Mallex Smith hit a home run yesterday.
That’s the whole article.
I’ve been informed that that is not allowed to be the whole article. OK, it’s interesting that Mallex hit a dinger yesterday because about one month ago Mallex Smith was in Triple-A because he couldn’t hit anything. As Kate noted in last night’s recap, before being sent down Mallex’s wRC+ was 42. Since being recalled? 108.
Those are different numbers so let’s see if we can find out what has made the numbers different.
Here’s a chart of Mallex’s wOBA by game.
That crater matches the eye test, yes. Let’s add in a dash of fly balls.
Ah. Those flavors seem to complement one another nicely. Sprinkle in some Pull %...
Voila! We have a beautiful and fragrant new Mallex whose pulled fly balls have correlated with improved results! Delicious!
Wait a second—you, my intelligent and attractive reader, may be thinking—isn’t trying to pull the ball in the air what everyone is doing? Why wasn’t he doing that before?
Yes, my attentive and passionate reader, that’s simply elevating and celebrating. So what has allowed him to do it now?
Here’s a video of Mallex striking out during The Dark Days. There were many to choose from. This one is painful:
Here’s a video of Mallex from yesterday.
No need to go down to the dentist and grab a copy of Highlights because we’re playing Spot the Difference right here.
Two months ago, Mallex kept his hands set a little above his ear, his left elbow out, and the bat held vertically. That combination was generating ground balls, which isn’t surprising. With that stance Mallex would either have to swing down on the ball, or drop his hands as the ball is pitched in order to get under it, adding unnecessary movement.
He’s also crouched and his lead leg is straight so that all of his weight rests on his back foot. He looks wound up, coiled like an incompetent snake.
Yesterday, by contrast, Mallex’s hands are a touch lower, the left elbow is tucked in, his bat rests parallel with the ground. This allows him to get under the baseball more easily with a more efficient bat path.
The lower body is more balanced and we can see that during the swing. It results in smoother motions as Mallex lifts his foot to stride and transfer his weight instead of aggressively tapping it like I do when I try to find the beat. Taken all together, the swing seems to have gone from high-set and defensive (to be fair it was an 0-2 count) to lower and more controlled.
I mean, these are surprisingly different, right? I was surprised as well and it has greatly improved this article, let me tell you.
The takeaway is that the dingers may be some small sample business, but Mallex has made meaningful changes to his swing in Tacoma and, so far, they’ve produced more fly balls and better results. Which is good news. Things were getting dark.