CHICAGO – Between battling injuries and fighting through a pandemic-shortened season, Kris Bryant experienced something the last few years he wasn’t used to.
So, this offseason, he worked with his dad Mike to try and find a fix.
“We identified some issues and we attacked them. We were at it all winter,” Mike explained. “We figured out how pitchers were trying to get him out.”
Pitchers, with higher velocity than ever, were attacking Bryant’s upper cut swing with a steady diet of high heat.
“I just looked at the path of the ball and said, ‘Okay. How are we going to do this?’ Keep your hands above the ball. Try to swing a little flat. Don’t hit the top of the ball. If you hit the top of the ball, it’s going to go on the ground.
“Kris changed his way of thinking and it changed his bat path.”
The approach has worked.
Through 29 games, Bryant’s numbers are better across the board than his 2016 MVP pace. After hitting just one homer off four-seam fastballs last year, he already has six.
“People are freaking out, ‘Oh my God. Kris Bryant’s launch angle is 14 this year. It was 19, that’s what he’s averaged over his career,'” joked Mike. “Look, all we’ve done is change the way he thinks. Okay? If you want your body to do something, you’ve got to think it to do something. Then, you’ve got to feel it.”
The concept was passed down to Mike by Red Sox legend Ted Williams, who worked with the elder Bryant in several hitting sessions during his two years in the minor leagues.
“It’s such a dynamic, ever-changing situation when you’re in the batter’s box. You have to be able to adjust quickly. You’re trying to find calm and stillness at 100 mph. That’s not easy to do.”
KB maintains he hasn’t changed one thing at the plate. But with more success, comes more confidence.
“When I talk to people in my family or my parents or people that know me, the word that is there is belief,” remarked Kris. “Belief that you’ve done it before. Belief that your skills are there. Belief that you are who you are.”
“He’s back to where he was. He was good and he is good. And, he’s going to get better. He’s going to get better.”