It’s often said that the most difficult task in the world of sports is hitting a big league baseball. Some might disagree, but even the best hitters in the major leagues fail nearly 70 percent of the time.
Oakland Athletics third baseman Matt Chapman was failing much more often than that at the start of this season. He was hitting under .200 when the A’s visited the Rays in Tampa Bay at the end of April. But on that road trip, he altered his pre-swing mechanics after a talk with Oakland hitting coach Darren Bush and assistant hitting coach Eric Martins.
Now, Chapman has a nine-game hitting streak heading into the Athletics’ series against those same Rays in Oakland starting on Friday. Here are the details courtesy of The Athletic’s Alex Coffey.
Martins and Bush encouraged Chapman to make his leg kick a little more pronounced — lifting his leg higher and earlier — to serve as a timing mechanism because he looked behind at the plate.Alex Coffey/The Athletic
Depending on leg-kick timing to hit a 90-plus mile-per-hour fastball PLUS changups AND a variety of big league breaking balls? This is why many, including myself, say hitting a baseball is the most difficult task in sports.
But Chapman is a former All Star, and this is what Major League Baseball clubs have hitting coaches for.
Here’s a comment from Chapman, courtesy of The Athletic.
“I have that habit of wanting to start at a certain time, but you’ve got to kind of take that next step to, hey, you’ve got to start a little bit earlier, even if it’s uncomfortable. Because your mind thinks it’s time to go, but really, you need to start before that.” — Matt Chapman, Oakland AthleticsThe Athletic
See what I’m talking about? My goodness. I’ve got a lot of respect for baseball players. The physical tools needed to compete are necessary but can be rendered useless if a player gets too far into his own head.
It appears Chapman is right where he needs to be, however, both mentally and physically. The A’s will look to hold on to first place in the American League West against the Rays this weekend as Chapman continues his quest for the perfect swing.
(Photo credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)