As I am sure you are well aware, Colby Rasmus is swinging the bat rather well these days. He owns a .393 wOBA over the last two weeks (.363 over the last 30), raising his season slash line to a borderline respectable .248/.310/.454. He is now an above-average hitter playing a premium defensive position (and playing it well.)
While we all lamented Rasmus’ tough luck in the early parts of the season, his recent hot stretch has less to do with regression and BABIP than it does with good, old-fashioned mechanical adjustments.
This is a screen grab of Colby at his lowest point of the year. This AB against Hiroki Kuroda was his first of the night on May 16th. After taking an 0-4 in a win over the hated Yankees, Colby’s season OPS dropped to its lowest point thus far: a mere .610. He didn’t look very good and it was hardly a secret that something was amiss.
Fast forward to last night against the Nationals. Below is a screen cap of Rasmus standing in against Edwin Jackson here in mid-June. Am I crazy or does it look like two different players in the batters box?
Not only is Colby much more straight-up with his hands held higher, he is standing much closer to the plate. Whether this is just a feel thing or about seeing the ball or reaching outside pitches, I can’t say for sure (yet). But the results are difficult to argue.
Looking over some of Rasmus’ at bats, the first time it appears Colby implemented this changes was the game in Tampa on May 21st. Since making this change, Rasmus has a .990 OPS with thirteen extra base hits (five home runs, seven doubles and a triple.) While he has drawn an un-Colby like 3 walks in 83 plate appearances, his strikeouts are also down compared to his normal levels. Also: who needs walks when you are raking everything in sight, amirite?
Via the magic of the animated gif, it is more than just Colby’s positioning the batters box and posture that have changed. Take a look at Rasmus as he prepares to take on Kuroda’s offerings.
Now compare to his at bat against Jackson last night.
The extra bat waggles seem much more rhythmic and comfortable, in my obviously-skewed-by-the-results opinion. We could have added dozens of extra frames in the Jackson gif of Rasmus waggling, waiting until Jackson began his windup. This contrasts with the Kuroda at bat, where Colby cuts off his little routine earlier, bringing his bat behind his head before Big Hirok even comes set.
Whatever the reasons behind the change, it is certainly working for the red-hot Colby Rasmus. He probably won’t keep clipping along with an OPS just under 1.000 but if moving up in the box helps him stave off another prolonged slump, good on him and hitting coach Dwayne Murphy for finding a solution that seems to have unlocked the dormant power in Rasmus’ bat.
Update: thanks to twitter bro Paul for pointing out this is uncharted territory for Rasmus. Take a look at this clip from the height of his powers in 2010. Extremely wide-open stance but sitting in a much deeper crouch. Whatever works, you know?