Toronto Blue Jays infielder Ryan Goins has come to life at the plate in 2015, bringing his offensive game to a level that allows his defense to produce not just a specialist, but an everyday starter. Following a statistically non-existent 2014 season in which Kevin Seitzer tried, and failed, to rebuild the swing of Goins, a more hands-off approach from incoming hitting coach Brook Jacoby is what finally clicked.
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“In my case last year, it was ‘take pitches, hit the ball the other way all the time,’ ” Goins told John Lott of the National Post earlier this month. “It wasn’t what I felt comfortable doing. It wasn’t what got me here. Then this year I come in and they both say, ‘Do what you want, and if you have questions, ask and we’ll help.’”
This has resulted in a slash line of .243 / .313 / .344 as Goins has raised his BB% from an ugly 2.6% in 2014 to 9.4% this season. His five home runs may be one of the most surprising statistics on this ball club, raising his ISO from .083 last year up to .101, and his wRC+ from 27 to 81. His usage of the centre and opposite fields has also increased marginally. For Goins, these improvements begin with his performance against breaking balls.
The above data (2014 left, 2015 right) shows that opposing pitchers have begun to increase their use of breaking pitches against Goins, from a frequency of 15.56% in June to 26.75% in September. Off-speed usage has remained relatively consistent, with hard pitches (black line) decreasing. This makes sense, given that Goins is hitting .271 against fastballs in 2015 and .278 against sinkers.
A more patient approach from Goins at the plate has benefitted him against this uptick in off-speed. The shifting of his focus from slap-hitting or ball placement to simply making quality contact has left him looking much more natural, no longer a guess-and-hack hitter. This has drastically improved Goins’ batting average against off-speed and breaking pitches.
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When combined with his improvement against fastballs and sinkers, the end result is a Major League hitter that is just good enough at the plate. Which again, considering his defensive capabilities, is all that Goins has needed to become for the past several seasons.
The credit does belong to Brook Jacoby here, and he’s a man that hasn’t gotten the proper amount of that in 2015. Looking at a flawed hitter and telling them “you do you” isn’t a textbook approach, but in the right circumstance, it’s worked.