Brett Wallace's stock may never have been lower than what it was after the first week of the season this year. I mean, he was really bad. He looked terrible at the plate. He looked lost. He was up there hacking away and getting nothing out of it but a trip back to the dugout...oh and a ticket to Oklahoma City.
Maybe that's what he needed. He went back to OkC and quickly started hitting for both average and power. I, for one, had very little faith that there was anything to those numbers other than a small sample size. However, he continued to hit and earn his way back to Houston where he started showing a little bit at the plate.
He's cooled off some since his initial few weeks after his call-up, but he's still showing positive numbers in advanced metrics. In the month of July, he has a .375 wOBA and a 140 wRC+ and has cooled to a still above average .335 wOBA and 112 wRC+ in the month of August.
While watching a game in MMP back in July with Terri, she gave me the idea of taking a look at Wally's swing to see if there was a difference and if that was the reason for his dramatic change. Well, I talked to Tim and got him to create some GIFs for me to take a look at. I looked through and saw a few things and forwarded my thoughts and GIFs to Anthony to confirm what I saw and to see if I missed anything. So, big thanks to all three of them for their contributions to this article.
(Can we take a moment and marvel how terrible Juan Perez's mechanics are?)
Take a moment and watch both of these and see if you can notice anything different. I'll give you a hint, watch his feet. These are perfect examples that I wanted because they are both thrown by lefties. Foot placement can vary some based on pitch location, but Tim did a great job in that these pitches are pretty close to the same location which minimizes some variances.
The first is from April and the second is from July. Watch his stride. In the first clip, you see his foot basically sit down right where it started and leaves his body closed down. Now watch his hips. They don't get around very well and don't transmit hardly any force to his upper body. The stride leg is just too closed off to get enough rotation and weight shift in his hips to produce force.
Now, the second looks much better. He has a little bit of a stride and is a little more opened up. His leg lift is a little higher and he brings it down with a little more force and is able to rotate a little more and shift his weight better. As a result, there's a little more force in his swing and less reliant on arm effort.
Want to try and stabilize variables even more? At the time of requesting these GIFs, Wallace had only faced one pitcher in both stints. That pitcher was Yu Darvish.
That's from April 2nd and in all honesty, there's nothing he could have done there. That is just a filthy pitch. #Respect
This is from July and you can see that in this swing he reverts back to some of his old habits a bit. His foot drifts in for a pitch that isn't exactly in a whole other location than the first two. But, his leg lift is still a tad bit higher. Not as high as the second GIF, but it's better than that nasty one in the previous GIF in which his toes barely got off the ground.
Something that I hadn't really noticed and that Anthony pointed out to me, where his hands and how they coordinated with his stride. In his first stint, his hips fired early due to his short leg lift and he almost had to fight to keep his hands back, which created some dissociation and lack of force transmission.
This is that same nasty Darvish pitch in April, look how far ahead his weight shift and hip rotation is ahead of the rest of his swing. His back leg is collapsing and stalling his momentum because it add a force in a backwards and down direction.His swing is just not in sync.
You can see it in front view in this one as well. That back leg just collapses and can't support his upper body through the swing.
There have been studies looking at force through the legs of swingers by using force plates under each foot. Hitters with more power typically have more force going through their front leg. However, if there is so little force in the back leg to support the body, the front leg force is diminished due to the collapsing on the back leg shifting the weight back.
To compare that last side view to another side view to really illustrate all of that, take a look at this one.
Watch the stride. Watch the foot placement. Watch the hip rotation both independently and in correlation with his hands. In sync. Then watch that back leg. The force goes into the front leg and stays there. As the weight shift completes, he extends his back leg to maintain the weight shift. Not surprising that this swing resulted in a home run in July.
Go back and look at the first side view swing and then watch the second one again with attention to his head and his eyes. He does a lot better job of keeping his eye on the ball in that home run swing. That's something that Anthony has noticed as an issue with him. He doesn't follow the ball to contact consistently enough. Look at some of these GIF's, I've noticed that he pulls his head around some where the head goes, the body follows. As he pulls his head around, his shoulders and arms start pulling out of the zone as well.
He does a real good job of following this ball on the low outside corner and just working with it. He strides to the pitcher,extends his back leg, and tracks the ball in this swing. It's from July.
He does everything again is this clip, although not to the same degree. He gets away with not following the ball as well in this clip. But, he strides well and uses his legs.
In conclusion, Wally fixed a few things during his time in AAA. A lot of his issues stem from not using his thunder thighs as well as he should. He allows his front leg to drift out a little bit and closes himself off which causes problems up the chain. When he uses his legs, his timing is much better and allows the force that those legs generate to transmit to the arms and hands creating the power that he started showing in July.
He still is struggling with his foot placement on his stride leg as it's inconsistent and still can close himself down a little too much, but the stride that he's added is allowing for better weight shift despite that. He also still has a bad habit of not following the ball to contact. It's better, and his better swing mechanics have hidden that a little as well. Either way, it's encouraging to see adjustments that have allowed for him to use his tools. There may be a long term future in the majors yet for Wally.