I’m a big fan of watching Athletics first baseman Matt Olson hit. But could that show get better in 2021?
He’s like Paul Bunyan up there with his 6-foot-5, 230 pound frame — hitting from the left side with his bat held far away from his body like a club, he’s ready to swat anything within reach, especially baseballs.
His swing generates uncommon power and he’s been a home run stalwart in Oakland, hitting 24, 29 and 36 home runs in consecutive years before belting 14 in last year’s pandemic-shortened campaign, good for seventh in the American League.
But this year he’s tweaked his entertaining marvel of a swing, per the San Francisco Chronicle’s Matt Kawahara. A’s hitting coach Darren Bush says Olson is “holding his position” before swinging, and bringing his hands in more effectively from his distinctive club-like stance.
So far, the results have been splendid. Olson has two home runs and a double this spring in the early going. The idea is to maintain Olson’s power but improve on his career-worse slugging percentage and strikeout rate (31.4 percent) from a year ago. So far, so good.
Here’s more insight from Kawahara and a word from the man himself, Olson.
Saturday morning, Olson said he is heartened so far by his swings on inside pitches that he did not handle well in 2020. He pointed to the home run off [Angels right-hander Kyle] Keller and a double Wednesday against the Rockies as examples. When his swing is off, Olson said, he has trouble keeping those pitches fair.
“When my bat was a little too flat, just to be able to get to an inside pitch, I had to really work around my body,” Olson said. “When I’m spinning is when I’m not doing well — it’s when I roll over balls to the right side and ground out. That good, vertical bat and clean path gives me a chance to work through the ball and be able to drive it instead of just getting on top of it.
“It’s early, but this is one of the best I’ve felt coming into spring. And having results early I’m sure is a big part of it, but yeah, feeling good.”Matt Kawahara/San Francisco Chronicle
I watched that home run against Kyle Keller and the Angels live, and I gotta say, I did notice Olson bring his hands in effectively on that at bat. I didn’t think much of it, however. But there’s so much that goes into a swing (check Kawahara’s piece form more detailed swing-doctor talk from Bush) and it’s clear that a minor tweak can have a major difference.
Personally, I’m happy Olson still has his distinctive batting stance. But he has tweaked it, and Bush is extremely happy with the results thus far. Can it be that one of my favorite things to watch in sports has just gotten better? It is certainly a possibility, and all A’s observers will stay tuned to watch the results, and the show, from Olson.
(Photo credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)