Robbie Grossman or Joey Votto?
Numbers don't lie; Grossman and Votto are two of the MLB's heaviest hitters.
First off the answer is Joey Votto regardless of whatever question I was going to ask. But lets play a little game. Can you tell me which of these two players is Robbie Grossman based on these plate discipline numbers from this year?
For those of you who guessed Player A, congrats! For those of you who picked Player B, it’s alright because you still chose Joey Votto. For those who don’t give a shit, well I’m sorry.
Yes, Robbie Grossman is extremely disciplined at the plate. He has the lowest O-Swing% in baseball this year and has a walk rate of 17.8% and a K rate of 15.2%. Yes he does swing a good deal less than Votto and nearly every other big leaguer, but he is still one of the eight big leaguers (qualified # of PAs) who walks as often or more than they strikeout. He still see’s as many strikes in the zone as Votto but is running an incredibly low 5.3% SwStr%.
Of course I’m sure you know Robbie Grossman hasn’t hit like Joey Votto but he’s run a 132 wRC+ over 197 PA this year and a 127 wRC+ over 389 PA last year.
Grossman was never able to really put it together when he was with the Astros from 2013 to his release after the 2015 season. Come 2016 though, everything seemed to click when Grossman was in AAA for the Indians where he ran a 137 wRC+ over 139 PA. He was still released by the Indians, picked up by the Twins where he played one game for their AAA affiliate, and was then called up to the bigs once again.
But what the hell made Robbie Grossman a good hitter all of a sudden?
First a swing from his time with the Astros:
And a swing from this year:
The change may be subtle to some, but Grossman simplified what was a more troublesome leg load. He eliminated the hitch in his old swing where he’d pause at the bottom of his leg lift and moved towards a more traditional leg kick. Leg kicks have a large misconception for being associated directly with unlocking power. What it primarily does, especially in the case of a non-power hitter like Grossman, is allow a hitter to better time up pitches with a natural and fluid swing.
What the difference could also be is something a little more mental. In the previous clip it seems that Grossman makes more of a conscious effort to get the foot down early, a ridiculous teaching cue that can severely disrupt timing. What can be seen from Grossman in the bottom clip is something more of a swing that dictates the front foot. When he wants to commit he starts his swing and the foot fluidly comes down and creates a firm front side as a result.
There’s a lot that goes on with a hitters swing and much of that directly affects plate discipline. Timing is everything in hitting and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Grossman got his timing down and is seeing the ball well at the plate.
Robbie Grossman currently has a 1.1 fWAR season going with a 132 wRC+ and is still running a BABIP that is 27 points below his career average. What he lacks in power he makes up for it with an outstanding eye at the plate. Robbie Grossman has been a good hitter for parts of two seasons now and that feels weird to say. Robbie Grossman has been an integral part of a Twins team that is over .500 on June 13 and that feels ever weirder to say. But when you’re a hitter with the plate discipline of Joey Votto, you’re doing something right and you’re going to have success.
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