Many people, including me, have scoffed at St. Louis Cardinals 1B Matt Adams‘ lack of power. Despite maintaining a high average, he had shown the pop of flat soda as the club struggled to maintain offensive punch. Too big and lumbering to be a base stealing threat, he often found himself stranded when other struggling hitters left him on base.
On Wednesday, however, he finally broke through and leveled a pitch like he was a demolitions expert taking out a Las Vegas casino. The pitch from Milwaukee Brewers hurler Matt Garza broke downward sharply, a tight curve that stayed below the belt, but not far enough to keep the hungry Adams from devouring it. But how did Big Matt do it? What was different about this swings from the hundreds previously?
The difference was in his hands. As discussed previously, Adams was taking inside-out swing approaches in order to deal with infield shifts. This put his hands in front of the barrel of the bat at contact, creating more bat control but much less torque. This sort of hitting style is what is referred to as “slap hitting”. It is also why his batting average left me unimpressed.
However, on the Garza pitch he stayed with it and delivered his hands and barrel to the zone at the same time, maximizing his power and allowing him to deposit the baseball somewhere near the Kids Zone in right-center. By making a conscious choice to hold his power, he seems to be cognizant of the fact that his best asset is his strength, not contact rate.
But despite the power outage, this bodes well for the future, especially potential playoffs, as Adams has taught himself the value of situational hitting and may need to rely on that experience if up in need of a two-out hit. To be sure a short stroke and opposite field reach are nice skills for a batter to have, but in Adams’ case, they must be secondary.