With right-fielder Josh Reddick going to the 15-day DL, there has been much speculation as to if the Oakland Athletics might actually be better with him on the bench. A character on and off the field, Reddick has captured A’s fans hearts with his breathtaking “Spiderman” catches (ask Michael Morse) and his energetic personality. While you can always count on him to make an ESPN Top 10 play, send a pie into whomever’s face got the walk-off hit, or even confidently embrace his new “Careless Whisper” walk-up song, he can be frustrating to watch at the plate. Yet, it was not long ago that Reddick was the focal point of the A’s lineup.
When the Oakland Athletics shipped starting outfielder Ryan Sweeney away in the Andrew Bailey trade to the Boston Red Sox in 2011, there were probably few individuals that could have predicted that a 17th round pick with only 375 major league at-bats under his belt could have achieved what Reddick did. In 2012, his first full season in the bigs, Reddick hit only .242, but came in the top 20 in the MVP voting after leading the A’s in home runs (32) and RBI (85) while also garnering a Gold Glove in right field. The only consequence of his magnificent year is that A’s fans have not seen that offensive production from Josh Reddick since. There have been glimpses, like last August when he hit five home runs in two days against the Blue Jays, or earlier this season in April when he hit .410 over a span of 12 games, but he has not been able to remain consistent.
After posting a .226/.307/.379 slash line in 2013 with only 12 home runs, his subpar hitting seemed to make more sense when he revealed that he had played most of the season with a hurt wrist. After getting surgery on it, Reddick looked poised for a comeback year in 2014, but so far it has not come to fruition. Hitting even worse (.214 through the month of May), it looks like pitchers have truly figured him out, but is there anything Reddick can do?
The answer is, more than you think.
Statistically, there does appear to be a correlation between his approach and his effectiveness at the plate. Earlier in the count seems to be where Reddick has does most of his damage over his career, hitting .302/.333/.347/.333 in 0-0/1-0/0-1/1-1 counts. Unfortunately for him, the A’s have a hitting philosophy of working the count in order to make the pitcher throw more and draw walks. This could possibly hinder Reddick as his hitting tends to suffer the deeper into the count he gets. Also, when a hitter is slumping (like Reddick), they are typically instructed to see more pitches in order to get their timing down and see the pitchers release point better. Yet, in Reddick’s case, one might argue he needs to do the opposite.
Mechanically, there also appears to be a slight difference in his swing. Although many hitters do make small changes to their stance, Reddick’s seems to have altered quite a bit since his breakout year in 2012.
In this first URL is a slow-motion home run swing by Reddick from 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ScN2faBtBY
Here you can see when he takes his step he ends lower and more balanced then when he started his swing. Also, there is minimal movement from his hands as the bat stays relatively upright during the entire pre-swing. The result of him staying lower and keeping his hands “quiet” is that he can react to an off-speed pitch, which although early on, he deposits into the right-field bleachers. This is something he has not been able to do very well so far this season.
In this next clip from a 2013 at-bat, although not slow motion, you can see some big differences in this swing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yEL0CfdESuc
The most noticeable part is that Reddick is almost standing up straight and when he loads and does not have as much bend in his lower half as he did in the previous clip. This causes his hips to fly out early and makes it difficult to drive the ball to the opposite field with authority. Also, his hands move much more before his swing, which makes is difficult to adjust to anything off-speed. In this case, he gets a fastball and sends it back up the middle for a hit, but with those mechanics in his swing, I would be willing to bet that if he got a curveball or changeup in that situation, he would have been heading back to the dugout instead of ending up on first.
Now obviously the goal for Josh Reddick is to emulate the good from his 2012 season and forget his miscues from the 2013 and early 2014 season, but I think that with a couple mental and physical adjustments, he can be right there. Although him going to the DL gives his teammates more opportunities to play (such as Craig Gentry who is a .268 career hitter) and opens another roster spot, I would say Reddick will be missed. Despite his struggles at the plate, the A’s this season are still 30-17 (.638) when he is in the lineup, in part because of the other areas he is able to contribute besides the offense.
Hopefully over these next 15 days, Reddick will begin figure out what he needs to do in order to get back on track offensively. While it will probably not be a light-switch type of problem, I’m sure their would plenty of A’s fans delighted to see Reddick get back to swinging the bat in the way he is capable of doing.