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Why Phillies OF Nick Castellanos swings a lot

PHILADELPHIA — A swing is an irrationally optimistic decision. Nearly a quarter of hacks don’t even lead to contact. Most produce foul balls or outs. Statistically speaking, the future value of a take is always higher than that of a swing. To swing is to ignore the odds, to approach an impossible task with foolish levels

Why Phillies OF Nick Castellanos swings a lot

PHILADELPHIA — A swing is an irrationally optimistic resolution. 

Practically 1 / 4 of hacks don’t even result in contact. Most produce foul balls or outs. Statistically talking, the long run worth of a take is at all times increased than that of a swing. To swing is to disregard the percentages, to strategy an not possible process with silly ranges of self-confidence. With a view to take part on this dumb sport, one should imagine within the unreasonable.

Enter Nick Castellanos.

“I’m at all times able to hit. That mentality has at all times come best to me,” the Phillies‘ charmingly aloof outfielder lately defined to FOX Sports activities, when requested why he swings so typically. “It’s been like batting follow my complete life.”

For the reason that starting of the 2017 season, Castellanos has seen 13,135 pitches. He has swung at 7,155 of them. In that span, solely Freddie Freeman has taken extra cuts. Solely a handful of gamers have a better swing proportion. For many of that stretch, the hack-happy strategy labored gloriously for Castellanos, because the laid-back Miami native developed into one of many sport’s extra dependable bats and earned a five-year, $100 million contract with Philadelphia forward of the 2022 season.

After which the wheels fell off.

Fifty-seven % of the time any individual threw a baseball within the neighborhood of Castellanos final 12 months, he swung at it, the best price within the sport. Because the Phillies stampeded to October glory, Castellanos spent the 12 months tumbling off a cliff in sluggish movement. His batting line was plagued by disasters — 13 homers, a .694 OPS, a 5.2% stroll price — whereas his outfield protection was a blindfold-inducing horror present. And although a handful of outstanding diving catches within the postseason endeared himself to the Philly trustworthy, Castellanos’ maiden voyage within the Metropolis of Brotherly Love was a complete flop.

5 weeks into this season, Castellanos has turned issues round. It’s early, however the tatted-up slugger is raking (.862 OPS with 4 homers) and his historically disastrous outfield D has been squarely league common. And whereas his swing price (52.1%) stays high 25 in baseball, a deep dive into some zone graphs on Baseball Savant reveals that Castellanos has been a lot, significantly better at shedding elevated fastballs above the strike zone (2022 on the left, 2023 on the best).

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Was {that a} level of emphasis within the offseason? Did Castellanos spend the winter coaching himself to cross on the tantalizing excessive warmth?

“No, not essentially,” Castellanos elucidated. “It’s simply being extra in management, actually. Doing one thing like that [training to swing less] is like studying a brand new language. For any individual like me who’s at all times performed it this manner since I used to be somewhat child, it’s not that I can’t do the rest, it’s simply that there’s at all times a giant studying curve.”

For a lot of big-league hitters, each at-bat is a chess match, a strategic tête-à-tête between which pitch-type a pitcher will throw and which providing the batter is anticipating. The entire thing is as a lot psychological as it’s bodily. The invasion of recent expertise into the world of baseball has solely amplified this dynamic. Earlier than the introduction of the pitch clock, hitters would recurrently step out of the batter’s field to sport plan their at-bat in actual time. As you may need heard, there was a complete sport-altering scandal that revolved across the Astros figuring out which pitch was coming.

However Castellanos dumbs issues down in a means that he claims has at all times been useful for him.

“You see, I don’t search for pitches,” he asserted. “I’m simply able to hit.”

For a person who constructed a portfolio on a see-ball hit-ball mentality, Castellanos veered into overthinker territory final 12 months. In his thoughts, it wasn’t about how typically he was swinging, however concerning the varieties of swings he was getting off.

In reality, his disappointing offensive season a 12 months in the past was truly extra a couple of failure to do harm in apparent hitters counts than his aggression getting the higher of him. Castellanos had an incredibly abysmal .575 OPS after a pitcher opened an at-bat with a ball, the fifth-worst mark in all of baseball in 2022. By comparability, Castellanos had posted a 1.087 OPS after 1-0 counts a 12 months prior. He was, fairly merely, not taking benefit when he was up within the rely.

It’s clear in speaking to Castellanos and others across the Phillies that there have been elements of final season the place the big-money signee felt an obligation to drive in runs. However issues have been completely different in 2023. Now, he’s impacting the baseball when he’s anticipated to, posting a 1.063 OPS when forward within the rely. Castellanos claims that’s as a result of he’s “taking what the sport provides him,” as an alternative of urgent himself into unhealthy swings. 

Phillies hitting coach Kevin Lengthy agreed that enchancment for Castellanos hasn’t been about altering swing frequency, it’s about emphasizing swing high quality when he does provide. Everybody, Castellanos included, is conscious about his aggression on the plate. It’s an intractable a part of his sport. He won’t evolve right into a walk-happy Juan Soto in a single day, nor ought to he. The dawg, as they are saying, is endlessly in him.

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Jake Mintz, the louder half of @CespedesBBQ is a baseball author for FOX Sports activities. He performed school baseball, poorly at first, then very properly, very briefly. Jake lives in New York Metropolis the place he coaches Little League and rides his bike, typically on the identical time. Observe him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz.

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