Travis Sawchik at Fangraphs recently put up an interview with JD Martinez that might change how you view baseball this year. Martinez was once a slap hitting outfielder who had failed to establish himself as a bonafide major league baseball player. He revamped his swing and has become one of the most potent hitters in baseball. He did this by eschewing the ground ball and trying to hit every ball into the air.
“People talk to me and I tell them straight up. I don’t bullshit,” Martinez said. “In the cage, I talk about it all the time. I’m not trying to hit a fucking line drive or a freaking ground ball. I’m trying to hit the ball in the air. I feel like the ball in the air is my strength and has a chance to go anywhere in the park. So why am I trying to hit a ground ball? That’s what I believe in.”
With his hands now free, Martinez demonstrates how he’s in search of a bat plane angle that will produce more balls in flight. He notes that statistics prove the value of a fly ball over a ground ball. In 2016, batters hit .241 with a .715 slugging mark and a wRC+ of 139 on fly balls versus a .238 average, .258 slugging mark and of wRC+ of 27 on ground balls.
Justin Turner is the Dodger version of J.D. Martinez. He revamped his swing to put emphasis on getting the ball in the air and pitchers have paid the price.
Right now the phrase “swing plane” is the 2017 mantra as more players are buying into changing their swing to produce more fly balls. Pitchers might be fighting back by elevating fastballs to counter the “uppercut”.
How this plays out will just be another reason to watch baseball in 2017.