Dodgers' Chris Taylor delivers middle finger to analytics doubters with swing advice
Baseball is a crusty old profession full of crusty old gamesmen who know how to do this, dammit, so just let them do it.
After all, they've been swinging since birth. Many used to hoist themselves up in the crib using a rolled-up magazine or wayward wooden bar to take hacks at a balled-up pair of underwear chucked underhand by their parents. Ain't nothing a "scientist" could teach them that they haven't already learned from the School of Hard Knocks -- that's the school that teaches you how to rip base knocks, not the other school that's mostly about street violence.
But times have changed, and for a struggling player, the way out of a slump is almost always through absorbing additional swing data, percentages that go beyond the world of hunches. The Los Angeles Dodgers have long been at the forefront of swing technology, taking advantage of the expertise of swing kings like Robert Van Scoyoc, the hitting guru who helped bring JD Martinez to LA this winter.
Count Chris Taylor among the acolytes of modern baseball data absorption, which has now gone fairly mainstream.
Taylor, an All-Star in 2021 and an also ran in 2022, had a good deal of work to do this offseason to refine his swing plane and get back to what's made him great in the past. When asked about the winter remodeling process this week, he sort of quizzically wondered ... why would anyone not do this?
Dodgers UTIL star Chris Taylor is using swing analytics to get back to right level
Taylor's in an especially difficult spot. After the first All-Star season of his career in '21 (though strangely not his best offensive season, all things considered), Taylor signed a four-year, $60 million contract that most Dodgers fans deemed a necessity.
Unfortunately, the follow-up was a dud; Taylor's OPS+ plummeted to 86, the worst full season of his career, and injuries robbed him of a large chunk of the season (he played only 118 games).
Even when Taylor's not hitting -- or hitting for power -- his defensive versatility provides significant value. He'll never be a drain on the Dodgers, even if his bat never bounces back to All-Star level.
But in this city, for this team, you can't drag down the bottom of the lineup to the degree Taylor did last season (and to the point where Austin Barnes is receiving playoff pinch-hitting opportunities in your stead). That's why he feels pressure this offseason, and is willing to take any Hard Knocks course necessary for survival.
And, in this modern era of baseball, there's always something left to be learned if you're willing to look.
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