With the departure of long-time Chicago White Sox starting catcher A.J. Pierzynski, Tyler Flowers officially became the man behind the plate in the Windy City. Flowers’ “power and patience” skill set as a minor leaguer made him a key piece of the 2009 Javier Vasquez trade with the Atlanta Braves.
After a few promising cameos at the big league level, this year is a big one for the converted first baseman. Flowers started the season hot with home runs in his first two games of the season, but contact issues have dragged his numbers down here in early April.
Getting Blanked spoke with Flowers about his approach to preparation, making adjustments based on the count, getting back to a good space and much more in the first edition (hopefully of many) of My Approach.
Scouting report says: first pitch fastball down the middle equals bombs away
On preparing with use of video
I do it more as just maintenance without getting overly consumed with it. You can go on and on for days on every piece and movement in your swing and every pitch. I use it more for reference as I’m mostly going off of feel. I like to try and get a good feel and then go back and see the evidence – what is a little different here what made it good and what made it feel that way.
Same as when things aren’t going well. Looking at what seems to be the flaw. You recognize it through the video process but you still have to go back and get that feel back. You can’t just look at it and get [the good feeling] back in one swing.
On stripping down to a baseline when things do go south
For me, whenever I go bad it’s usually my lower half. When I get bad, it’s kind of a revamp as you have to go from the ground up. You try not to overthink it as there are a lot of good things in everybody’s swing at this level. There are only two or three little things that make it hard to hit this kind of pitching every day.
You can get away with little flaws at different [lower] levels but at this level it’s the little things that really get you. When you break down your swing you can really find the small things that really make a difference and get exploited at this level.
Flowers mentioned that he did some good work in the cage earlier in the day (we spoke Tuesday.) Both the process and the result supported his claim. The first screen cap shows Tyler Flowers facing Aaron Laffey of the Blue Jays in 2012, featuring a closed stance.
The second shot is the new open stance he debuted last night against J.A. Happ of those same Blue Jays. Though the results were the same (very large home runs) the physical approach shows how many adjustments are required throughout a career, especially for a player with moderate to extreme contact issues.
On guessing versus making a more rigid plan
When I’m going good, it’s really not guessing. You’re looking for a fastball as that’s the most challenging pitch so you’re looking for it, almost anticipating it. You’re giving your eyes and brain a a chance to confirm it’s a fastball or to recognize if it’s something different.
There are situations and different times when I’ll guess, but those are times when you’re not feeling so well and you just feel the need to take a chance to try and get something going. I try to avoid guessing as you can help develop bad habits.
A lot of the time, when you’re guessing slider and you get it, you swing almost no matter where it is. “Oh, there’s the slider!” and you swing at it whether it’s in the dirt or what. At least for me, it’s more challenging to just sit on a pitch and guess.
How does that change when you’re in a good hitter’s count, up 2-0 for example?
Usually 2-0 you’re hoping for a fastball and you’re preparing for a fastball. If he throws a breaking ball, in most situations you just tip you hat.
Like most hitters with pop in their bat, Flowers keeps his eyes on the prize when ahead in the count. Middle in, the harder the better. Flowers swings at around 60% of pitches in this situation, well above the league average of 45%. He has proven himself to be a little prone to change ups in that count, whiffing on 50% of those thrown to him when the eyes get big.
His whiff rate when the count is in his favor is very high but, in this small sample, it pays dividends as his .564 wOBA in hitters’ counts attests.
How does that compare to 0-2? Is a power hitter such as yourself less inclined to choke up and cut your swing down a little?
I like to choke up because a ball in play is always better than a ball not in play – it gives you a chance. I’m not very good at that [laughs] but that is the mindset. You can’t be too defensive because things get out of whack that way also.
Who do you think has the best approach in the game? As a catcher, who makes game planning the most difficult for you and your staff?
Miguel Cabrera. I don’t know if he really has an “approach…”
It’s been said he guesses from time to time
I’m sure he does guess but when you’re as talented as him you can kind of do whatever you wants. When you’re calling a gameplan against him, you just hope he’s thinking something different than what you’re throwing because he’s capable of hitting any pitch at any time.
On picking the brain of a hitter known for his great approach, Paul Konerko.
Pretty much anything. Approach, mechanics, swing, hands, bat sizes, anything. He’s a really intellectual guy who really understands not just his swing but the baseball swing in general. He understands the necessities to build a swing that can compete, not to mention the extra things that make a guy like him as good as he is and a guy like Cabrera that makes him as good as he is.
He’s able to see the things that are a step above the other guys. It’s always good to hear, we don’t all have the same abilities as the superstars but you can strive for it.