ESPN that he had scorned the leg kick he used to start the season in order to put the ball in play more — including more balls hit on the ground.

 

“[The goal is] putting the ball in play more,” Buxton told Depue. “Putting it on the ground more to get it out of the air. With the leg kick I was more fly ball oriented. It didn’t give me a chance to get on base. Now putting it on the ground I at least have the chance of beating it out or them rushing the throw and making an error.”

 

It’s not hard to read what Buxton said and be immediately discouraged. There’s a reason why the catchphrase among hitters is “Elevate and celebrate.” It’s not exactly earth-shattering science, either; hit the ball on the ground, and you limit yourself to singles and lots of outs. Hit it in the air, and you’re open to not only singles, but extra-base hits of all shapes and sizes.

 

So to hear what Buxton said and not immediately think that he was moving away from his strength and ceiling for the false security of the “safety” of his speed is totally understandable.

 

But according to hitting coach James Rowson, the fears are also unfounded.

 

Make no mistake about it: the Twins are in no way trying to get Buxton to be a slap-happy, beat-it-into-the-ground-and-beat-the-throw kind of hitter.

 

“Absolutely not,” Rowson said of the seemingly prevalent thought that the Twins wanted Buxton to hit the ball into the ground and use his speed as his primary offensive weapon. “Absolutely not. Here’s the deal: I clearly do not want Byron Buxton to hit the ball on the ground and run. (laughs) That is not in the plan. Without a doubt, he’s has a chance to be a dynamic player in this league for years to come and he has the ability to drive the baseball.”

 

Rowson added that he was encouraged by Buxton’s progress even as recently as Thursday night, as the youngster absolutely peppered some balls on the way to a 2-for-4 night — his second multi-hit game in a row and third over his last six games.

 

“Just last night he hit three balls over 100 mph, which shows you that he’s hitting baseballs hard in the last few days,” Rowson said. “It’s starting to come along. No, the goal is not to hit balls on the ground. The goal is going to be to use the whole field and hit balls hard.”

 

Please click through to read the rest of this article here on ZoneCoverage.com.

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Very interesting read and far more encouraging. In the game thread tonight, someone stated Buxton has been hitting around .258 since his initial 2 for 49/50AB to start the season. And he's looked so, so much better the past few games. Hopefully, we are seeing the awakening of Buxton's potential at the ML level.

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Very interesting read and far more encouraging. In the game thread tonight, someone stated Buxton has been hitting around .258 since his initial 2 for 49/50AB to start the season. And he's looked so, so much better the past few games. Hopefully, we are seeing the awakening of Buxton's potential at the ML level.

 

Hopefully he keeps it going, but more importantly becomes more consistent and slowly raises the bar.  That said, we've seen him do this before where he comes to life for a couple of games and then falls asleep again for weeks on end. 

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I'm more confused than clarified. Rowson seems to simply contradict what Buxton stated.

  • “Putting it on the ground more to get it out of the air." Buxton restated that intent at least a couple different ways in that paragraph.
  • "No, the goal is not to hit balls on the ground. The goal is going to be to use the whole field and hit balls hard.” Rowson said that a couple of different ways too.
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I'm more confused than clarified. Rowson seems to simply contradict what Buxton stated.

  • “Putting it on the ground more to get it out of the air." Buxton restated that intent at least a couple different ways in that paragraph.
  • "No, the goal is not to hit balls on the ground. The goal is going to be to use the whole field and hit balls hard.” Rowson said that a couple of different ways too.

 

I think, and this is just me guessing, it's that hitting it hard on the ground is preferred to, say, hitting popups. Buxton has the second-highest popup rate among 165 qualified big-league hitters at 21.1 percent (Odor, 21.2 percent). Basically, the goal is honing in on the best launch angle, which isn't necessarily on the ground, but certainly not straight up.

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I think, and this is just me guessing, it's that hitting it hard on the ground is preferred to, say, hitting popups. Buxton has the second-highest popup rate among 165 qualified big-league hitters at 21.1 percent (Odor, 21.2 percent). Basically, the goal is honing in on the best launch angle, which isn't necessarily on the ground, but certainly not straight up.

That's how I interpreted his words too.  He's trying to get Buxton to square balls up more rather than popping them up or beating them into the ground like he had been doing for a while.

 

I was saying the other day after watching Kepler hit another frozen rope over the outfield wall that it would be great if Buxton could start hitting line drives the way Kepler does when he's going good.  Hopefully we're starting to see that ability develop more.

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My guess is that the plan is simple.

 

1. Improve pitch recognition: looking a lot better.

2. Shorten and smooth the swing: looking a little better, but still in process.

3. Hit the ball hard: looking OK, but probably could be better.

4. Put it all together at the same time and be consistent.

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strikes me more as a baby steps approach. Fixing Buxton at the plate is like trying to eat an elephant. Rowson is looking at some easy things to reduce pop ups and get Buxton hitting the ball harder. As Byron gets comfortable, I suspect there will be more minor tweaks to get him elevating the ball a bit more. If we want him at the ML level, we are going to have to put up with that and be patient.

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